Ecclesiastes is one of the most interesting books of the Bible. A modern book in the sense of speaking to the dilemmas and frustrations that strike us as so contemporary to our own experience while providing very practical and pastoral answers to those dilemmas.
The book’s thesis is that life lived apart from God is empty; that apart from a relationship with the living God life in this world is frustrating and void of delight. Ecclesiastes places the life of unbelief, the life of indifference, life apart from God in the scales alongside the life of faith, and the life of unbelief and indifference is found lacking. It’s lacking…
Unbelief and indifference just don’t work.
In chapter 12, the book’s final chapter, the alternative is set forth: a life of trust in the living God, a life that is a full life, a life of joy despite all the difficulties of life in a fallen world.
We’ll parse this chapter into three sections. First, serve God early.
Serve God Early
These eight verses exhort us to serve God early. That doesn’t mean that older people cannot serve. It means don’t wait, serve God right now. Serve Him early. Serve Him from your first days. This life is brief; therefore we ought to serve God with joy and energy from the very first of our days, and if the first of our days are over start serving Him now.
Two realities that we all face in one way or another are put before us: the deterioration of our bodies and the death of our bodies. Those two things are pressed home, and verses 2-7 vividly – and a bit humorously – describes the deteriorating human body.
This section points out to us the grand finale of death. In light of the fading body, and in light of people who have come to the point that they no longer desire to live, and in light of the ultimate certainty of death, he presses home this call to live for God now. Live for God with joy and energy now!
Remember, behind this call is the assertion throughout the book of Ecclesiastes that the life of joy and fullness and happiness and true blessedness is the life of faith. The world doesn’t believe that. The world believes that if you’re really going to have fun you’ve got to ditch this God stuff. You’ve got to be free to do what you want in order to get pleasure and satisfaction and meaning in life, you have to ditch God. That’s where you find the real marrow of life. When you leave behind this oppressive, strict religion and you’re free to do whatever you want.
Ecclesiastes proves that philosophy to be one of the biggest cons that has ever been perpetrated on humanity. No solid joys and lasting treasures are found in departing from God, in neglecting God, in living life for self and not worshipping the living God. In fact, the only solid joys and lasting treasures that are to be experienced in this life are experienced by the children of God. That’s the life of joy, that’s the life of fulfillment, that’s the life of meaning.
Start that life now! Don’t wait until the peak of your capacities and energies and abilities have left you; start now living that life of joy with God. This exhortation is illustrated in verses 3-7 as he pictures for us old age.
V. 3 – You’re losing your strength, your teeth, and your eyesight!
V. 4 – Now your hearing is gone! You’re always up early, and the voice is weak.
V. 5 – There’s increased anxiety and fear, maybe even paranoia. If you have any hair, it begins to turn gray and white. Movements are slow and awkward, and appetites and desires wane.
V. 6 – illustrates a sudden death
V. 7 – the deteriorating body and finally death.
V. 8 – All is vain and empty unless you live for God before you get there.
Live for God now. Live for God from the very earliest days. A full life must be lived in light of these coming realities. We’re going to get old. We’re going to die. Live for God now. If you won’t live for your Creator in the days of your youth, chances are you’ll never, ever live for Him.
This is a timely word for us, isn’t it? The current attitude is to sow your wild oats when you’re young. Go ahead, act like pagans while you’re in high school and college. Go ahead, do all those things that you know are dishonoring to God. Get it out of your system. Live it up. Have some fun. Sow your wild oats now. Later on in life, when you’re in your mid to late 30’s, even 40’s, you can become a respectable, upstanding citizen and marry a nice girl and have a family and settle down.
God’s Word says just the opposite: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” Worship Him now in the way you live. Worship Him by honoring Him with the care of your body. Worship Him by honoring Him in living as an upstanding young woman or young man. Worship Him in all areas of life:
Colossians 3:17 – “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus”
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Live your life in light of the ugly realities to come, trouble and death; the difficult realities of life in this fallen world. Serve God and delight in Him now and thus experience the fullness of what this life can be. You’ve heard the saying, “youth is wasted on the young.” Ecclesiastes says, “Waste your youth on God.” Don’t waste it on something that’s denigrating to Him and to your own dignity.
Before the famous journalist, writer and editor Malcolm Muggeridge came to Christ, he was for years a dedicated Marxist and atheist, a left-wing columnist for the liberal media. When he wrote his biography he titled it, Chronicles of Wasted Time. And the Preacher is saying, “Don’t waste your life. Live if for God because the life lived for God is the only life of delight in this world and if you won’t live for God then you will neither experience delight in this world or the next. But if you’ll live for God now you’ll know the only solid joy and the only lasting delight that can be experienced here or hereafter.
The first eight verses of the last chapter in Ecclesiastes teach us to serve God early. Tomorrow we’ll look at verses 9-12, which admonish us to use knowledge wisely.