The Collector of Sentences

(Today’s post by Chris Queen)

Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:14

professorThis coming Monday, I will turn – well…let’s just say that I’ll be another year older. As we grow older, we tend to become more nostalgic. You can see this at the end of Ecclesiastes. At the end of chapter 11 and into chapter 12, the Teacher (the Tree Of Life Version that I’m using here uses the Hebrew word Kohelet, which literally means “preacher” or “collector of sentences,” a turn of phrase that, as a writer, I love) says:

11:9 Rejoice, young man, in your childhood, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. 10 So banish anxiety from your heart and cast off distress from your body, for youth and prime of life are fleeting.

12:1 So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: before the days of misery come, and years draw near when you will say: “I have no pleasure in them”— 2 before the sun and light and moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds dissipate after the rain, 3 in the day the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when grinders stop because they are few, and those peering out windows grow dim, 4 when doors are shut in the street and the sound of the mill fades, when one arises at the chirp of a bird and all their songs grow faint, 5 when they also are afraid of heights and of dangers on the road, when the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and the caper berry fails to excite— for a man is going to his eternal home, and mourners go about in the street— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is crushed, or the jug at the cistern is shattered, or the wheel at the well is broken. 7 Then the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Wow. There’s a whole lot of melancholy in those paragraphs right there. But before we all decide to just be all depressed and get ready to shuffle off this mortal coil, we should bear in mind one of the overarching themes of Ecclesiastes – that there’s a time for everything. And that includes a time to reminisce.

But regardless of your season in life, one thing stands above all, as we see in the final words of Ecclesiastes:

13 A final word, when all has been heard: Fear God and keep His mitzvoth [commands]! For this applies to all mankind. 14 God will bring every deed into judgment, including everything that is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Whether you’re young, old, or (like me) slightly less young, the fear of the Lord is the foundation for any right relationship with Him. Do you fear Him? No, it’s not about being scared; it’s about a healthy sense of awe towards God.

Do you fear Him? Do you live your life in a healthy awareness of how powerful and great and mighty God is? If not, follow the advice of the Kohelet, and don’t wait until it’s too late.

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