Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw near, when you shall say…
How shall we understand this? Is it an allegory describing the weakening of the body? Is it a description of the Jews in captivity? Is it a dirge from some old book of hymns? The best explanation seems this: first, the Preacher describes old age as a stormy day; secondly, the figure changes to that of a palace going to ruin; then there is a reference to "the seven evil days" of spring in the Orient, which are thought particularly dangerous to the aged; and lastly the new figures of the lamp, the fountain, and the cistern come in. It is surely no strange thing to illustrate an idea with a variety of pictures. We may make a regular progression of the lessons taught in this passage.
1. There is a hereafter. Man is not made only for this life. What would we think of the pyramid builders if they scattered pyramids over a plain, but intentionally left every one of them unfinished, with the lines sloping together so as to prophesy of an apex which was never built? Such designed incompleteness is inconceivable, the human mind being what it is. No more can we conceive of God's having scattered over the world all the beautiful and noble lives in history, yet so that none of them should be complete. There must be a finishing some time. We are made so as to expect it. We have an organ whose function it is to anticipate it. And that organ of the heart would be as inexplicable without a hereafter as an eye without light. Where we find eyes we can presume the existence of light at some time.
2. Man is a responsible being. He can do pretty much as he pleases, but he cannot by any possibility exempt himself from the consequences of what he does. Sometime the score must be settled.
3. Death ends man's work on earth. It is interesting to note that the terrors of death are not dwelt upon in the passage. The sombreness, the pain of it, are passed by. Writers often gloat over death; they force the melancholy of it home upon our hearts, they seem to say (as Dickens is accused of saying in effect in describing the death of little Nell), "Now let us have a cry together." There is not the slightest touch of this in the ending of Ecclesiastes. If we have any plans for good, if we want to make this life a preparation for the glories of the future, how busy ought the thought and the sight of death to make us.
4. Reverent obedience to God is the only method of having a life that shall be worth living. God changes not, and we need not hope to change Him. He is a God of love always, but His love brings blessing only to those who seek to do His will. To those who disregard Him that same love becomes a condemnation. But how shall we keep God's laws? Above all commands, He has given to us our final command, by keeping which we are led to keep all the rest; "this is My beloved Son; hear ye Him." Therefore, trying to serve God while, rejecting Christ must lead to failure in God's eyes.
5. Youth is the best time to begin serving God.
(1) It is easier to begin then. Habits are unformed, and will as easily take one shape as another. Once they are made, rearrangement comes only, as it were, by fracture.
(2) It is important to have the trend of life settled in favour of the good. You cannot do this except at the needless expense of great moral upheaval, at any time but in the early years.
(3) The more years of life consecrated to Christ, the more the quantity of good which can be done for Him. Every year away from His service is an empty year from the point of view of eternity(4) The earlier one begins in the Christian life, the longer time he has for Christian growth.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;