Young people! This is for you! (Older people can learn from it as well!)
In our study of the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes, we come to a poetic section in which the Teacher, the author of Ecclesiastes, gives us practical advice. Here is Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, as translated by my Old Testament seminary professor, David Dorsey. Notice how the Teacher begins by talking to young people.
12:1 Honor the One who created you while you are still young. Do this before the times of difficulty come, and the years arrive when you say, “I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and light, the moon and the stars grow dark, and the rainy season never ends;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble with age, and the strong men stoop; when the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows can no longer see;
4 when the doors that open into the street are closed, and the sound of grinding fades; when one awakens at the sound of birds but all their songs grow faint;
5 when one is afraid of heights, and of dangers along the road; when the almond tree blooms its white blossoms, and the locust droops, and the caperberry no longer stirs desire. Then the person goes to his eternal home and his mourners march about in the streets.
6 Honor the One who created you before the silver cord snaps, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the water pot is broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
8 “Utterly transitory,” says the Teacher. “Everything is transitory.”
Again he is talking about the aging process. But in this poem he has a new piece of advice about how to respond to it. Honor the One who created you.
What will it mean to Honor God in 2021?
Once again, he specifically talks to the young. That doesn’t mean the older ones among us are off the hook. Instead I suspect the Teacher is advising what is prudent: If we start a practice, a habit, an attitude when we are young, it will be apt to carry through our lives. So learn to honor God when you are young.
This is not to say that it is only when you are young that one can establish this habit. Anyone at any age can and should learn to honor God. But the earlier the better, as it gives us more years thinking and living in a God-honoring way, which is the best way to live. This is why we believe it is important for parents to train children in how to honor God.
What does it mean to honor God?
As Christians, it means what Jesus taught us: it is the giving of ourselves to him. We love him, John wrote, because he first loved us. And when he loved us, he gave himself to us. He then calls us to give ourselves to him, following his lead. Therefore, Paul writes, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. That’s a tough one isn’t it? It kind of sounds like honoring God is going to cost us something. Offering our bodies as living sacrifices.
In the next post, we’ll look at another passage that I believe relates to what the Teacher discusses and thus is a great way to conclude this series on Ecclesiastes 11:1-12:8.