We are now in chapter 12. This is the end of this book. The whole book is a sermon that is pressing home the life of faith and contrasting it with the empty life of unbelief. What's the conclusion, then? In this concluding part of his message, the Preacher wants to drive home three grand things.

Life is Short. Live for God.

In verses 1-8, the Preacher says to us, "In light of the brevity of life, we ought to serve God with joy and energy from the very first of our days." Look at his words, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, 'I have no delight in Him.'" In these eight verses, the Preacher is putting before you two realities that we all face in one way or another: the realities of old age and the deterioration of our bodies.

What the Preacher is saying to us in verse one of chapter 12 is, "Start that life now! Don't wait until the peak of your capacities, energies, and abilities have left you. Start living that life of joy with God now." And he pictures for us old age in verses 2-7. Let's look at each of those pictures. "...before the sun, and the light, and the moon, and the stars are darkened, and the clouds return after the rain..." That's a picture of the loss of sight in old age. Things are getting darker and things are getting fuzzy. Even after the rain has stopped it still looks cloudy. The sight is dimming and becoming fuzzy.

Look at verse three. "...in the day that the watchmen of the house tremble, and mighty men stoop, the grinding ones stand idle because they are few..." In other words, you're losing your teeth. Verse four, "...and those who look through the windows grow dim... and the doors on the street are shut as the sound of the grinding mill is low..." Look at the last part of the verse. "...and all the daughters of song will sing softly." Now the hearing goes. It doesn't matter how loud those kids are playing that music down the street, it's softer than it used to be. And yet ironically at 3:30 a.m. when that bird starts chirping you're up and that's it, you're up for the day. So you can't hear all day but you sure can at night. And you can't sleep at night, waking up early in the morning.

And then in verse five, "furthermore, men are afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road..." There's increased anxiety, maybe even old-age paranoia. The hair turns gray and white, as is said eloquently this way, "...the almond tree blossoms..." The movements are slow and awkward, kind of like a grasshopper. Verses six and seven picture for us the deteriorating body and finally death. And the Preacher is saying, "Live for God before you get there." Live for God now at the peak of your powers. Live for God from the very earliest days. He's saying that a full life has to be lived in light of those realities coming. We're going to get old. We're going to die. Live for God now. The Preacher's saying is a timely word for us. The world says, "Go ahead, act like pagans while you're in high school and college. Go ahead, do all those things that you know are dishonoring to God. Get it out of your system. Live it up. Have some fun. Then you can come back from college and be a respectable, upstanding citizen and marry a nice girl and have a family and settle down. But, sow your wild oats now." And here's the Preacher saying, "No. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Worship Him now in the way you live. Worship Him by honoring Him with your care of your body. Worship Him by honoring Him in living as an upstanding young woman or young man. Worship Him in all of life. Live life in light of the ugly realities to come, trouble and death. Serve God and delight in Him now and thus experience the fullness of what this life can be."

The Right Use of Knowledge

In verses 9-12, the Preacher is saying that the believer must understand the right use of knowledge if he is to wield that knowledge effectively. He's been talking about wisdom, he's contrasted wisdom and folly at numerous points in this book, but here he's pointing out to us the purpose of truth: Truth changes lives.

And then, this strange warning in verse 12, "Be careful how you read, my son. Be warned, the writing of books is endless. Excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body." We're at the beginning of the semester and students already know this. But this isn't just a practical, common sense observation about how writing and reading books is hard. It's something much deeper than that. He's warning his young son, his student, his disciple, about one of the dangers of study. He's saying, "Son, be careful how you pursue the reading of books. Make sure you know why you're wanting to learn what you're learning."

In verse 11, he says, "Ultimately these words were not my words. They came from one shepherd." The Preacher's father had taught him that the Lord is his shepherd. And he said, my words are not my words, they're the shepherd's words. Here's the doctrine of inspiration, the inspiration of scripture that every word of this book proceeds from the mouth of God. They are ultimately God's words. God's words aren't meant to interest or amuse us but to change our lives. True knowledge of God is fellowship knowledge.

Secret to the Blessed Life

In verses 13-14, he says that the life of joy all boils down to the realization of the greatness of God and the Word of God. "Fear God and keep His commandments." Be in awe of God's justice and power. He will judge one day. What did Paul say in Acts 17:31? How is it that we all know that God will judge? Because He's raised His Son from the dead; He will judge.

But what does it mean to fear God? It is to be in reverential and grateful awe of God and to keep God's commandments. It is the controlling sense of the majesty and holiness of God and the profound reverence that drives and brings joy in life in this fallen world. It is a joy-filled reverence and awe of the one true God which brings forth a response of faith, love and obedience.

This is the solution, the only solution to an empty life: A truly joyful life can only be found in relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the King. And if you will trust Him and love Him you will not know emptiness, but rather fullness twice: in this life and the life to come.