“Resolved, I will live so, as I wish I had done when I come to die.”
These words were penned by nineteen-year-old Jonathan Edwards, who in 1722, kept a diary and wrote seventy guidelines which he called “Resolutions”. In his article, “The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards”, Dr. Stephen Nichols writes that Jonathan Edwards resolved to live a life that counts, not through legalistic grit and determination, but with God’s help and grace in accordance to His will.
Edwards’ seventy resolutions deal with various topics and themes. One such theme is the reality of his death and living before God with an eternal perspective. In his youth, Edwards knew all too well about the brevity of life. His life and preaching demonstrated that he took seriously that life is a breath, a mist, “that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). Just as life in Edward’s 18th century was frail and fragile, life continues to be frail and fragile today.
One theme that Solomon has addressed in Ecclesiastes is the sober reality of death. The brevity of life is a reality we just as soon forget, escape from, ignore and not talk about. In his sermon “The Bad Days are Better”, pastor Dan spoke of how a sober look at the reality of death actually helps us to put life into proper perspective and order.
We know that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die;” (Ecc.3:1-2). We are all going to die yet none of us know the day and hour when death shall overtake us. Though life is hebel - a vapor - a breath - Scripture actually teaches us that the fleeting, transient, breathiness of life can actually teach us how to live with eternity in view.
In Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8, Solomon deals with the reality of death and the afterlife in such a way to help prepare us, I believe, for eternity. From the context, it seems to me that the main idea of this passage is the call to live life in light of eternity.
In our passage, there are three ways where Solomon instructs us to live life in light of eternity:
· Rejoice in life while remembering that one day we will give an account to God. 11:7-9
· Remove sorrow and put away evil. 11:10
· Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. 12:1-8
Living life in light of eternity is to rejoice in life while remembering that one day we will give an account to God.
“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.” Ecc.11:7
Each morning I am greeted by Abdel, one of the security guards where I work. After saying good morning, Abdel will almost always tell me the day’s weather forecast. If it is cold, but the sun is out, he will always emphasize that it is sunny. Abdel’s optimism speaks to the joy we get from the sun. The correlation between the light of the sun and joy, I believe, is God-given.
It also gives us a sense of the poetic imagery Solomon is using here. Just as being surrounded by the light of the sun is sweet and pleasant for the eyes, our present life is intended by God to be enjoyed. As we have learned, to rejoice in life is a good gift that only God can give. Enjoying life may look different to each of us, but we must keep in mind that someday we are going to give an account to God, so we need to enjoy that which glorifies God.
Ecc. 11:8 says:
“So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.”
Verse eight tells us that if we should live many years we are to remember there will be “days of darkness”. It’s not entirely clear as to what is meant by “days of darkness”. From the context of the following chapter 12:2-8, “days of darkness” likely speaks of when our bodies and minds are suffering in decrepit decline towards disease and inevitable death. In the face of such decline, if we should live for many years, we are to rejoice in this gift of life all of our days.
Then we come to 11:9 where it reads:
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgement.”
OT scholar, Walter Kaiser Jr., points out the sense of irony in this verse. “Walk in the ways of your heart” seems to be a direct contradiction of Numbers 15:39b: “You shall … not follow after your heart and your own eyes”. Verse 9, however, is no contradiction to Number 15:39b or invitation to live sinfully in sensual pleasure. It is not an invitation in which anything goes. Enjoy life. Enjoy what you see and desire. Rejoice and delight yourself in the thrill of living. But enjoy life in the fear of God and to the glory of God. Don’t abuse this gift with evil comforts, pleasures, and stuff that offer no real joy and have no eternal value. Enjoy life in a way that brings glory to the One who created you, “loved you and gave Himself for you” (Gal. 2:20b).
Each week at the Courthouse I see people come before a judge to give an account of what they have done or witnessed. At the end of the trial the judge will give a verdict based on the evidence that was presented before the court. I think this is a mere shadow of the heavenly court. In the heavenly court, there will be but One Judge, who “will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14).
All of us are transients on this earth. Whether it be today, tomorrow, or many years from now, our lives will soon be past. There will come a time when God will judge both the righteous and the wicked. One day each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Rom.14:12). Our life is from God and for God, so how we live on this side of eternity matters to Him. David Gibson reminds us that “enjoyment is a gift from God and we are responsible to God for what we have done with it”. Only what was done for Christ, for His glory, will last. To live in light of eternity is to rejoice in life while remembering that one day we will give an account to God.
Living life in light of eternity is to remove sorrow and put away evil.
“Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.”
First, we must remove “vexation” which also translates as “sorrow”. There is a sorrow that may be caused by depression, anxiety, suffering, or grief over the loss of a loved one. Some of you here this morning may be experiencing this kind of sorrow. If this you, the Bible invites you to “cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Ps.55:22). I want to encourage you to speak with pastor Dan, one of the leaders, or a trusted mature friend in Christ who can help bear your burden and bring your sorrow before the Lord in prayer.
But the sorrow that I think Solomon is speaking of is when one sorrows over needless frustrations and anxieties. It is the sorrow that robs us of our God-given joy in life. Youth and the prime of life are a “fleeting breath” that is here today and gone tomorrow. Don’t sorrow over things that have no eternal value. It’s so easy to get lost in the small matters of life and lose sight of the big picture. Don’t sorrow over the things that you cannot fix or control. Whatever sorrow you may be dealing with, the remedy is always same: take it the Lord in prayer as the old hymn reminds us:
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!
Second, we are to put away “pain”. The Hebrew word for “pain” is the word ra-ah which literally means “evil”. One commentator writes that to put away “pain” or “evil” is essentially to ‘put away sin’. Author, Daniel Akin writes:
God has made life as a gift to be enjoyed as He designed. We run into major problems when we depart from His good design. When we choose to do marriage, relationships, food, money, and work in ways He did not intend, it leads to brokenness and pain in our lives…”
If there is sin in your life, confess your sin and ask God for forgiveness. We all need to face ourselves daily in the mirror of God’s word. Through the conviction of the Spirit, we are to put away evil by turning from sin - and in faith - turn to the Lord who is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It is to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). John Piper reminds us that the “Christian life is one long process of crucifying those old desires and experiencing by the power of the Holy Spirit, new passions and new desires.” To live life in light of eternity is to remove sorrow and put away evil.
Living life in light of eternity is to remember your Creator in the days of your youth.
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.” Ecc. 12:1
The very God who calls us to rejoice is the same eternal God whom we have to give an account of ourselves. The God who requires us to remove sorrow and put away evil is also our Creator who is holy and worthy of all honour, praise and worship.
For those of you who are in your youth, this is appeal is aimed directly to you. It may be the best counsel you could ever receive on living life for eternity. When Solomon uses the word “remember”, you are not being merely instructed to reflect on who God is. To “remember your Creator in the days of your youth” also implies a call to action based on your reflection on all that God is and has done for you.
Walter Kaiser reminds us when “the LORD remembered” Hannah (1 Sam.1:19), He acted decisively on her behalf and she was able to conceive. To “remember your Creator in the days of your youth” is not only to recall to mind, but call to action to live for His glory.
Should we live many years the process of aging and dying awaits us all. In one long breath, Solomon gives us an amazing allegoric picture of what aging and death look like in Ecc.12:2-8.
For the purpose of understanding this allegory, I think the NLT translation is helpful. Ecc. 12:2-8 from the NLT reads:
2 “Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky.”
3 “Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly.”
4 “Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.”
5 “Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral.”
6 “Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well.”
7 “For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
8 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”
You’ll note verse eight hebel in the NLT is translated as “meaningless”. As we’ve learned throughout this series hebel is better translated as “breath” “vapor” or even “smoke”. Life does have meaning and purpose and hebel points us to the glory beyond this scope of life. Hebel helps is to live with eternity in view.
But I think the NLT helps to illustrate in contemporary language the meaning of Solomon’s imagery of dying and death in verses 2-7. A sober look at the reality of aging, death and having to face God, actually helps us to put life into proper perspective and order. One way to prepare for the future is by resolving to live for Christ today. Living in light of eternity is to remember your Creator in the days of youth. It is a call to action based on your reflection of who God is and what He has done for you.
Long before he was a leader in the first Great Awakening in America, a pastor in Northampton MA, a missionary to indigenous peoples, and president of what would become Princeton University, Jonathan Edwards was a youth who wanted to follow Jesus. To help us in our pursuit of remembering God on a daily basis, I would like to use Edwards as an example by using three resolutions as a daily guide:
1. Resolve to rejoice and enjoy life as God has intended for you. As one author put it, the Christian life is all about abundant joy, because it is all about delighting in God. To live for your Creator is where you will find your greatest joy, because He is the source of all joy. Unbreakable and lasting joy is not found in entertainment or in today’s fleeting social media dominated culture. True joy is found in the eternal sovereign God – in Christ alone.
2. Resolve to live each day for the glory of God. Begin simply by trusting in Him. Rest nowhere but on Him and His unchanging character as revealed in Scripture. To make life count is die to ourselves and live to Christ. See the big picture! For many this world, this life is all there is. People are grasping after the wind to get all they can out of life while they can. If you’re a Christ follower, you know that this life is not all there is. For it has been “appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb.9:27). Living to God’s glory is to know Him, treasure Him, and offer Him to this world. Look for ways and opportunities to share about the hope of salvation through Christ.
3. Resolve to fear God and keep His commandments. Obey Him and let His word be written on your heart. Memorize the Scriptures. Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don’t feel like it, and ask the Lord to grant you understanding. Renew your minds daily in His Word so that His wish will be your wish, His desire will be your desire, and His will may be your will. These resolutions can solely be accomplished by His sufficient grace and power of His Spirit.
Jonathan Edwards was married to Sarah Edwards for 30 years and had twelve children. While he was president at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), the little town of Princeton was in the midst of a smallpox epidemic. For preventative measures, Edwards received what was called an inoculation, a procedure similar to what we know today as a vaccination. The inoculation, however, resulted in an infection, and on March 22nd, 1758 Edwards died at the age of 55.
From his youth, Edwards resolved to live a life that counts. His commitment to live for Christ and to take seriously his faith as a youth shaped his entire life. A prayer that has been attributed to Edwards is “Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!” May this be our prayer today!
Everything I said today was spoken in the context of knowing God. Do you know Him who is Creator of all living things and is holy? As Laura Story’s song sings, do you know the “indescribable, uncontainable God who has placed the stars in the sky and knows them by name”? Do you know Jesus Christ by whom all things were created through Him and for Him? (Col. 1:16). In light of God’s holy standards, the Bible declares that all have fallen short of His glory. But as the book Gospel Truths declares: “The good news for you is that you can be rescued, reconciled, and restored through God’s gracious work in Jesus Christ.
As truly man, Jesus not only sympathized with our weaknesses, but died on the cross as our substitute – the righteous for the unrighteous – the just for the unjust – His life for our life.
As the Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, Jesus had the power to bear our sins and conquer death through His resurrection. As God, He was the perfect sacrifice. If you don’t know Him, I urge you to come to Him in genuine repentance and complete faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. If you want to know more about the gospel of salvation, I want to invite you to speak with pastor Dan after the service.
If you are Christ follower, remember that you were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. You are not your own, for you were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Treasure Him. Delight in Him. Love Him. Live life in light of eternity by rejoicing in life while remembering that one day you will give an account to God, by removing sorrow and putting away evil, and by remembering your Creator in the days of your youth.
Say with Edwards: “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”