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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Title:Young People! Remember Your Creator!
Text:Ecclesiastes 11:7 - 12:8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Enjoying Life
 
Preached:2014-06-15
Added:2014-06-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 33:1,2

Psalm 71:1,3,9,10

Psalms 119:4

Psalm 1

Hymn 6

Phil. 4:4-9

Exxl. 11:7 - 12:8

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ:

Our congregation is blessed with many children and young people. That is a great gift from God. For many of you the school year will soon be completed—or is already completed—and there will be ceremonies and assemblies to mark that. Some of you will graduate to a new level of schooling, or with a degree or certificate, ready to look for a job.

Youth is the time for making plans and setting goals. School, college, university—they are there to help you realize your goals. You have different goals, different plans. Some of you know exactly what they want to do; others are not quite so sure. And yet, in varying degrees, you have goals, your individual and personal goals.

In the midst of that diversity—some entering the work force; others going to university or college—in the midst of that beautiful and healthy diversity, also among our young people, there needs to be one common focus. Tthere is one goal that you all must share. One goal that all the young people of this congregation must embrace and make their own. One goal that we all, old and young, must make our own. And that is to remember our Creator. To remember the one who gave us life, who will at his good time take away our life, before whom we will one day stand as judge, and from whom flows eternal life. Let old and young remember Him.

REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR WHO IS ALSO YOUR JUDGE

The time we spend in this life is a time:

1. To prepare for the judgment
2. To serve our creator

 1. This book contains some of the most well known words in the Bible: “Meaningless, Meaningless! All is Meaningless.” Or “Vanity of vanities” as the older translations still familiar to many had it. The author (probably King Solomon) calls himself “The Teacher.”  He writes about how he tries to discover the ultimate meaning of life. As he investigates life, he discovers that it has no meaning. That is: It has no meaning, apart from God. Apart from God, life, for us, is empty, meaningless, it is vain—it has no sense.

The Teacher starts off in ch. 1 by saying that, in the end, everything is meaningless. Life is a series of vicious circles. There is the vicious circle of work, day after day. Of a generation of people getting old and a new generation succeeding it. The sun rises and sets, rises and sets. The wind blows first one way, and then the other. The rain falls, the streams run into the ocean, the water evaporates and is taken up into clouds, and falls again. What weariness, says the Teacher.

And then, in following chapters, he pondered more examples of this vanity, this apparent emptiness, which wearied him so. He said that wisdom, knowing how things work and the right answers to difficult questions, is vanity. The pleasures of life, working hard, getting ahead in life, great wealth—all these things are, of themselves, empty and meaningless. Because the different aspects of this life we live here on earth are, apart from God, vain and meaningless, the Teacher had a special word at the end of his book for the young people of the congregation. He wanted them to be on track as far as life is concerned. He wanted them to understand some important things about life—this life we live here and eternal life. He did not want them to live a meaningless life apart from God but a meaningful life in relationship with God.

In this passage, he speaks of light and darkness, life and death. He uses light as an image of life, and darkness as an image of death. Light is sweet, he says, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. The Teacher begins his special word to the youth by recalling how wonderful life is. And it is wonderful. It is great to be alive and to enjoy life. It is a pleasant thing to see the sun. The sun that gives life and light. We may enjoy life. God does not expect us to be somber and gloomy. Life does not need to be dreary and dismal.

On the contrary. As the Teacher says in v. 8: How many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. Be happy. Enjoy life. Enjoy every year God gives you to live.

This finds an echo in the NT in Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he said: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

Young people may enjoy life. The Word tells you: Enjoy life. You are young. Youthfulness is a time for fun and laughter, for vigorous activity and sports. For all sorts of plans and lots of enthusiasm.

But there’s a “but.” The Teacher says in v. 8: However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Enjoy life, but in the midst of your enjoyment, remember that days of darkness are ahead. The days of approaching death. Every day you live, you are one day closer to the day you will die. And, of themselves, apart from God, the coming days of darkness and death will be empty, meaningless and vain.

To bring the point home, the Teacher says in v.9: 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. Again: Rejoice! Enjoy life. Youth is the time for fun and exuberance. For laughter and happiness. Follow the desires of your heart. Live life to the fullest — to the max!

But.... again a “but.” But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Enjoy your youthfulness, even to the fullest, but know that the judgment of God is coming.

The Teacher says the same in the last verse of the whole book:  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. The author of the letter to the Hebrews said something similar. He wrote: And ...  it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.... (Heb 9:27). The apostle Paul wrote: So we make it our goal to please him.... For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:9,10).

We live, we die, and then comes the judgment of God. God will either approve or disapprove of everything you have done.

Do not think that the Teacher is taking with the one hand what he gave with the other. This is no wet-blanket theology. “Have fun in life, but, ha-ha, there’s judgment coming. Boy, will you ever be in trouble then.” That’s not what it’s about. Rather, if we live life to the fullest as followers of Jesus Christ, as people who are in covenant with God, and who know that the judgment of God is approaching, then life gets direction. Then our life is placed on a good course. The awareness of coming judgment, the knowledge that God will either approve or disapprove of everything we have done, makes every detail of life important. Then life is not vain or meaningless. Rather, life becomes very significant. To know this makes us careful about what we embrace with our hearts and what we look at with our eyes. Oh yes: Let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But do so knowing that God, your God, is watching and judging.

In 11:10, the Teacher says the same thing in a different way. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless. Youth is not the time for anxiety and trouble. Push it away from you. For youth is vanity. That is: youth is over just like that. It’s a puff of air.

And so the message of the Teacher up to this point is: “Enjoy your youth. It does not last long. Before you know it, the days of darkness, of death will be near. Rejoice in them, but do so as a covenant child of God. For, after death — which is a day closer every day — comes judgment at which God will approve or disapprove of everything you’ve done. And you must prepare for that in this life.”

2. And so we can understand what the Teacher says as he continues in ch. 12. If death and judgment are coming closer day by day, then, yes: Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Remember means to acknowledge, to honour, to love and serve God. And seek his forgiveness, grace, mercy and kindness. Remember the one who made you. The one who entered into a covenant with you. The one to whom you belong in life and in death. Remember him. Reckon with him in all of life. Serve him and love him.

And do so now, today while you are still young. Before the days of trouble draw near. Begin now. Don’t wait until old age. That’s what the Teacher means with “the days of trouble.” The days of old age. When the body starts to give out. When life becomes more difficult. The body starts to weaken. You become frail. Do not think that it will be easier to start serving the Lord when you are old. The longer you wait the harder it is. Youth is the time to begin developing good patterns of faithful service of God.

The Teacher describes the days of trouble, the days of old age, as days which have little pleasure. Youth is the time of exuberance, of joy and laughter. By comparison, old age is difficult, void of much pleasure.

He then goes on to describe what it is like to get old. In v. 2 he first compares old age to a Palestinian winter. A time of much rain. Day after day it is cloudy. The clouds darken the light of the sun, the moon and the stars. It rains, and after the rain has fallen, the clouds return again. Once the dark clouds have dumped their load of water, another mass of clouds comes rolling in. That’s the image in v. 2 — the joy of youth is gone; gray drabness covers life. Oh sure, when you are young, there is rain too (troubles). But after the rain falls, the sun begins to shine again. But in old age, there is often difficulty after difficulty. Rain clouds are replaced by rain clouds.

You know what it’s like after a rain shower. How fresh and sparkling nature is. It rains for a while, and then the sun shines again. That’s an image of youth. The end of v. 2 gives an image of old age: “The clouds return after the rain.” It becomes more difficult to deal with troubles and to throw off anxieties.

And so: Remember your Creator when you are young. And when you are old, you will know from a life time of experience how to deal with trouble and worry.

In 12:3, the image changes. The breakdown of the human body because of old age is compared to a house. The keepers of the house tremble. The keepers of the house are the arms. They get weak and begin to shake.

The strong men stoop. The strong men are the legs. The once strong legs are not as straight and steady as before.

The grinders cease because they are few. The grinders are the teeth. Today we have false teeth, caps and crowns. But the Teacher was writing in a day when old people would lose their teeth.

Those looking through the windows grow dim. That’s the eyes. Because of cataracts and macular degeneration, the old often cannot see very well any more.

The doors to the street are closed. That refers to the ears. Hearing fades. Often, old people who cannot hear anymore are very lonely. They cannot follow the conversation.

The sound of the grinding fades. Again, a reference to the grinders, the teeth. This probably refers to the voice. The voice that comes from between the toothless gums is low.

One rises at the sound of birds. Old people often have trouble sleeping. They are “up with the birds.” Early in the morning, before dawn, they are awake, shuffling around the house. They are up with the birds, but they can hardly hear the birds singing.             The songs of the birds grow faint.

In v. 5, the Teacher refers to two things that often frighten old people. The first one is heights. The other is traffic in the street, and the crowds of people. Old people begin to stay at home, more and more. They don’t feel safe out and about. Traffic and people bustling about can be terrifying to a slow moving old man or woman.

The almond tree blossoms. The blossom of the almond tree is white. The Teacher is referring to the grey and even the white hair of the elderly.

The grasshopper drags himself along. The grasshopper is perhaps the best example of lightness and agility. It’s a symbol of a young person. A young person who can jump and is light on his feet. But, the day comes when that grasshopper is old or injured. And it drags itself along. And so the old person the Teacher is describing shuffles along and drags his feet.

Desire is no longer stirred. The desire for fun and laughter, for food and wine — that disappears when you get very old.

Remember your Creator before those days come. If you wait until then it’ll be too hard. You must develop the patterns, the habits and the customs of serving God when you are young. True, there are 11th hour conversions in which God saves old people on their death beds. But, as a rule, if you do not begin serving God when you are young, you never will.

Sometimes young people are snatched away by death through an accident.  Snatched out of the middle of a busy, vibrant life. And then where will you be if you had no time for God in life? After death comes judgment.

If you don’t start when you are young, you will grow more and more hardened in your unbelief and disobedience, and you’ll die a bitter old man or woman. But if you develop the good patterns and the blessed habits when you are young, they will stand you in good stead when you are old. Jesus Christ will be your comfort for body and soul when you are old. And he will be your comfort in life and in death.

At the end of v. 5, the Teacher no longer speaks of the difficult days of old age but of death. And of what happens after death. He says: Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth—begin serving him when you are young—because the day will come when your friends and families will mourn your death and will bury your body in the ground. And you will go to your eternal home, either heaven or hell.

The vv 6 & 7 give a further description of death—two images. First, of lamp. Second, of a water fountain. Both of these images, the light and the water, are symbols of life.

First he wants us to see a golden bowl (lamp) hanging on a silver cord or chain. When the silver cord snaps, the golden bowl crashes down. The lamp is destroyed and the light goes out. Life is seen in terms of silver and gold—a silver cord and a gold oil lamp. It’s beautiful. But when it falls, there is darkness. This continues the image from 11:7 & 8 — Light is sweet, but the darkness is coming. Enjoy life, but know that death comes for everyone.

The second image the Teacher wants us to see is of a water fountain, a pitcher, and a wheel. The water pitcher is lowered into the well by a rope which is wound around a wheel. The pitcher hauls up life giving water. But then, the pitcher is smashed to pieces. Even the wheel is broken. No more water can be hauled up from the well.

And so, says the Teacher in v. 7 — just like the light goes out when the silver cord holding the golden bowl snaps — and just like no more water can be gotten when the pitcher and the wheel lie broken at the well — so the body returns to the dust of the earth when you die, and your spirit returns to God who gave it.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!”

You are born. You have some good years of youth and vigor. Days of light. You get old and frail — days of darkness. And you die.

Empty, meaningless, vain. Youth, old age. All is vanity.

Well, yes, all is vanity, apart from God. Apart from Jesus Christ it is vain. But Christ fills life. He rids life of the vanity. He gives purpose and meaning to life.

Let us, old and young, serve him. Let us obey the commandments and fear God. Let us remember our Creator. Remember him, acknowledge, honour, serve, love and obey him, while it is still light. As you enjoy this life, serve the LORD God. Get into the habit of serving him before an accident snatches you away. Before the silver cord holding up your life snaps without warning, you drop to the ground, and the light goes out. Remember and serve God day by day now, while it is easy to do so — before the dark and difficult days come. For then it will be much too hard to start.

Dear (young) brothers and sisters: Take to heart this teaching of the Teacher about life, death, judgment and eternal life. As you live this life you are now living, prepare for death and judgment. Parents, teach your children these things. You who have graduated your grades to the next grade or level of schooling: Prepare for a much greater graduation—to graduate from this life to eternal life. Let us all—old and young—make sure that we are serving God now, today, while it is still light.    Amen.  




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. George van Popta

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