What are the good things about being young?
What (if anything) are the negatives of being young?
A Look at the Text
What does the Text say?
Youth is to be enjoyed (11:7-10)
11:7-8; The author uses the imagery of light and sight to show that there is joy and delight in life. This is particularly so for young people. Youth is a time for particularly enjoying the pleasures of life without worry or care. Long life is a good thing and to be enjoyed too but the longer our days, the more likely we are to encounter trouble. If you are in your 80s today then you have lived long enough to see a world war, economic decline, several major conflicts and recession, the threat of Nuclear War, IRA and Islamist terrorism and now the Coronavirus pandemic. On the positive side you were around to see England win a World Cup, so “silver linings”!
Everything still to come is … vanity? meaningless? Is that’s right then don’t get old, die young, long life is pointless but Solomon has said that we should “rejoice in every day of life.” If you have been following our studies in Ecclesiastes then you will know that the meaning of the word “hebel” is not necessary “meaningless.” It is literally do with breath, wind or vapour. The future is like vapour, it is fragile, hard to pin down, puzzling. Even long life seems short in the end. Someone once told me that it is like a toilet roll, the nearer the end you get, the quicker it seems to unwind off the tube.
11:9; So don’t waste your life, make every second and every minute count. Don’t idle it away it away. Young people are told to rejoice in life and to be cheered by it. They are told to follow their hearts desire. Notice the imagery here of seeing and walking. This is not aimless hedonism. There is meaning and purpose.
This is important because life’s meaning and purpose is found at the end. You will have to give an account. God is going to judge your life.
11:10 tells the young person to turn from grief or anger in their heart and evil from the body. In other words, this last verse calls for repentance. This takes us into the final chapter.
Youth is for turning to God (12:1-7)
12:1: Again, Solomon urges young people not to waste time. We need to remember the creator whilst young. In other words, in enjoying life, don’t forget where life itself comes from. These are days for joy but they are also days for seeking and trusting. Time will come when life will be full of struggle and regret. It will be harder then to turn things around
12:2-5 Talks about light fading into darkness. Dark clouds hover, in fact they return again after the rain. Bleakness sets in. There is an apocalyptic nature to the language used to describe dangers ahead. The sun and moon will no longer shine, fear will stalk the land so that people are shut up in side. Work will cease because there will be too few people to do it. Singing stops and even the good things like blossom and grasshoppers suggest weary warning Jeremiah 1:9-12 uses the blossoming of the almond tree to show that time is progressing towards judgement. The grasshopper is unable to hop but weighed down, drags itself along. World ending language is used to show the daunting prospect of life ending. This world will end one day. My life will end one day. Both are inevitable
12:6 Brings us back to the fragility of life again. A silver chord may suggest delicate beauty but can also break at any point. If the chord is in fact holding a lamp, a golden bowl then the chord breaking will lead to the bowl dropping and smashing. The light will go out. Similarlyimagine turning up at the well to find that your water jar and the wheel that operates the pully to draw water are both smashed and in ruins.
12:7 reminds us that our physical fate is to return to the dust from which God formed us It may happen without warning. Note the hope though that the Spirit returns to God. This could of course simply mean that he takes the breath away but as we will see shortly. The wider story of God’s plan and purpose takes us way from that conclusion
And so, we conclude that everything is like vapour. Once again we are reminded of the puzzling, fleeting, fragile nature of life.
What does the Text Mean?
How does Christ fulfil the passage?
Once again I am transported to Isaiah 53. Jesus did not waste his life. However, nor did he simply seek personal enjoyment instead, his life was committed to the mission of binging good news. He did not live into old age. His life was cut short. Indeed that apocalyptic language is fulfilled at Calvary when the sun refuses to shine.
Yet Isaiah 53 also talks about God prolonging Christ’s days because he is raised for eternity and exalted.
Jesus as divine is the one who calls us to remember him and his atonement.
Where is hope in the passage
I believe there are two sources of hope here. The first is that there is real joy and pleasure in life. We are not just to make the best of it until eternity. There is hope as well for those who turn away from evil and remember their creator. The bigger story does take us not just to a returning Spirit but to the resurrection of the body. Life here might be fleeting, fragile, like vapour. Life after death will be solid, permanent, eternal.
A Look at ourselves
In what ways are you finding joy in our present circumstances
Are you ready to meet your creator, to face judgement day?