ECCLESIASTES 11-12

 

Tonight, we will finish up our study on the Book of Ecclesiastes as we look at chapters 11 and 12. Some scholars do not believe that Solomon wrote this book, but based on the evidence I presented in our first lesson and some other points I have made a long the way, I personally have no doubt that Solomon is the author of this work. Let us begin with:

 

Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days.2 Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, For you do not know what evil will be on the earth.3 If the clouds are full of rain, They empty themselves upon the earth; And if a tree falls to the south or the north, In the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie.

 

A few modern scholars have actually interpreted this verse to mean that you should invest overseas in several different areas so that if disaster comes you will be able to have several sources to get your money back from. While this is certainly not bad advice, it is not what was intended by our text. The majority of scholars see this as referring to charity especially when you put verse 1 and 2 together.

 

The idea is that if you cast your charity on others, you will be blessed as Solomon said in:

 

Proverbs 22:9 He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.

 

Just like a cloud, we are to make the best use of resources while we still have time because like a tree that falls and dies, when we die, we no longer have the ability to use our resources to help those in need.

 

Ecclesiastes 11:4 He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap.5As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.6 In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good.

 

Those who continue to wait for the right circumstance to do things will most likely never get them done. How many times have you heard people say something similar to, ďas soon as I get things in order in my life, I am going to start coming to church.Ē I have heard several people say things similar to this, and I have heard several Christians that have fallen away tell me that they have been thinking about coming back, yet they never do.

 

There have been a lot of missed opportunities in this life that would have either helped us grow spiritually or helped the church grow because we keep looking for the perfect conditions to carry out a task instead of just doing it. As Solomon points out, it does not matter if what we do succeeds or fails, we need to stop worrying about it and just try.

 

This is certainly good advice when it comes to reaching out to the lost. Yes, it is hard to do sometimes, and they may reject your invitation every time for years, but we must understand that if we do not make an effort to reach out to the lost, or to do anything else in life, then is no chance of success. You never know what actions taken today may bring about something wonderful for the future. The main idea is not to be afraid to try especially when it comes to reaching out to the lost. As Paul said:

 

1 Corinthians 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

 

Next Solomon writes:

 

Ecclesiastes 11:7 Truly the light is sweet, And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun;8 But if a man lives many years And rejoices in them all, Yet let him remember the days of darkness, For they will be many. All that is coming is vanity.

 

There is something almost magically about the sun and how it makes us feel. I can remember a couple years back when we had almost a month of rain and heavy cloud cover. Every passing day was getting more depressing, but when the clouds cover finally went away and I got see the beauty of the sun once again, it completely changed my mood because the light is sweet and pleasant to the eyes.

 

Of course, metaphorically Solomon is speaking of the good times and bad times of life. It must never forget that while things may be going good today, something bad could be just right around the corner, but even when those bad times come and stay with us for awhile, as Christians, we can still rejoice during those times knowing that we are in the Lord and that He is with us.

 

Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.

 

His advice is for the youth. He tells them to enjoy their youth and to take part in those things that they will only be able to do when they are young. Now he is not saying that the youth should do whatever they desire such as sinful things because he gives them a warning that their actions will be judged by God. So, the youth are to enjoy what life has to offer them, but this does not include living in sin.

 

As he says in verse 10, the youth are not to be sad or have a burdened heart because of the evil in their heart, instead they are to get rid of the evil or we could say sin from their lives. Just because someone is young and immature does not mean that they have to live a foolish lifestyle. It is certainly possible for them to do the right things and not allow foolishness to carry them away from the righteous path.

 

Now let turn our attention to the last chapter.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them":

 

In the original text there are no chapter breaks or verse numbers. While chapters and verse numbers make things a lot easier for us, sometimes the chapters are broken in bad place and this is example of it because this verse would have went well with the last verse because he is continuing his thought to the youth to remember your Creator before things get bad and you do not like life as well.

 

This is certain good advice and why we should do our best to train our children in the way of the Lord early on because when they have Godís way as the foundation in their youth, it will follow them in to their adulthood and cause them to be prepared to face whatever life might through at them in future.

 

I also want to point out that the word ďCreatorĒ in our text is in plural form and this is how it is used throughout the O.T. because there is more than one person in the Godhead, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

Next, Solomon is will be talking about old age, but he uses figurative language to do so.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:2 While the sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain;3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim;4 When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low;5 Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets.6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.8 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "All is vanity."

 

In verses 2 and 3 he is describing how things fade away in old age. Most believe that Solomon is using these examples in the verses to describe body parts and the fleeting of strength from old age. Letís look as some of the descriptions in detail.

 

When the grinders cease because they are few

 

This is talking about his teeth. In old age, many times you begin to loose your teeth and become difficult to grind your food up.

 

And those that look through the windows grow dim

 

This is talking about one eyes not being able to see like they used to.

 

When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low

 

This speaks of the hearing loss, which is another unfortunate thing that happens with old age.

 

When one rises up at the sound of a bird

 

This is not saying the birds wake them up because remember the hearing loss. Instead it is saying that older people have a tendency to rise early so they get to hear the birds singing in the morning.

 

When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets.

 

There are several different ideas I found about the meaning of this section, but most believe it is a reference to gray hair because when the almond tree blossoms it starts out pink, but it turns as white as snow.

 

I can see the grasshopper representing the burden of life in old age. Since you become limited in what you can do, you lose your desire to things mainly because you cannot, but the end result is death when you find out where your eternal home will be. The mourners show that you have died. During the ancient times this would refer to those professional mourners. It may seem strange to us today, but they would pay these people to mourn and wail at the death of their loved one.

 

6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.8 "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "All is vanity."

 

Some try to assign something specific to the silver chord, golden bowl, shattered picture, and broken wheel, but the overall thought is that those things that used to beautiful and functioned are no more just like a person who has grown old and died.

 

The good news is that life does not end at death because our spirit continues on, just as he said is verse 5 we go to our eternal home. Though we only get hints of life after death in O.T. passages like these, there is enough of them that it should have given the people living during the O.T. the hope of eternal life. This is area that we can be thankful for because the N.T. reveals in many places that this life is not it, and that we have hope of eternal life in heaven. Before I leave this section of Scripture, I want to read it again from a The Good News Bible, which captures the meaning of our verse very well:

 

1 So remember your Creator while you are still young, before those dismal days and years come when you will say, "I don't enjoy life." 2 That is when the light of the sun, the moon, and the stars will grow dim for you, and the rain clouds will never pass away. 3 Then your arms, that have protected you, will tremble, and your legs, now strong, will grow weak. Your teeth will be too few to chew your food, and your eyes too dim to see clearly. 4 Your ears will be deaf to the noise of the street. You will barely be able to hear the mill as it grinds or music as it plays, but even the song of a bird will wake you from sleep. 5 You will be afraid of high places, and walking will be dangerous. Your hair will turn white; you will hardly be able to drag yourself along, and all desire will be gone. We are going to our final resting place, and then there will be mourning in the streets. 6 The silver chain will snap, and the golden lamp will fall and break; the rope at the well will break, and the water jar will be shattered. 7 Our bodies will return to the dust of the earth, and the breath of life will go back to God, who gave it to us.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.

I believe this verse gives us a strong indication that the preacher is Solomon. He certainly fits the description, he was wise, he taught the people knowledge and some even traveled long distances to hear what he had to say such as Queen of Sheba. He also set in order many proverbs.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright -- words of truth.

 

From this verse we can see four important elements that we should apply to teaching others about God.

 

  1. We should use acceptable words, which would include speaking in love and using words that will help get your point across without offending or making yourself out to be holier than thou.
  2. When we write things for others to read and learn from, we need to make sure we are writing the truth and again using our words wisely.
  3. We should always preach or write words of truth and stay away from trying to force our opinions on others.
  4. We must support whatever we preach or write from the Word of God. The best preaching and writing comes from restating what Godís Word has already taught us.

 

 

Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.

 

The Shepherd is God. When we use the wisdom that God has given us and we teach it to others it will guide them in the right direction. It is like a Shepherd that uses a goad which is pointy stick he uses to prod an animal a long, those words of wisdom will prod us a long. Paul is great example of this and Jesus uses this same idea. He said to Paul:

 

Acts 9:5 It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

 

Paul was a smart man and he had been hearing the truth taught about Jesus, but he had resisted until this time when Jesus struck him blind. Once Jesus spoke with him, he drove the truth into him like a nail going into wood. That too, is what we are to do with Godís Word. Use it to prick the heart of man and also used to drive the truth into them like a nail going into wood.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.

 

Solomonís advice is to be admonished by the words of wisdom from God and not get caught up in studying books written by men because their writings do not contain the knowledge of life, only Godís Word does. Now this is not saying that you should not study other books and learn from them, but that Godís wisdom should always be your foundation in everything that you do. As Paul said:

1 Corinthians 4:6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.

 

Finally, we have the great conclusion of this book:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.14  For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

 

As many times as Solomon referred to things as being all vanity, he does not use it in his conclusion because with God in the picture life is not all vanity and neither is God. This is great advice for everyone to follow because we must first fear God, which means respect Him, before we will ever keep His commandments, but this is manís all. If we do not want have a life full of vanity and emptiness then we must accept God as our Creator and our Savior and keep His commandments because His commandments are life.

 

As verse 14 says, we will all face the judgment day and everything in our lives, the good, the bad and those things we thought were secret will be brought to light, so let us learn from this great conclusion to live our lives for God so that we can know that eternity in heaven will be ours.

 

The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says:

 

ďÖ in reality the author says nothing more in these last verses then he has been saying throughout the book Ė enjoy life while you can. This can be accomplished only by fearing God; for God is in control and he can be expected to reward righteousness and punish evil.Ē

 

I wish I could tell you that Solomon turned away from his sinful ways that caused the kingdom to be divided, but there is no way to prove it that aware of. I can only hope that in the end he heeded these words he wrote at the conclusion of this book. One last time I want to read them again:

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.14  For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.