“Rejoice young man in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes. But know that upon all these God will bring you in judgment” (Ecc 11:9).
Only the wise will understand how Solomon can tell the wise to live a joy filled life knowing that all that he does will be judged by God! Paul calls it the “mystery” (Eph 3:3ff). Jesus too said it was “hidden” to all except those to whom the Father revealed it (Matt 11:25ff). How can sinners be counted righteous? How can sinners be exhorted to live in joy filled lives knowing that there is a judgment day? Solomon speaks of a righteous wisdom not found in man; it is the gift of God (Ecc 2:24-26; 3:12, 22; 5:17-19; 8:15; 9:7-10; 11:7-10). The good news is that there is a covenant keeper who would come and stand in place of the wise man. So at once the wise man in called to live as already accepted, and yet to know that there is a judgment day for all his sin, a judgment day when his sin would be laid on another. As Jesus would tell the disciples,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (Jn 5:24).
In this conclusion to the book, Solomon calls the wise to live in joy and enjoy life, but to keep an eye on the bigger picture. The wise understands that this is the waiting before the judgment. Solomon arranges the conclusion:
Enjoy Life (11:7-12:7)
A Enjoy, but Remember (11:7-8)
B Enjoy Life in Youth (11:9-10)
A Remember Death (12:1-7)
“7And the light is sweet to the eyes to see the sun. 8 For if the Adamite lives many years, and rejoices in them all, and he will remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. All which comes is vanity” (Ecc 11:7-8).
Solomon calls the wise to enjoy the blessings of life, but to remember the bigger picture. The sunlight is a delight and blessing. And if the son of Adam lives a long life and is able to enjoy them all, still when he is old, he will remember a lot of days that were not so bright. For even he, has lived in the fallen world with the common curse on man. None of the days, good or bad, will have produced what they were created for. They will have failed to build the Kingdom of God. They will have passed in vain.
But Solomon calls the wise to enjoy the blessings of youth. He writes,
“9 Rejoice young man in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes. But know that upon all these God will bring you in judgment. 10 And remove vexation from your heart, and put evil away from your flesh, for the childhood and black (hair) are vanity” (Ecc 11:9-10).
The wise are called to enjoy and rejoice in the blessings God has given him. When the wise is young, he is to rejoice in his youth, his strength, in his hair that has not turned gray! He is to enjoy the prime of his life’s vigor. He is to pursue and live the desires of his heart and engage with what his eyes see in the world. But in all his enjoying life, let him remember that there is a judgment day coming. So let him remove bitterness from his heart and turn from evil, and live in reverent faith before God. His youth and black hair will not defend him in that court.
Solomon again calls the wise to embrace wisdom while they are yet in their youth,
“12:1 And Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before evil days come, and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them,’ 2 before the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars are darkened, and the clouds return after the rain; 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are crooked, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who see through the windows grow dim, 4 and the doors in the streets are shut, when the sound of grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; 5 Also they are afraid of the height and of dangers in the way, and the almond tree blossoms, and the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails for the Adamite goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go in the street. 6 While the silver cord is not loosed, and the golden bowl broken, and the pitcher shattered at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the well 7 and the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecc 12:1-7).
Solomon exhorts the young to remember God while they are still young, while they are enjoying the blessings of God. For there will be a day when they will feel more acutely the curse common to man. The young man’s strength will be gone. His days will not be so pleasurable. His eyes will struggle to see the luminaries, and life will be more cloudy than clear. His arms tremble, his legs are bent, his teeth are few, his eyes are not able to see clearly, his ears fail to hear, but he wakes early in the morning. He no longer enjoys music the way he did. He lives in fear of falling, and being out. His hair is white, and he no longer hops through his daily activities; he drags himself along like a grasshopper dragging a burden. He doesn’t enjoy the things he once desired: food and drink, ardors of life, social activities, or even work and hobbies. He will come to the end of his life, and they will mourn him at his funeral. So let the young walk in reverent faith before the cord of life is cut, the golden bowl broken, the pitcher is shattered, the wheel is broken. For God told Adam,
“For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19).
Again, Solomon declares the results of Adam’s sin,
“8 ‘Vanity of vanities!’ says the teacher. All is vanity” (Ecc 12:8).
The conclusion gives the source of the wisdom (12:9-12) Solomon proclaims, and again summarizes that wisdom (12:13-14). He writes,
“9 And advantageous, because the teacher was wise, he continually taught the people knowledge, and listened, and searched, he arranged many proverbs. 10 The teacher searched to find delightful words, and he wrote straight words of truth. 11 Words of the wise are as goads, and well-driven nails, a master of assemblies given by one Shepherd. 12 And an advantage, my son be admonished from these. Of the making of many books no end, and much study is wearing to flesh” (Ecc 12:9-12).
Solomon is not a bitter old cynic who fills the time with tidbits he has accumulated in life. He is not an old uncle spouting off about his observations to the kids. Solomon is the wise teacher who taught the people the wisdom he learned as he observed and inquired and processed. He wrote the wisdom down in parables, but it is clear and straight truth meant to prod his hearers. The wisdom he proclaims is truth that the hearer can rely on like a well-constructed building. The ultimate giver of the collection is God, their Shepherd. The hearer will not find the wisdom contained in Solomon’s world if he were to read the books that fill the world. But in Solomon’s words are life.
Summary of Wisdom (12:13-14)
The final two verses restate the two themes of the book. He writes,
“13 The conclusion of the whole word has been heard: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this every Adamite. 14 For God will bring every work in judgment, every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc 12:13-14).
First he states the centerpiece of the second main section, “Fear God” (Ecc 5:7). He calls the wise under the Mosaic Law to walk in reverence before God and keep the covenant. The wise under the Law knew that his eternal life was not found in the Law. Like Daniel, or Abraham, or Job, he looked to the coming Redeemer. But his faith was reflected in his keeping the typological covenant. Second, he restates the theme of the third major section ((8:9-9:10). There is a coming judgment; what God is doing is unfathomable. The wise worker labors looking to the enduring work of God; he walks in humility before God whose work is unfathomable. There is a judgment day coming that will adjudicate the broken covenant of works with Adam; every sin will receive just recompense. This period of time is a time of common grace – God causes the rain and sun to provide for the wise and the fool. It is also a time of common curse – the righteous and wicked return to dust. Such is life under the sun. But Solomon calls the wise to see by faith beyond this life under the sun. God’s ultimate eschatological work in Christ endures forever, and it provides the gift of God, joy and contentment, in hope of the Kingdom not built by Adamites. For in Christ, the wise have already been judged and counted righteous. For as Daniel, writes,
“And those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:3).
Gordon Keddie, Looking for the Good Life
H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
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