Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/23/17 Sermon - It's Tough Getting Old

“It’s Tough Getting Old”

Ecclesiastes 12


Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon has been lamenting the fact that based on where he sat, life was meaningless.


Now, remember, where he was sitting.

Far away from God.

As far away from God as he could get.

By doing so, he could do his own thing and not feel that guilty about it. And yet, not so far away that he couldn’t see glimpses of God here and there.


If you are like me, you have friends and family who fit into that category. They know who God is. They acknowledge that God is around, somewhere. And when things get extremely difficult, they may even pray to God, without anyone else knowing about it, of course. But in the daily happenings of life, God is just far enough away that they don’t feel guilty when they do their own thing, instead of what God would want them to do. And much like Solomon, they are quick to blame God when bad things happen to what they deem as “good people.” So, it should come to no surprise that the final chapter of Ecclesiastes Solomon concludes with lamenting the struggle of getting old and how unfair life really is and in the end,

everything is meaningless.

Unfortunately, Solomon is correct about one thing, the human body deteriorates, on a daily basis. Solomon begins this chapter with telling his students to remember God, while they are young, because there will come a time when their body will not allow them to remember as easily as they can while they are young. Solomon goes so far as to state that getting old is full of trouble and has no pleasure. Which commentators suggest he does so for emphasis or exaggeration. No need to emphasize or exaggerate, I sure there are many of you here today who, like me, can relate to your body not being able to do what it used to do, and your mind not being as sharp as it was when we were younger.  


Verses 2-7 go on to describe, allegorically, what happens as one gets old.

Solomon begins by describing what happened at the beginning of the world. He reminds his students that God has been in existence before the beginning of time


“Before the sun and the light

And the moon and the stars grow dark

And the clouds return after the rain”

Solomon then has the keepers of the house trembling, the house being one’s body and the keepers of one’s body, being your arms, As old age creeps up on you, your arms lose their strength and tremble.

And the strong men stoop, has to do with your legs and knees giving way and causing you to bend over and not walk as straight and tall, is this beginning to sound familiar?

“When the grinders cease because they are few” is where Solomon notices our teeth fall out, and cease to work as well as they used to.

“And those looking through window grow dim”  we all can relate to our eyes not working as well, and having to change our prescription, ever so slightly, each year.

Not only do our eyes work less efficiently, “the doors to the street being closed” relates to our ears that close up and stop working, sometimes all together.

“And the sound of grinding fades” relates to our stomach failing to digest food the way it used to

Due to the loss of hearing, even the enjoyment of listening to music begins to fade, “when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint,”

“When people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets;” reveals that as we grow older, our fears increase, such as a fear of heights and even walking down the street can begin to produce fear.

Almond tree blossoms are white, and so becomes our hair as we grow older. As for the grasshopper that drags, this could be either one’s strength that diminishes and the desire that no longer is stirred would be none other than the result of impotence.

The silver cord is the spinal cord that runs up the back and

The golden bowl would be our brain

The body continues to break down with the wheel broken at the well being our veins and arteries failing to keep the blood going through the body.

Solomon ends the way he began, with recognizing the story found in the book of Genesis, where the Creator had created Adam from the dust of the earth, so back to the earth our body returns, and our spirit returns to God, the one who gave it in the first place.

From Solomon’s perspective, it is all meaningless.

It makes sense. For those who live, far away from God, it is difficult to see the light, to sense the hope, to live without fear. But for those who choose to rest in God, lean on His everlasting arms, and seek His face, not only do they experience the light, like Paul, they

Look forward to growing old, and long for the appearance of God,

2 Timothy 4:7-8New International Version (NIV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

May we be like Paul,

Philippians 3:12-14New International Version (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The next two verses switch from first person to third person. Many scholars believe that the author of the final part of Ecclesiastes was written by another person, perhaps a student of Solomon. Verse 9 describes Solomon correctly, he was wise, and did impart his knowledge to the people.  However,  verse 10 seems to be an apology, although Solomon may have searched to find the right words, what he wrote, was upright and true, based on where Solomon stood. As someone who chose to keep as far away from God as possible, and who chose to do what he wanted to do, rather than what God asked him to do, what Solomon had written could be seen as true, however, the part of being “upright” is up for debate.

Verse 11 is a pastoral metaphor. God is our shepherd, who uses his words, like a shepherd would use a goad, which is a stick used to prod livestock to go a certain way, to guide us in the way we should go. These words are not changing with time, they are as solid as embedded nails.

The student then warns those seeking wisdom, to beware of changing what has been written, and while seeking wisdom, be wise in choosing what you read and study. Not everything is worth your time and effort.

The central theme of Ecclesiastes is boiled down to two things. When all is said and done, after reading all that Solomon has to offer, the conclusion is

- Fear God

- Keep His Commandments

Two admonitions that have been around since Moses. After receiving the Ten Commandments, Moses tells the people, Deuteronomy 6:1-2

6 These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.

The irony is, Solomon did not practice what he preached. Solomon stood as an example NOT to follow. Solomon may have been wise, but he lacked self-control. In his wisdom, he reminded us that God will be the judge, of all things seen and hidden, good or evil.

The final chapter of Ecclesiastes begins with the phrase, “Remember God.”

In order to “remember” something, you have to have been introduced to it, in order to recall and remember it. That is why it is so important for us to offer opportunities to learn about God as soon as possible.

It is also important to realize how memory works. The process of memory has three parts:

  1. Encoding ( how information enters the mind)

  2. Storage (the process of preserving and recalling)

  3. Retrieval (accessing the coded and stored information)

In any given day, we are bombarded with more information than we can even begin to process, much more or less remember. However, the most efficient way to encode, store and retrieve information is through our senses. In verses 2-6, Solomon included the deterioration of four senses, hearing, touch, taste and sight, in his description of what it is like to grow old. Is Solomon trying to warn us that we cannot rely on our senses  to “remember God?”

There is another effective way of remembering things, and that is when the information is attached to an emotion. How many of you remember where you were when the planes hit the Twin Towers in NYC on September 11th? What about remembering when you were married or when a child was born? There are specific parts of our brains that work during a time of extreme emotion that assist the brain in remembering. Throughout Ecclesiastes Solomon has been encouraging us to live remembering that death is near. This reminder produces an importance on the living that also aids our memory towards God. Solomon also instructed us to fear God and keep his commandments, by attaching  the emotion of “fear” this will also aid our mind in remembering God.

God’s grace did not leave us with Solomon as the last word. Even though Solomon did teach many good things, it was the final Word, known as Jesus Christ, that offered us a wisdom that meets us where we are, and offers us the opportunity to forgo the mystery of life and trust the giver of life. Rather than relying on Solomon, may we take the offer given by Jesus in Matthew 11:29,

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

For those who remember God, walk towards Him and not away from Him, and choose to trade our yoke and take on Jesus’ yoke, and learn from Jesus, God incarnate, remembering that He is gentle and humble in heart, we will find rest for our souls in a world full of mystery, pain, and confusion.

 

Let’s pray.