1. In Ecclesiastes 11:7-8, light contrasts with darkness. What does “light” or “darkness” stand for in the Bible? (John 1:4, 9:4)We are exhorted to remember the days of darkness, for they will be many.The word ‘many’ indicates that the days of light may be small in number.What can we learn about the way to live our life here on earth? (Psalm 90:12)
2. Verse 9 is addressed to a young man and the command ‘follow’ stands in contrast with the command ‘know.’What does the Bible say about the judgment to come? (12:14; 2Cor 5:10; Rev 20:10-12)What does this passage teach us about the way to live the days of youth (8)?
3. The word ‘before’ is repeated in 12:1-8.Why is it necessary to remember the Creator beforehand?What does remembering one’s Creator do for one? (Isaiah 46:10)
4. The “one Shepherd” in verse 11 refers to God the Father.What does the title “shepherd” indicate about the way the Lord God leads His children? (Psalm 23)
5. The words ‘duty’ (in verse 13) and ‘judgment’ in verse 14 sound burdensome. Yet why do you think they are necessary? (Genesis 2:9,15; Matthew 16:27)
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them…"
This passage teaches us how we can live our lives as God originally intended for us in sending us to this world.
The key point for us to bear in mind is to remember the one who sent us to this world and live our lives here on earth being conscious of his will and purpose in doing so. There is tons of wisdom for us to dig up and learn from this passage, but, basically, we would like to consider seven points:
First, his grace
The first thing we need to remember is his grace. God is so gracious that he gave us one life to live. Look at vs. 7-8. “Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.” In the past, one person I know used to read books written by the disciples of Buddha. He developed a dark view of life, for Buddha said, “Life is to be born, to get old, to get sick, and to die.” So his conclusion was: You are born to die. In short, life is a series of sufferings after sufferings, troubles after troubles. But, by God’s grace one of his friends invited him to a Bible study in UBF. After studying the Bible he learned that the Biblical view of life is absolutely different from the Buddhist’s view of life. For example, in the passage for today, the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Life is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.” As used here, the word “light” means “life” (in its essential nature). God created light (Genesis 1:3). God saw the light and it was good. John 1:4 says, “In him was life and that life was the light of men,” indicating that this light refers to the life that was in Jesus. The expression, “It pleases the eyes to see the sun,” is an idiom for the joy of life; it refers to the fact that in and of itself, being alive represents a totally pleasant experience.
We don’t know how many years each of us might be allowed to live. But, however many years a man may live, God’s will for us is to enjoy them all. The word “all” means “all”, including childhood, young adulthood, and beyond. At the Downey Bible Center I see little children coming and playing. The other day, as I was working to improve the area under the avocado tree, little Jeremy Park and Moses Lim came along and asked me, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” I looked at each of them. They looked so bright that I felt as if I were in a mysterious land such as God’s kingdom. I also realized that these little children are having a good time. As Jesus said, their angels see God daily. Under the protection and provision of their parents, and certainly of God the Father who sent them to this planet earth, they are fully enjoying their childhood. But I was not too jealous of them. I am in my late fifties. Soon I will get into my sixties. Then, if God allows, I will be in my seventies. In the past, I have heard that one’s real life begins from his sixties. So I haven’t started my life yet. My point here is this: I am having the time of my life only because Jesus gave me his light. It is because of his light that I can live my life here on earth. His light is sweet.
The sweetness of his light tells us that God is a gracious God. He gave us one life to live; and life itself is a serious gift from God. Thank and praise God especially because God created you as a man, not as a dog, or a cat, or a hamster. You are the crown of God’s creation. As King David says, God made us fearfully and wonderfully that God would ordain from us the praises of him.
Second, his trust
The next thing we need to remember and therefore give thanks to God for is the kind of trust the Lord God gave to us in sending us to this world.
Let us read vs. 8b-10 responsively. “But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.”
This passage seems to negate what the author says in the previous passage. However, when we understand the real intention of the author we can see that throughout the passages the meanings are consistent. Symbolically, “the days of darkness,” refers to “the life after death.” We can reach this conclusion from what Jesus said. In John 9:4, Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” Here by “night” Jesus meant “the life after the physical life.” Genesis 1:2 alludes to the fact that God created darkness. In Genesis 1:4 God called darkness “night.” So, “the days of darkness” can mean the “night” which is the life after death. “[T]hey will be many” indicates that the number of days that continue after one’s physical life is over could be a lot more than the number of days of his life in a physical body. For example, Adam lived 930 years. Then he died. Yet, the days continued and are still continuing. We don’t know when Jesus will raise him up from the dead. Maybe tomorrow? The day after tomorrow? After 100 years? 1000 years? We don’t know.
The expression, “Everything to come is meaningless,” describes the status of one’s life after his physical death, as Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” When you die physically you can do nothing, for all of your activities cease. This means when your physical life is over, you will no longer have time to either improve or worsen the condition of your life to come.
Look at v. 9 again. “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” This passage sounds as if it is endorsing a “playboy” type of a lifestyle.However the two words “but know” indicate that the opposite is true. God knows that we love to goof around. He also knows that we may feel guilty if we play too much and thereby neglect our duties. In the past, when I was about 5 or 6 years old, my dad used to wake me up around 5 a.m. and ask me to memorize ancient Chinese literature. Then while eating breakfast, my dad suddenly said, “If you want to go out and play outside, go ahead and do it all day long.” I was surprised. But after breakfast mom hinted to me that dad was very upset because the previous day I hadn’t done my homework and played all day long. Then I got the message. Instead of going out and playing, I memorized two days’ portions – the previous day’s portion and that day’s portions. Likewise the writer says, “If you want to go outside and play marbles all day long, be my guest. But unless you do your homework properly, you will be in trouble.”
The exhortation, “banish anxiety from your heart and cast troubles off your body,” means, “live by faith in the Lord and cast off evil desires [out] of your body.”
The expression, “youth and vigor are meaningless,” means that, “although they are powerful, unless they are properly harnessed and directed in a right way, one’s youth and vigor will yield nothing but emptiness.”
Let us step back, take a look at the passage, and read it again. It is not difficult to see the picture, that is, the Lord God filled us with a lot of good gifts, especially the gift called “youth” – and they are all before you. So you need to consider what you are going to do with what you have been given, for God will bring you to judgment for what you do (or don’t do), how you do (or how you don’t), and why you do (or don’t).
At first glance, God may look harsh and cruel in brining you to judgment for these. But when you think about it, what God is doing is what I am asking others to do. For example, each time my wife sees me doing something other than working on the message she feels nervous. She is so concerned that even her facial expression becomes rigid, the tone of her voice changes, and, God forbid, even her blood pressure goes up. And what she says to me is in the category of henpecking. But each time she kind of bugs me, all I am asking of her is to trust me. So this has been my favorite quotation for her: “Trust in God, trust also in me.” I know judgment day (that is, Sunday) comes, but I always ask her to trust in God and trust in me. The point is “trust.” I don’t want her to treat me like a kid. After all I am not a kid. Plus, I am her dear husband. I am even the head of the household where she is a member.
But let us stop for a moment and think about how we should earn trust, for it has been said that we cannot demand others to trust us, for we must earn every bit of it. So while we need to trust others, we also need to prove ourselves trustworthy, so that others would see us being faithful in handling one thing or another, so that as they find us trustworthy, they will naturally trust us. In my case, for example, if I finish messages early enough and continue this practice for a long period of time, my wife Rebekah will never bug me. She will trust me because I earned it.
The same is true in our relationship with God. God trusts his children. He so trusts us that he even gave us the right to abuse it. But inasmuch as he trusts us we also must strive to prove ourselves trustworthy.
When Jesus came he taught the same concept. In Luke 19, in the parable of the ten minas, Jesus said to a servant who earned ten minas, “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (Luke 19:17). Earning trust however is not an easy thing. And not all people prove themselves trustworthy. How then can we prove ourselves trustworthy? We find an answer to this question in what the master said to the good servant. “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter…” The three words “very small matter” holds the key. In the case of Joseph in the book of Genesis, for example, before he rose to the position of Prime Minister of the Egyptian Empire, he proved himself trustworthy in cleaning bathrooms in a prison. Here “a very small matter” can be a number of things, such as being punctual to a meeting. It also could include getting study notes ready before coming to a Bible study, or getting one’s homework done daily and then going to class. Let us then look around ourselves and see how we can be trustworthy beginning with very small matters. As we prove ourselves trustworthy beginning with a very small matter, either at work, at home, or in the church, the Lord God will eventually help us bear good fruit physically and spiritually.
Third, his purpose
The next point for us to remember is God’s purpose in sending us to this world. (And the earlier we secure this purpose the better off we will be.) Look at Ecclesiastes 12:1. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them…’”
God is the God of economy. He never wastes anything. His perfect economy in doing what he does remains true in all he does. This is true in creating each one of us. Before we think about God’s purpose of each of us, let us think about seemingly insignificant creatures like the earthworm. Why did God create earthworms? Why did God give earthworms the ability to wiggle so well? The answer is obvious. The earthworms are good in digging tunnels. God’s purpose is to use earthworms to create a good ventilation system under the surface of the earth so that plants can enjoy good aeration. The same is true with every single creation of God. Then how much more with you, the crown of God’s creation? And he has his own purpose which is unique to each person in creating each one of us. For this reason v. 1 says, “Remember your Creator” rather than “his creator” or her Creator or their Creator or our Creator, but your Creator.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. God is the God of each individual. He is a personal God and he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of you! So remember your Creator in the days of your youth.
Remembering one’s Creator is one of the most important keys to living a life that is truly fruitful, for when one does not know why God sent him to this world, one will end up abusing his life; one will end up living for all the wrong purposes—all against God’s will—so that after his life is done, when he stands before God and makes a report on what he has done, God will end up saying to him, “Who asked you to do that?”
Joseph from Genesis is a classic example of a young man who remembers one’s Creator in the days of his youth, and thereby becomes extremely fruitful. From his teenage period he remembered God’s purpose for him. As he kept remembering this purpose (as it was revealed to him in two dreams), he eventually became a source of blessing for many.
Many youths complain that they do not know God’s purpose for them. But they complain like this because they want to indulge in their sinful desires and do not make the effort to know God’s purpose for them. To a young man like this, Romans 12:1-2 offers a powerful guide. Let us read this passage.
Fourth, God’s provision
God never asks anyone to do anything without first providing that person with the means by which to fulfill what he is asked to fulfill.
In sending each person to this planet earth, God had a specific mission in mind. In assigning that mission to each person, God always equips him with all he needs in fulfilling the purpose for which he is born.
In what way does God equip each person? While many things can be said, for our own purposes, it is sufficient to say that one of the major, and by far the most fundamental ways, is to wire up each person in such a way that he or she would function suitably for fulfilling the mission effectively.
In the previous passages, for example, we have seen that God provided us with youthful life. In vs. 2-8, we see detailed descriptions of the way in which he equipped each of us. For example, think about, “the keepers of the house” (which refers to your hands and arms). God gave you two hands. With two hands we can accomplish millions of different things. You can play piano well, typewrite well, play basketball well, and do many other things well. According to the traditional interpretation among Jewish Rabbis, “the golden bowl” refers to one’s brain. Think about your brain. Because of this brain the human race could invent all kinds of good things like computers, electricity, tooth brushes, toilets, airplanes, and the list goes on and on. The point is that we must be very thankful to God for all of his provisions, especially for his great investment in each of us. Then with thankfulness we must offer ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness, not as instruments of wickedness. Then God will make our lives fruitful.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: we must do this in the days of our youth, because when we get old, we will not be able to function as efficiently as we should. For this very reason, the author says, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” What he means here is that it is totally useless to remember God’s purpose and his powerful investment by the time one’s life has all been wasted away for all the wrong purposes.
Fifth, his shepherding
The fifth point for us to remember in living a life as fruitfully as God intends us to live is to remember God’s role in sending us to this world. Unlike heathen thoughts about their gods, the God that the Bible teaches us about is the God who actively involves in the lives of his children. Heathen people think that after creating the universe, for example, (their own version of) god (or gods) withdrew himself from this world, and from a place somewhere up there he keeps his arms folded, watches how his creation is doing. But God is not the God who is aloof. The Bible projects God differently. Mainly, it depicts God as a shepherd leading sheep. Ultimately, God revealed himself as the good shepherd by sending his one and only Son Jesus. When Jesus came he said, “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11)
If God is a shepherd, who are we? We are his sheep. This then brings up the fifth point for us to remember, that is, listening to the voice of the shepherd and following it closely.
Look at vs. 9-12a. “Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-given by one Shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.” Here “one Shepherd” refers to God himself who sent Jesus. The key for us to remember then is that instead of living our lives according to our own ideas, we must daily listen to the voice of our Lord Jesus. We can do this by doing Daily Bread, or by writing one deep Bible testimony to internalize God’s word into us. Another important way is to master one book of the Bible through in depth studies such as in a Genesis or John’s gospel study program during the summer.
Sixth, his partnership
The sixth point for us to remember for a fruitful life is to remember God’s will to include us in fulfilling his redemptive purpose. God is love. Love wants to share. We can call God’s desire to share everything he has and who he is with one word: partnership. Close study of the Bible indicates that his will in making us the way we are is for us to work with God as his partners. Partners work together for a common purpose. We see the same thing happening in the way Jesus treated his disciples. At first Jesus called them “children.” Then, he called them “brothers.” Then he called them “friends,” for in John 15:12-14, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”
How then does God include us as his partners? It is through giving us not only privileges but also responsibilities, for partners share responsibilities. We call this simply the “duty” of man. For the same reason, see what v. 13 says: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Here “his commandments” refer to all the commandments recorded in the Bible. But they are all reducible to one word: the duty to love. It is true with Moses’ Ten Commandments, for example. It consists of ten: the first four have to do with our duty to love God, and the next six our duty to love our neighbors.
God is love. God’s purpose is to share with others all that are good, especially himself. In this love he sent Jesus, his one and only Son. So we can best fulfill our duty to love by sharing Jesus Christ and propagating his love among many.
Seventh, his reward
Lastly, if we fulfill our duty, how will God reward us? Look at v. 14. “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” At first glance, the word “judgment” sounds totally irrelevant with rewards. But when you think about it, it is only through the creation of the possibility for one to be punished for disobedience that the concept of reward becomes possible. So judgment for the righteous and judgment for the wicked means reward for those who believe in Jesus and obey him, as well as the punishment for those who reject Jesus and disobey him.
In conclusion, we learn that from youth, we must be thankful to God for his abounding grace, strive to prove ourselves trustworthy in a very small matter, offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, to serve God’s purpose. We then listen to his voice closely so that we would grow even as his partners, believing in Him who desires to reward those who fear him and obey his commands.
This passage teaches us that everything we do or don't do has an outcome, so that we must live our life (especially the day of our youth) with the Day of Judgment in mind.
1. In Ecclesiastes 11:7-8, light is contrasted with darkness. What does "light" or "darkness" signify in the Bible (John 1:4; 9:4)? We are exhorted to remember the days of darkness, for they will be "many". The word "many" indicates that the days of "light" may be small in number. What can we learn here about the way to live our life here on earth? (Psalm 90:12)
** Light probably refers to life, and darkness refers to life after death.
** The lesson for us to remember would probably be the shortness of the days of our life here on earth, so that as Jesus said in John 9:4, we would use every flying minute in doing the work the Lord God sent us to do.
2. Verse. 9 is addressed to a "young" man and the command "follow" also stands in contrast with the command "know". What does the Bible say about the judgment to come? (12:14; 2Co 5:10; Rev 20:10-12) What does this passage teach us about the way to live the days of one's youth (8)?
** It is like a final exam coming for a student who, after his going through the days of school instruction, must sit for the exam, so that the instructor would rate his performance, either A, B, C or even F.
** V. 8 indicates two things are needed: first, we must not be anxious about anything (but rather live by faith in Him); and second we must keep the trouble (i.e., evil desires [of youth]) out of our body, so that we would run the race without being tangled up in our sinful desires.
3. The word "before" is repeated in 12:1-8. Why it is necessary for one to remember one’s Creator "beforehand"? What does remembering one's Creator do for him? (Isaiah 46:10)
** We can find an answer to this question in the word "beforehand", that is, "before it’s too late". Our lifetime here on earth is the time for us to make preparations for the eternity to come. So beforehand means before the time to prepare ourselves runs out. The reason for this admonition, then, is to exhort us not to play around out there too much, but rather to do our homework first and then play. This is particularly true during vacation seasons such as summer.
** It helps us to know the purpose of our life, for it is the Creator God who knows the purpose of our life the best. Read Romans 12:1-21.
4. The "one Shepherd" in v. 11 refers to God the Father. What does the title "shepherd" indicate about the way the Lord God leads his children? (Psalm 23)
** Maybe two things: 1) He is not only a judge but also a guide, guiding us to the right paths of life, so we would not go astray, and when we do go astray, he comes to look for us. 2) He is not a dictator or an authoritarian who forces obedience. Rather he talks to us, so we would listen to him and obey him voluntarily.
5. The word "duty" in v. 13 and the word "judgment" in v. 14 sounds burdensome. Yet what does the Bible say about their necessity? (Genesis 2:9, 15; Matthew 16:27)
** 1) Duty is necessary as it gives us the opportunity to participate in God's work of creation. Genesis 2:9, 15
2) Judgment is designed to reward us for what we do. In order for reward to become possible, the concept of punishment also is necessary.