Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Life Worth Living

Our lesson today focuses on Wisdom Literature written by Solomon, the Preacher, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, specifically Eccl 11:9-10; 12:1-7, 13,14. The number of youth who commit suicide as a result of depression is alarming. The fastest growing group at-risk for suicide is African-American teen girls. And it seems that cyber-bullying has caused many youth to commit suicide, also. 'Cyber-bullying has...been defined as "when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person"...(It) can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender, but it may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech), ganging up on victims by making them the subject of ridicule in forums, and posting false statements as fact aimed at humiliation.' 1 Those youth who committed suicided were lives worth living. They are just one example of how we can reflect on the meaning of life from birth, childhood, youth, young adulthood, midlife, and seniors, if we make it through each of life's stages. To each person there is the final outcome of death. Death may come early and it is final. Therefore, Solomon felt the need to teach the wonder and meaning of life as we move toward death.

'Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.' Eccl 11:9 Solomon was encouraging the children and youth to be happy and not worry about adult things. They are to do things as they see it and know that adulthood will come soon enough. But he issued the warning that they were still under the all-knowing God who will bring everything they had done in life back to their remembrance and ultimately judgment. We are not our own; we belong to God.

'Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.' Eccl 11:10 While they are in their youth, they should maximize their enjoyment and minimize all evil of the flesh. They should make their strength available to God while they are young. Youth many times may become prideful because they must please themselves. They must banish anxiety from their heart and any and all cares and concerns that would cause them to lose sleep, or seek refuge through drink or other solicitious behavior. This could cause them to become upset (sorrowful), depressed and/or uneasy. Remembering God while they are young is the wise way to live. Childhood and youth are vanity because they are so short-lived. Vanity means "breath, fog, or vapor" Verse 10 serves as a reminder to us of the 'tragedy' of life: "We get old too soon and smart too late."

Youth are reminded that God is the Creator of all life. 'Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while, the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;' Eccl. 12:1 Young people are issued a warning to remember their Creator in the days of their youth, before the sunset time of life, before the days of sickness when the days are difficult and cruel and the years totally lacking in enjoyment, and before the date of our death.

In Eccl 12:2-7, we see a graphic description/allegory of the aging process. Solomon presented a rather depressing depiction.

As we age, we start losing our lights ("not darkened," verse 2). We don't know exactly when we lose our lights, but when we look back they are in the past. 'While, the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:' Eccl. 12:2 The sun, light, moon, and stars (lights) grow dimmer both physically and emotionally. Earlier in life there was rain (trouble), but we were able to bounce back. Now the sunny days no longer seem to follow the rain. After we successfully come through a rain storm, another cloud returns with the promise of more rain. If we allow these lights (or lack of) to weaken our souls because of the clouds, we can lose part of our understanding and memory, or we can be depressed or stressed. Remember the Creator and remain anchored as you age.

'...when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and ...the windows be darkened, And the doors shall be shut...,when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;... they shall be afraid of that which is high,...and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever, the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.' Eccl. 12:3-6 Verses 3-6 describe how our bodies progressively deteriorate.

Verse 3 begins looking at our bodies. The "house" represents our bodies and the "keepers" are the arms and hands. They are no longer as strong as they were in our childhood and youth. They may be wrinkled, carrying excess fat, etc. The "keepers" are not as healthy for the "house". The "strong men" are the legs and thighs that serve the "house". But they are now bowed with aches and pains. The "strong men" are no longer strong and are not as healthy for the "house". The "grinders" cease working for the "house" as they did once. The "grinders" are the teeth. As some people age they may have had dental work by purchasing fillings, partials, implants, etc. Others may not take advantage of the dental work. None of them have all of the original "grinders" given by the Creator for use in the "house". Those who look through "windows darkened" indicates failing eyesight. First we need bifocals, then we need trifocals, and finally the aged need surgery for cataracts. In this computer generation, we must also be aware that the computer will cause problems for our eyesight. We have combatted our visual fatigue by shifting window blinds, changing the angle of laptops or monitor in relation to light sources, adjusting the brightness of the LCD screens, increasing the font size on the screens, and purchasing computer screen protectors. None of these solutions are foolproof. As we age, there are still those who look through "windows darkened" and are unable to help the "house".

The "doors" represent the lips of the "house". We don't have as much to say as we used to. The lips are the doors of the mouth. They are shut in eating because the teeth are gone and the sound of the "grinding (with them) is low". They are only able to eat soft foods and do not have the command of the meat in their mouths which they used to have; they cannot digest their meat. The aged "rise up" bright and early because he has trouble sleeping. "The daughters of musick...low" means the aged's voices and hearing has begun to fade. They have developed a fear of "that which is high", whether it is a tall building or a ladder. They will not get on the air-borne rides at the carnivals. They have lost a level of self-confidence and will not go out alone. Their fears are in the way. Their "house" shall be accompanied by their "almond tree" which "shall flourish". Our hair turns white like a white almond tree blossoms. We, like "grasshoppers", are pretty agile in our youth. However, we are "grasshoppers as a burden" which would indicate we are dragging ourselves along as if we can't make it in our old aging bodies on a cold day. Our "desire shall fail" in the sense that we no longer have the same appetite for food or other basic desires, to include sexual desires. Solomon explained this degenerative process. It can be seen sometimes when you visit nursing homes, for example. The "mourners" and funeral procession may be near.

Finally, we die. Death is the only certainty. The silver cord is loosed breaking the tender thread of life when the spirit is released from the body. The golden bowl is likened to the cranial cavity and the breaking is its cessation of the mind at the time of death. The pitcher and wheel may refer to the breakdown of the circulatory system together with the breakdown of the systolic and diastolic blood pressure system. 'Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.' Eccl 12:7 The body returns to dust, while the spirit returns to God who gave it. There life will be judged; we must give an account of the life we have lived. The book of Ecclesiastes does not teach the possibility of afterlife.

'Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.' Eccl. 12:13 Fear God and give Him the respect due His name. This verse summarizes the Law of Israel, (Mosaic Laws; see Deut. 6:3-6), which had as its foundation the reverence of God and the keeping of the Lord's commandments. 'For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' Eccl. 12:14 This is the end of all instruction, the summation of all that can be said about life and wisdom. In the endd, justice will prevail for both rich and poor, young and old, and good and evil. There will be a day of reckoning!


Written by Deborah C. Davis

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