The Conclusion of the Matter
Introduction: So many times in this series of studies we have worried that Solomon's advice was not exactly right because he seemed to leave God and eternal life out of the picture. This week, in the concluding chapter, King Solomon strongly appeals to us to remember to put God in the center of our thinking and planning. Let's dive right into our study!
- Remember Your Creator
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:1. Presumably you have more trouble with your memory when you are old. What does Solomon mean when he tells us to "remember" God when we are young? (Solomon is telling us to make God part of our planning from the very beginning.)
- Do you recall the story of the farmer and the laborers that came at different times of the day ( Matthew 20:1-15)? All of the workers received the same pay whether they started work in the morning or started just before quitting time. If you knew about this payment plan, when would you start work? (You all answer, "Just before quitting time!")
- The story of the farmer and the laborers is a parable about salvation. Given your answer as to when you would show up for work, why should we determine that we will "remember" (work for God) beginning in our youth? (King Solomon is now towards the end of his life and he realizes how much better his life would have been had he walked in God's ways the entire time.)
- Almost everyone I know (who is not retired)speaks fondly of retiring and the "golden years." Look at the last half of Ecclesiastes 12:1, how does Solomon describe the "golden years?" (He calls them "days of trouble" in which he finds "no pleasure.")
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:2. Solomon begins his explanation of the reasons why he calls the "golden years" "days of trouble." Will a time come when the sun, moon and stars grow dark? Will they fail at some point? (Solomon is not talking about the sun burning out, he is talking about our eyesight growing dim with age.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:3. What aspects of old age is Solomon describing here? (You shake and tremble with age. You stoop and you cannot do the kind of heavy work you used to be able to do.)
- I had a great-uncle who was remarkably powerful. I recall that when he was 75 he had huge wrists and powerful arms. Except for losing his hair, he seemed to defy age. Finally age and illness closed in and he, too, became frail and weak.
- "Do you use a paste that's past? Are your choppers at half-mast? Use the paste that lets you grin. Gumbo keeps your grinders in." This little limerick raises an issue about what Solomon means. When Solomon speaks about the few "grinders," is he referring to our teeth?
- When he refers to those "looking through the windows," is he referring to our eyesight?
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:4. Why would you close your doors just because you are aging? (Solomon may be describing a couple of things. He may be saying that you close the doors because you feel vulnerable as you get older. More likely, he is talking about the loss of hearing. Have you ever noticed how the "street sounds" dim when you close the door to your house? Since Solomon says the sounds of work and the songs of the birds grow dim with time, I think he is talking about the loss of hearing that comes with old age.)
- Why would old people get up with the birds, even though they cannot hear them very well? (They get up early because they cannot sleep.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:5. What else departs with old age? (We become fearful of falling, we are afraid of things that did not previously cause us fear. We lose our ability to jump around ("grasshopper drags") and our sex drive drives off ("desire is no longer stirred"). No wonder Solomon says about this time of life, (Ecclesiastes 12:1)"I find no pleasure in them.")
- Why is Solomon writing about almond trees blossoming? (Almond blossoms are white - which is the color of your hair. Which you have, if you are lucky.)
- What is the final stage of life described in Ecclesiastes 12:5. (You die and people mourn as they take you to the graveyard.)
- At this point, has Solomon whetted your appetite for those "golden years?"
- If you are "wishing your life away," you should stop it and enjoy life now!
- Other than discouraging us about getting old, what is Solomon's point? (When we are young, we have the time, strength and mental ability to prepare for a life of service to God and others. How many young people waste their youth, putting pleasure before everything else, and before they know it they are old and unqualified?)
- The End of Your Time
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:6. What is all of this talk about severed silver cords, broken golden bowls, shattered pitchers and broken well wheels? (Solomon is writing about our death. Have you ever noticed how people avoid saying that someone died? They will use phrases like "passed away." One of my favorites is used in the Salvation Army. They say, "promoted to glory." Solomon uses some of the most beautiful euphemisms for death.)
- What does Solomon want us to do before we die? (Remember our Creator.)
- What does this suggest to someone who has wasted their youth? (That it is never too late to turn to God. Solomon starts out ( Ecclesiastes 12:1) by telling us to "remember" our Creator when we are young. But, if we fail to do that, at least "remember" Him before you die.)
- Let's add Ecclesiastes 12:7 to verse 6 and read them together. What two components does Solomon suggest make up our being? (Our body returns to dirt and our breath returns to God.)
- Does this description of our "disassembly" at death remind you of another text in the Bible? (Read Genesis 2:7. The Bible clearly teaches that the body is nothing without the breath of God to make it come alive.)
- What Lesson to Learn?
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:8. Why does Solomon wind up his book the same way he started ( Ecclesiastes 1:2)? (He hasn't changed his mind about everything being "hebel" (temporary, a breath), since he just ended on the note of our death.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:9-10. This sounds to me like the teacher died and someone else is making an endorsement of what he wrote. However, none of the commentaries I consulted agreed with me. Why should we listen to the teacher, Solomon? (He was wise, he researched and considered his teachings, people learned from him, he tried to write in an interesting, attractive way, and what he wrote was true.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:11. Do you like to step on a nail? Do you like to be prodded? Do you enjoy a stick in your eye? Why does Solomon compare his words to those things? (Hearing wisdom, hearing the truth persuasively presented, should prod us into action. Once we know the truth and understand wisdom, we can assemble our life with it (like nails). Wisdom helps hold us together in tough times.)
- What does Solomon mean by his reference to "one Shepherd?" (God. Solomon claims divine inspiration for his words.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:12. After telling us that he did all of this research before writing his book, how can Solomon sound so anti-intellectual? Is he telling us not to read and study? (No. He is telling us to beware of wisdom that does not come from God. There is God-inspired wisdom and then there is everything else. Don't get tired studying everything else.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. Is this a summary of the entire book of Ecclesiastes? (Solomon says it is.)
- What is the conclusion? (Acknowledge God and obey Him.)
- Why? (A judgment is coming.)
- How is this a summary of Ecclesiastes when so much of it seemed to ignore anything beyond life here? (Solomon's point is that life is temporary. It is not always logical. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Good things happen to bad people sometimes. During our brief time here we should obey God for He has an ultimate judgment. Ultimate judgment would make no sense without an ultimate reward!)
- Friend, will you accept the advice of Solomon? Will you agree today to acknowledge and obey God?
- Next week: "The Voice From Heaven." We start a new series about the Bible itself.