“Practical Wisdom” Part 2 Ecclesiastes 11-12

“Practical Wisdom” Part 2 Ecclesiastes 11-12

Here, at the end of the book, Solomon helps us think about aging. And the headline of his teaching is this: a wise person prepares for the end from the beginning. Life is short, so how can we make the most out of it?


The text for the sermon today is Ecclesiastes chapters 11 & 12. Our reading will be chapter 12. These are the words of God:

12 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”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity. (ESV)


Here, at the end of the book, Solomon helps us think about aging. And the headline of his teaching is this: a wise person prepares for the end from the beginning. Life is short, so how can we make the most out of it?

Moving back to chapter 11, wise people prepare for the end by honoring God with their possessions. They live generous lives (casting bread upon the waters) The wise have stuff without the stuff having them. (11:2) They make wise investments and avoid get-rich-quick schemes. “He who observes the wind will not sow.” Don’t wait for perfection, just work hard. (11:3-4)

These kinds of preparations need to begin today because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring And making wise investments comes with zero guarantees (11:5-8)

Young people, enjoy your youth. You will never have less cares, less aches, less needs, than you have today. So, walk in your strength, make big plans, commit all of them to the Lord. (11:9-10)

As chapter 12 opens, Solomon gives us an extended metaphor for aging. He likens it to the fall of a great household. The “housekeepers,” our hands, are now feeble. The “strong men” our backs and legs can no longer sustain weight, the “grinders,” our teeth can no longer chew, and our eyes, or the “windows,” grow dim. We can’t sleep soundly as we once did, the slightest peep of a bird wakes us, and eventually even great joys like music no longer please us. (12:4) Not only are we afraid of heights like ladders, we may even fear falling while we walk. The “almond tree” blossoms, our hair turns white or gray and the desire for sexual intimacy wanes (12:5)

Whether we want it to or not, the body prepares for the day of death, when our body returns to the dust from whence it came and our spirit returns to God, from whence it came.

So, remember your Creator before this day comes. Remember him in the days of your youth. Instead of trying to be master of everything, be mastered by what is most important. Fear God and keep his commandments. God is bringing you and everything else to its proper conclusion. (12:12-14)


If I asked you to meet me tomorrow at noon in Uptown you’d have every right to ask, “Why?” Your time is valuable and you’d want a good reason for making the trip up to the city, spending an hour with me and travelling back home. And yet, most people in this world live their life, spend all their hours without asking, “Why? What am I doing this for? Toward what is everything driving?”

Is there meaning to life or not? And it can’t be “what I want it to be.” If there is no one or nothing outside of us directing and giving meaning to life, then life is meaningless, and made-up meanings are just self-deception.

We are left with two options: either life has meaning and we can come to know it because God communicates it to us, or nothing really matters. This is the conversation we need to keep in front of unbelievers.


If life is a gift from God who will bring all things into judgment in the end, then our duty in life is preparation. Of course this means physical preparation: saving money, living generously, and enjoying life while we have the strength to do so. But all of those physical preparations fall under the umbrella of spiritual preparation. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God,” said Augustine. The great reality we are to prepare for and consider is that we are created beings. There is a Maker. This world is imbued with design and purpose. And we are to fear God. This is the beginning of wisdom.


Parents, right behind loving the Lord and your spouse, comes the responsibility of teaching your child the fear of the Lord. You are raising an immortal worshipper who won’t simply outlive you by a few decades in this life but who will live on forever in the life to come. This is a weighty and glorious duty.

You who are closer to the finish line, God’s great call on you is to gift your wisdom to the young. Though you may not work in an office or raise young children anymore, you have a legacy to leave as you pray for, counsel, and encourage the coming generation of the faithful.

The church is called into all the world to preach the gospel: the good news that though human beings have rejected God and fallen under the curse of sin, God is the great redeemer who sent his Son to reconcile us. How’d he do it? By giving perfect obedience to his Father, and receiving the rejection we deserved.

How do we prepare? Come. Come to Jesus. And the gospel makes us fit to come, whoever we are.

Young? Come!
Old? Come!
Joyful? Come, and increase your joy.
Anxious? Come!
Despondent? Come!

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