THIS LIFE HAS MEANING WHEN WE RISE ABOVE THE FUTILITY OF MAN’S WISDOM TO EMBRACE GOD’S WISDOM =
FEAR GOD AND OBEY HIM BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE BECAUSE WE ALL WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE
Our culture: Getting older; living longer, more healthcare and elder care issues
Swindoll: story of woman with painful arthritis reading a book entitled: I Don’t Want to Live Like This Anymore – cf. helping your parents in the twilight of their years
Common feelings and emotions of the elderly:
– uselessness – I am in the way, I am over the hill
– guilt – I have totally fouled up my life ….If only . . .
– bitterness and resentment
– fear of the unknown and the future – What’s going to happen to me?
As young people – how do we live right now in anticipation that old age will come sooner than we think?
As older people – how do we graciously accept the challenges of the aging process
How do we live right now in such a way that our life has meaning – that we are not caught up in the futility of life under the sun?
I. (:1-7) THE URGENCY OF EMBRACING GOD’S WISDOM: FIGURE LIFE OUT SOONER . . . RATHER THAN LATER . . . OLD AGE IS FAST APPROACHING
A. (:1a) It is Never Too Soon to Submit to the Lordship of Your Creator
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth”
1. Remember God by Submitting to His Lordship
Def. of “Remember” in this context: much more than keeping God in your memory; deals with how you regard God and how you respond to Him
Swindoll: used in 1 Samuel for Hannah when she was without a baby. She really wanted a baby, and she prayed for a baby. And Scripture says, “The Lord remembered Hannah.” God acted on her behalf and caused her to conceive. It’s the same term. It means “to act decisively on behalf of someone.”
Quotes Derek Kidner: To remember Him is no perfunctory or purely mental act; it is to drop our pretense of self-sufficiency and to commit ourselves to Him.
Stedman: The thought is: recall God’s presence daily; live in a relationship with him;
seek to discover the greatness and glories of God while you are still young, before it is too late.
2. Respond to God as your Creator
Say No to Evolution – does it matter what you believe about Creation?
Says a ton about accountability and how you are going to live your life
Should the pot talk back to the potter? Relationship of Creator to Creature; yet not animal but privileged human being into whom God has breathed His Spirit so that we are made in his likeness
You are not your own; made for a purpose
3. Recognize the Brevity of Life – Youth = Opportunity
“days of your youth” –
You are younger today than you will be tomorrow
Stedman: When you are young, life seems to stretch endlessly before you; it seems that you will never approach old age. But as you live day by day, life seems to speed by rapidly; it is very brief. You suddenly find yourself exhibiting the appearances and experiences of age. As someone has well said, “Just about the time your face clears up, your mind begins to go!” This is how brief life seems to be.
B. (:1b-7) Graphical Description of the Decay Involved in the Aging Process –
We are on a downward path that leads to increasing darkness and pain and hardship
1. General Description of Old Age
a. Time of Trouble
“before the evil days come”
b. Time of Distress
“and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them’”
c. Time of Darkness and Gloominess
1) Prime of Life Extinguished
“before the sun and the light,”
2) Twilight of life Fading
“the moon and the stars are darkened,”
Stedman: These mental faculties are described in terms of light. The mind, with its powers of reasoning, of memory and of imagination begins to fade, like the fading of the light of the sun. The reasoning power of the brain, perhaps the greatest gift that God has given to us, begins to lose its ability, and the memory fades. That is one of the first marks of old age. There are three things that indicate the onset of old age: the first is losing the memory, and I can’t remember the other two!
Leupold: All joys are dimmed very materially in old age.
3) Depression / Gloominess Persisting
“and clouds return after the rain”
Stedman: a reference to a kind of second childhood, of senility, which comes on in old age. As a child, one’s life revolves around three simple things: eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. When one gets old that same cycle returns again.
Swindoll: The cloudy weather represents the aging mind as it begins to get dull. Senility steals so much of the joy of living.
Whybray: The unexpected return of the clouds soon after a storm, once more shutting out the light, is a bad sign and brings gloom, both literally and psychologically.
Mind does funny things to old people as they become confused and disoriented.
2. Specific Signs of Deterioration and Decay
a. Loss of Strength
1) Trembling Hands – arms/hands used to provide a strong defense
“in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble”
How steady are your hands?
2) Crooked Legs – You used to stand tall
“and mighty men stoop”
Legs are mighty – controlled by the largest muscles in the body
Ps. 147:10-11 “He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.”
My older sister just lost her father-in-law – stooped over at almost 90 degree angle
b. Loss of Essential Functions of the Body
1) Chewing Capability – only a few Teeth left
“the grinding ones stand idle because they are few”
Liked Swindoll’s story of the older man buying baby food – strained peas – it was for him, not for his grandkids
2) Vision Capability – eyes grow dim
“and those who look through windows grow dim”
All sorts of eye problems; lens get thicker; can’t read anything up close; cataracts develop
3) Hearing Capability – ears have trouble hearing
“and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low”
Wiersbe: Either your hearing starts to fail, or you close your mouth because you’ve lost your teeth.
Leupold: Doors are means of communicating with the outside world. The mouth and its teeth have been referred to (3c). Therefore the author is at this point referring to the ears. They are shut to the outer world as is attested by the fact that that common sound of the grinding of grain, which was heard daily about the Oriental home, is scarcely perceived by the unfortunate old man.
4) Sleep Capability – no more sound sleeping
“and one will arise at the sound of the bird”
Awakened by the least disturbance; trouble getting back to sleep
5) Speech/Lung Capability (Or Hearing Capability again??)
“and all the daughters of song will sing softly”
Wiersbe: Your voice starts to quaver and weaken.
Kidner: participation in singing . . . or enjoyment of the singing of others ??
Adam Clarke: The VOICE, that wonderful instrument, almost endless in the strength and variety of its tones, becomes feeble and squeaking, and merriment and pleasure are no more. The tones emitted are all of the querulous or mournful kind.
Stedman: One of the signs of old age is that everybody seems to talk in a much lower tone of voice than they used to; people mumble all the time, as “the daughters of song are brought low.”
– start to go deaf; need hearing aid – 2 Sam. 19:34-36 ??
Are we presently Giving God Thanks for these basic functions?
Or do we take these for granted each day?
Is our happiness and contentment dependent on these functioning well?
c. (:5) Loss of Virility – Increasing Fears
1) Loss of Boldness and Courage
a) Fear of Falling
“Furthermore, men are afraid of a high place”
Need railings installed; every step is a potential disaster; break one hip … break two hips …
Things that used to be easy to accomplish are now difficult or impossible
b) Fear of Attack
“and of terrors on the road”
Afraid of driving at night; afraid of driving on the beltway;
2) Loss of Strength and Vigor
a) Loss of Hair – Or Change to White or Gray Hair
“the almond tree blossoms”
You can try to use various hair products to mask this inevitable process; you aren’t kidding anybody; like the white blossoms of the almond tree
b) Loss of Mobility
“the grasshopper drags himself along”
Go to the assisted living facility and watch as the residents drag themselves along; takes forever to get anywhere; stiffness just gets worse; difficult to move around
c) Loss of Appetite (maybe sexual reference)
“and the caperberry is ineffective.”
Eaton: The caperberry was apparently a stimulant to bodily appetites
3. (:5b-7) Ultimate Pictures of Departure and Devastation and Death
a. Departure from This Life
1) The One Who Leaves for a New Destination
“For man goes to his eternal home”
Always liked the imagery of the departed one setting sail for a new destination; mourners grieving on one shore as the ship disappears; but other joyful ones gathered on the other shore to greet the new arrival
2) The Ones Who Remain to Mourn the Departed
“while mourners go about in the street”
b. Two Pictures of Devastation of the Physical Body
1) Life is Valuable and Precious – But Broken and Crushed
“before the silver cord is broken
and the golden bowl is crushed”
Extinguishing of the light of life
2) Life Seems Endless – But is Shattered and Crushed / Fragile
“the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed”
No more flow of water of life
Eaton: The final act of dying is pictured in four expressions, which divide into two pairs. In the first pair a golden bowl is attached to a silver cord or chain. When the chain is removed the bowl falls and is irreparable damaged. The image points to the value of life, and the drama in the end of a life whose pieces cannot be put together again.
The second pair of images visualizes a pitcher lowered into a well by a rope running round a wheel. Death is the smashing of the jar.
Leupold: Do not attempt to discover the specific meaning of “silver cord,” “bowl,” etc. They have no specific meaning; they are only a part of the background of the picture.
c. Death = Separation of Body and Spirit
1) Physical Decay – back to dust
“then the dust will return to the earth as it was”
2) Spiritual Return – back to God
“and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
II. (:8) THE NEED FOR GOD’S WISDOM = THE FUTILITY OF LIFE UNDER THE SUN: APART FROM GOD . . . ALL IS VANITY
“’Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘all is vanity!’”
Review of previous chapters:
C1: INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW – CHASING THE WIND – THE CYCLE OF FUTILITY
THE EXPERIENCE AND PERSPECTIVE OF SOLOMON TESTIFY TO THE EMPTINESS OF LIFE AND THE LACK OF ANY SATISFYING ANSWERS TO THE HUMAN CYCLE OF FUTILITY
C2:1-11: LIVING IT UP WILL ALWAYS LET YOU DOWN
INVESTIGATION UNDER THE SUN REVEALS THE FUTILITY OF PLEASURE, POSSESSIONS AND PRIDE
C2:12-26: FUTILITY OF WISDOM AND WORK
A LIFE OF PURSUING WISDOM OR ACCOMPLISHMENT ONLY ACCUMULATES A LEGACY OF FUTILITY
C3: WRESTLING WITH ETERNITY –THE FUTILITY OF TRYING TO COMPREHEND THE DIVINE MASTER PLAN
THE INSCRUTABLE NATURE OF ETERNITY WILL FRUSTRATE MAN’S EFFORTS TO FIGURE THINGS OUT – JUST SUBMIT AND TAKE THINGS AS THEY COME
C4: THE FUTILITY OF CHASING WORLDLY SUCCESS
THE 5 ROTTEN STEPS ON THE WORLD’S LADDER OF SUCCESS
C5: WORSHIP, WEALTH AND WISDOM
C6: THE FUTILITY OF CHASING THE GOOD LIFE
EVEN THOSE WHO APPEAR TO HAVE GRABBED HOLD OF THE GOOD LIFE STRUGGLE WITH NO ENJOYMENT, NO SATISFACTION AND NO ANSWERS TO LIFE’S ULTIMATE QUESTIONS
C7: WISDOM REDISCOVERED
C8: RULERS AND RIDDLES
C9: LIFE JUST DOESN’T ADD UP –
BUT WE CAN STILL RESOLVE TO LIVE IT UP
THE ENJOYMENT OF THIS LIFE DOES NOT COME FROM FIGURING OUT LIFE’S DEEP ENIGMAS
C10: NUGGETS OF WISDOM – WISE RESPONSE TO FOOLISH LEADERSHIP
FOLLY ON THE PART OF RULERS PUTS A NATION IN JEOPARDY AND REQUIRES A RESPONSE OF WISDOM – YET WISDOM IS PRECARIOUS AT BEST
C11: SECRETS TO A PRODUCTIVE AND ENJOYABLE LIFE
BY OPPORTUNISTIC FAITH AND JOYFUL CONTENTMENT WE CAN LIVE BOTH A PRODUCTIVE AND ENJOYABLE LIFE
II. (:9-14) THE COMMUNICATION OF GOD’S WISDOM: THE PREACHER FAITHFULLY DRIVES HOME THE MESSAGE OF TRUTH
[Note: no need to view this section as an appendix added by later editors – Leupold defends Solomon as the author]
A. (:9-10) The Expository Role of the Preacher: Communicating God’s Truth Accurately and Effectively
1. Prerequisite: Preacher Must be a Wise, Godly Man
“In addition to being a wise man”
2. Goal of Edification – Systematic, Thorough Teaching
“the Preacher also taught the people knowledge”
3. Dedication to His Craft – can be a tedious process involving much discipline
Wrestling with the text and how to unfold it
a. Insightful Observation / Meditation / Analysis
“and he pondered”
b. Diligent Investigation
c. Methodical Organization
“and arranged many proverbs”
Eaton: The Preacher’s skill at his task is set before us in three verbs: pondered, searched out, arranged. The first (literally “weighed,” a rare word) points to careful evaluation, indicating his honesty, caution and balance; the second to thoroughness and diligence. The third, arranged, points to the skillful orderliness of his presentation and reminds us that there is an artistic element in his work (as in all preaching and writing).
4. Choice of the Best Possible Words – for Accuracy and Effectiveness
a. Make it Interesting — Don’t be Boring
“The Preacher sought to find delightful words”
Swindoll: winsome, easy to grasp, readily applied
The most effective communicators are those who can make the complex simple.
b. Make it Accurate — Don’t be Wrong
“and to write words of truth correctly”
Rightly dividing the Word of truth –
2 Tim. 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
How can people imagine that you just open your mouth and expect the Holy Spirit to fill you with the right words to say … that is presumption and laziness; much of what you hear on TV = repetitive gibberish – who listens to that stuff??
B. (:11-12) The Productive Impact of the Preacher: Applying God’s Wisdom to Stir People to Action and to Drive Home God’s Truth
1. Two Illustrations:
a. Goads that Prick People Into Action
“The words of wise men are like goads”
used on an ox to get the ox going forward; painful
Prosperity preachers have put away the goad; all sugar and spice and everything nice
If no one ever gets upset at your preaching, you are not fulfilling
your mission; Conviction of sin; need to change behavior; making people feel uncomfortable – all necessary
b. Stakes that Drive Home God’s Truth
“and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails”
Swindoll: A well-driven stake keeps the tent in place. It secures it to the ground.
Eaton: establish teaching in the memory
2. Unity and Authority of God’s Wisdom — Sourced from One Shepherd
“they are given by one Shepherd”
That is why the word is so powerful and impactful; accomplishing the Master’s purpose
Distinction between the One Head of the Universal Church and multiple undershepherds in each local church
3. Contrasted with Weariness of Book Learning – Accumulating Man’s Wisdom
“But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.”
Constable: This verse does not say that all study is tiring, though that is true. It means that study of books other than what God has revealed to learn wisdom is an endless, wearisome occupation. This is not to say we should avoid reading books other than the Bible. Nonetheless the main place to look when you want to find true wisdom is God’s Word.
C. (:13-14) The Main Message of the Preacher: Fear God and Obey His Commandments Since You Will Be Held Accountable
1. Summary Lesson – The Point of it All
“The conclusion, when all has been heard,”
Book has been building to this great climax
2. Simple Secrets to Purposeful Living –
Two Commands that summarize the Law:
a. Fear God
“is fear God”
b. Obey God
“and keep His commandments”
3. Scope of Solomon’s Counsel
“because this applies to every person”
4. Supreme and Total Accountability
“For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden whether it is good or evil.”
Zeisler: Solomon asked all the questions and looked squarely at all of life, its hopes, dreams, joys and sorrows. In the last analysis he declares that we must cease asking questions and worship God. Our most important choice is to bend our knee before God and receive answers from him.