committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

Ecclesiastes 11-12

 

11:1. Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

Hoard not thy bread; for if thou dost, it will mildew, it will be of no use to thee. Cast it on the waters; scatter it abroad; give it to the unworthy men if need be. Some here have seen an allusion to the casting of seed into the Nile when it overflowed its banks. When the waters subsided, the corn would grow, and be gathered in "after many days."

 

2. Give a portion to seven,

And if that be a perfect number, give beyond it,

 

2. And also to eight;

Give to more than thou canst afford to give to. Help some who are doubtful, some who are outside of the perfect number, and give them a portion, a fair portion. Our Saviour went beyond Solomon; for he said, "Give to every man that asketh of thee."

 

2. For thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

Thou knowest not what need there may be of thy help; nor what need may come to thee, and how thou thyself mayest be helped by those whom thou helpest now.

 

3. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth;

Thou knowest not what need there may be of thy help; nor what need may come to thee, and how thou thyself mayest be helped by those whom thou helpest now.

 

3. And if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

The tree falls the way it is inclined; but when it has fallen, there it must be. God grant that you and I may fall the right way when the axe of death hews us down! Which way are we inclined?

 

4, 5. He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

There are great mysteries which we can never comprehend. God alone knows how the soul comes into the body, or even how the body is fashioned. This must remain with him. We do not know how sinners are regenerated. We know not how the Spirit of God works upon the mind of man, and transforms the sinner into a saint. We do not know. There are some who know too much already. I have not half the desire to know that I have to believe and to love. Oh, that we loved God more, and trusted God more! We might then get to heaven if we knew even less than we do.

 

6. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

You cannot make the gospel enter into men's hearts. You cannot tell how it does enter and change them. The Spirit of God does that; but your duty is to go on telling it out. Go on spreading abroad the knowledge of Christ; in the morning, and in the evening, and all day long, scatter the good seed of the kingdom. You have nothing to do with the result of your sowing; that remains with the Lord. That which you sow in the morning may prosper, or the seed that you scatter in the evening; possibly God will bless both. You are to keep on sowing, whether you reap or not.

 

7, 8. Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: but if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity.

Take Christ away, and this is a truthful estimate of human life. Put Christ into the question, and Solomon does not hit the mark at all. If we have Christ with us, whether the days are light or dark, we walk in the light, and our soul is happy and glad; but apart from Christ, the estimate of life which is given here is an exactly accurate one—a little brightness and long darkness, a flash and then midnight. God save you from living a merely natural life! May you rise to the supernatural! May you get out of the lower life of the mere animal into the higher life of the regenerated soul! If the life of God be in you, then you shall go from strength to strength like the sun that shineth unto the perfect day.

 

9. 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.

Young man, will you dare, then, to follow your passions, and the devices of your own heart, with this at thy back, "God will bring thee into judgment?" Oh no, the advice of Solomon, apparently so evil, is answered by warning at the end, which is also true,—

 

10. Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

"Remove sorrow," or rather, anger, ambition, or anything else that would cause sorrow, "from thy heart; and put away evil from thy flesh." Let not thy fleshly nature rule thee; thou art in the period when flesh is strong towards evil, when "vanity" is the ruin of many.

 

12:1. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.

Now we get on solid ground. There is an irony in the advice, "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." There is no irony here; there is solid, sound advice: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth." May every young man take this advice, and carry it out!

 

1-3. While the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble,

These arms and hands of ours shake by reason of weakness.

 

3. And the strong men shall bow themselves,

These limbs, these legs of ours, begin to bend under the weight they have to support.

 

3. And the grinders cease because they are few,

The teeth are gone.
3. And those that look out of the windows be darkened,

 

The eyesight begins to fail.

4. And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

The old man sleeps very lightly; anything awakens him. He hides away from public business. The doors are shut in the streets.

 

5. Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way.

There is none of the courage of youth. Daring is gone; prudence, not to say cowardice, sits on the throne.

 

5. And the almond tree shall flourish,

The hair is white and grey, like the early peach or almond tree in the beginning of the year.

 

5. And the grasshopper shall be a burden,

A little trouble weighs the old man down. He has no energy now. The grasshopper is a burden.

 

5, 6. And desire shall fail: because men to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets; or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden cord be broken.

Before the spinal cord is broken, or the skull becomes emptied of the living inhabitants.

 

6. Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

The circulation of the blood begins to fail, the heart grows weak, it will soon stop. The man's career is nearly over.

 

7. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

This will happen to us all, either to return to dust or else return to God. Whether we die, and return to dust, or live until the coming of Christ, our spirit shall return to God who gave it. May the return be a joyous one for each of us!

 

8-11. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads,

They prick us onward, as the goad does the bullock, when he is trying to stop instead of ploughing in the furrow.

 

11. And as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

The words of the wise are driven home, like nails, and clinched. There is one Shepherd who, by means of his servants' words, leads his flock where he would have them go.

 

12, 13. And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the duty of man.

Or, "this is the whole of man." It makes a man of him when he fears God and keeps his commandments; he has that which makes him "the whole man."

 

14. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Depend upon it that it will be so. At the last great day, there will be a revelation of everything, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Nor need the righteous fear that revelation, for they will only magnify in that day the amazing grace of God which has put all their iniquities away; and then shall all men know how great the grace of God was in passing by iniquity, transgression, and sin.

 
 
The Reformed Reader Home Page 


Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved