This is part 14 of a many-part blog series on the book of Ecclesiastes.
When I was in my late 20’s, my mentor told me not to strive to accomplish everything under the sun right now, and that I would likely become my most productive in my 60’s. The 20’s and 30’s are years of preparation and gaining experience. In my 40’s, I will have gained enough experience to have acquired some wisdom. When my kids leave the house, I will begin to focus all my energy on the thing the Master has assigned to me. By my 60’s, I’ll be able to reproduce all that our Father has put in me into others.
Maturity through the Years
In their 20’s, most people rely on their own strength. We tend to act like we are supermen/women. We don’t listen to others’ recommendations on boundaries and sleep, and we think we can do it all. By 30, through a major and longterm health crisis, my body no longer worked the way it was supposed to. I didn’t have a choice—I had to rely on the LORD far more just to make it through the day after age 30.
In Ecclesiastes 12:1, Qoheleth (the assembler, collector, preacher) tells us to remember the Creator while we are young (and when we often rely on our own strength). Realize that one day your strength will fail, and you will, in your newfound feebleness, be forced to rely on Him. My, how these words resonate with me already!
The sun and moon and stars become darkened as we age—we have lost our youthful vitality (12:3a). Strong men are bent (12:3b), grinders (teeth) don’t work as well as they used to, windows (eyes) are dimmed (12:3c), doors (ears) to the street shut (12:4), almond trees blossom (hair turns white), grasshopper drags itself along (we slow down, 12:5a), desires fail (12:5b, we can’t do as much and spend more time sitting in a chair), and our bodies generally don’t work as they used to (vv.2-5).
Then the silver cord snaps. The golden bowl is broken. The pitcher is shattered. The wheel is broken. Finally, we die. It was all so “hebel” (vv.6-8).
The End of the End
Qoheleth’s words are finished. An editor now picks up where he left off and summarizes the entire book for us (12:9-14). Wisdom isn’t going anywhere despite hebel; it is still crucial to living life well under the sun. But at the end of the day, if you want to live well: fear God and keep His commandments.
To live life well, you need to start with the end in mind. Rejoice in whatever good our Good Father allows you to experience, and remember that you’ve been placed under the sun: you have major limitations. This will cause you to rely on Him and you will gain much wisdom in so doing.
But is this it? It seems as though it’s missing something huge, and it is! Ecclesiastes is in the Bible to point us toward the Cross. There would be a particular emptiness at our complete inability to extract the full meaning and value from life. Surely hebel cannot reign over us forever. And we are left hanging. Until the Cross.
Jesus is our End
A B4Ter must remember this every day: none of the people we employ have ever heard of the Way out of hebel. This Way has a name: Yeshua (Jesus). When they read our hope through love, generosity, joy, and peace, they will recognize what Solomon could not yet see. We get to spend 8+ hours daily showing that despite hebel and especially through it, the grace of God shines brightly under the sun because of the Son. What a privilege and opportunity that we should not take lightly.
Next time we will finally be able to answer so many of the questions that have painfully lingered over this text.
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.