TRULY, EVERYTHING MATTERS
Lord, I am now better able to understand the true meaning of life.
Read ECCLESIASTES 12
Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel 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 “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.[a]
“Everything is meaningless!”
The Conclusion of the Matter
9 Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.
11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd.[b] 12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
a Ecclesiastes 12:8 Or the leader of the assembly; also in verses 9 and 10
b Ecclesiastes 12:11 Or Shepherd
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12).
The Book of Ecclesiastes has traced the journey of a wise man’s search for meaning. Finally, we reach journey’s end—and the happy discovery that life is indeed invested with meaning and signiﬁcance, provided we lift our eyes and “remember” our Creator (1a).
The graphic word-picture of the aging process (1b–6) is a sobering reminder of human frailty and the ﬁnality of death. One ﬁnal time, we hear the refrain that has run through this book: “Meaningless! Meaningless!… Everything is meaningless” (8). Yet, from the frustration of feeling that “Nothing Matters Much” (see December 28, 2019), the Teacher has reached the conviction that, eventually, everything (deeds, as well as unseen motives) matters, and matters eternally—since everything comes under God’s judgment (14). His long search has led to a decisive conclusion: “The last and ﬁnal word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you” (13, The Message).
“Goads” are intended to prod; “nails” hold things in place (11a). The Teacher’s words are both a warning to heed and a promise to hold on to. Much of Ecclesiastes sets before us the Teacher’s words, ideas and opinions, which are flawed “wisdom” from an “under the sun” perspective; but now, he affirms, these are actually God’s words—“given by one shepherd” (11b). We discount or defy them at our own peril.
The Hebrews read Ecclesiastes at the Feast of Tabernacles, where, for one week, they lived in booths—temporary shelters—in remembrance of their wilderness wanderings. Ecclesiastes reminds us that life under the sun is transient and that lasting signiﬁcance and satisfaction are to be found not in savoring and serving created things, but by being anchored in the Creator: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they ﬁnd their rest in You” (Augustine, Confessions).
“Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” (Eph. 5:15–17, The Message).
Lord, we understand that everything down here is temporary and that the only thing of any permanent value is what we do for You.