Ecclesiastes 12:1 (ESV) … “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them…”
If you are young, go on, enjoy your youth and vitality. Satisfy your heart’s desires in intelligent pleasure. Be as carefree as you can. But remember that youth does not last, and that God will judge you for the way you have used these years (9–10).
Now is the time to remember God, while life is a thing to enjoy and not to endure, and before the declining years set in (1). All too soon a storm will overcloud the present noonday of your life. The days of warmth, brightness and unrestrained enjoyment will then be over (2). Hands and arms will begin to tremble, legs to bend with weakness; teeth will be few and eyes dim (3). Your ears will no longer hear, and your teeth will cease to grind. Unable to sleep, you will rise at the crack of dawn; and you will have less voice, particularly for singing (4).
The days are coming when you will dread walking up hills, and will actually be afraid of going out. A grey-haired old person, you will be so weak that you will hardly be able to drag yourself along (5). The remainder of this verse refers to failing sexual desire. The craver berry, referred to here, was an aphrodisiac which stimulated sexual appetite. At last you will go to your eternal home, and the mourners will be heard in the streets (5b).
Soon the silver chain fastening it to the ceiling will break, and the golden oil-lamp will come crashing to the floor. The oil will spill out from the broken bowl and your light will be extinguished. To change the picture of death, the pitcher will be shattered and unable to carry any more of the water of life. The wheel at the well will be broken and no more water will be brought up from it (6). At last you will die. Death is the separation of body and spirit. The body will return to the ground from which it was made, and the spirit to God who gave it, and in whose hands is its eternal destiny (7). All these things are certainties. So serve God now—while you can; and while you are still in full enjoyment of your faculties (1).
Unconverted people, as we have seen, think in terms of living for themselves. The certain approach of death makes them decide to enjoy themselves while they can. They reason that every other thought should be put aside, and that we should concentrate on indulging ourselves here and now. Who knows what the future holds? Therefore live for the present!
Solomon’s counsel from the divine standpoint is a complete contradiction of such thinking. While life can be enjoyed, he advises, turn to God, without whom life has no purpose. While you have your faculties, use them—but never forgetting him while you do so.
How often the excitement of being young causes young people to forget God! They think that they have plenty of time to consider him later. He is all right for old people, but an irrelevance for youth. Yet when old age comes their character has become too set in its ways to launch itself into holy thoughts. In very many elderly people all desire for spiritual things has been poisoned by bitterness. Tired bodies and senile minds frequently render them quite incapable of even consciously registering what they hear about God. They find that old age is too late to turn to him!
How few there are who come to the Lord in later years! To magnify his grace God saves some at this stage in life, but hardly any. This should not surprise us when we have read such as a passage as the one we have just considered. There is a favoured time to seek and find the Lord. There is a favoured time to serve him. That time is youth!