Remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Many people tend to associate spirituality with mortality– belief about God must have something to do with the afterlife, and therefore, concern about doing what God says is motivated by a desire for a more enjoyable afterlife. If spirituality can be sequestered with dying, then, some would say, it should not be a concern for those who are in their youth, in their prime of life.
This is how not a few people live their lives. They figure that they will not be dying anytime soon. Attitudes in our society reinforce this– as a whole, society does not like talking about death and attempts to ignore that unpleasant reality at all costs. Thanks to medical and technological advancements death is not as pervasive in life as it was just generations before, and this facilitates, especially among the young, an almost complete lack of consciousness of their impending demise– and that it might be sooner than expected.
In reality, as the Preacher indicates, spirituality is more than just about the fact that we will all die. In Ecclesiastes 12:1 he does not emphasize for people to remember their Ultimate Judge in the days of their youth (although that would not be a bad idea, Ecclesiastes 12:14); he says to remember your Creator. To remember the Creator is to remember that you are the creation, that there is a Power out there stronger than you are. To remember our Creator is to remember our creation from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), and to remember that we are dust is to recognize that our pretensions of greatness are hollow and that the day is coming when we will be but dust again (Ecclesiastes 12:7). While remembering our Creator does remind us of our own mortality, it also compels us to remember that despite our desires we are not the ones really calling the shots. We are a part of God’s great and glorious creation; an important part, yes, but a part, and we would do well to remember our role in praising and glorifying the God who created us (Psalm 148:1-14).
Nevertheless, the Preacher’s words are motivated by his understanding of the imminent demise of us all. Ecclesiastes 12:2-7, often understood as referring to physical decay, probably has the day of death and lamentation as the true referent. In the passage the Preacher invites the reader to consider the day of his or her own death and the results it will bring. Death brings down the strong and mighty; it ends the daily rituals of life; all the pleasures and labor and desires are gone. In the end, it’s all over, and it is all absurd (Ecclesiastes 12:8). Things may continue as before (Ecclesiastes 1:4-8), but not for you.
Many times we hear the advice to “live each day as if it were your last,” and such advice, if directed in ways of righteousness, is certainly sound. But the Preacher wants us to go deeper than that. What will happen on the inevitable day of your death?
Family members will mourn and lament. You would hope that people who know you or know of you would be saddened a bit. There will be plenty of people making money– funeral arrangements, the handling of the estate, and so on and so forth.
Yet, odds are, the sun will go down and then rise on the next day, and everything moves on…without you. All that you are and hope and feel and wish– gone.
This is not meant to depress, although that might be the result. It is designed to be a wake up call. None of us are as important as we tend to make ourselves out to be. We are caught up in this absurd thing called “life under the sun,” and the best time we have is now. We are to remember our Creator in the days of our youth because for so many reasons those are the good days– the days of joy and promise (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). They are not to be squandered in riotous living. Those who are wise will understand that it does not get any better– days of infirmity, on various levels, are coming, and then ultimately the end, if the end is not untimely, and there is never any guarantee (James 4:14).
Therefore, let us praise God that this is the day of His creation, and we should rejoice in it and in Him (Psalm 118:24). We do not know what will happen tomorrow, but we can remember our Creator today and to seek His will. The day of death and the end of our absurd lives will hasten soon enough. Let us seek God before it is too late!
Ethan R. Longhenry