Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth; and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart…
That these words are not to be taken ironically is probable, if not certain, when we consider how frequently the Preacher had given substantially the same counsel before (see Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 22; Ecclesiastes 5:18; Ecclesiastes 8:15; Ecclesiastes 9:9). Moreover, we obtain an excellent meaning by taking them in their natural sense. We may indeed ask for -
I. THE NECESSITY FOR SUCH COUNSEL. It may be said - What need is there for offering such an exhortation? Young manhood is certain to take all the indulgence which is good for it, without any man's bidding; the danger is not on the side of defect, but of excess. That certainly is so generally. But there is the religious devotee, who thinks he is pleasing God by abstaining from all bodily comforts, and enduring all physical sufferings. There is also the ascetic moralist, who thinks that he is conforming to the highest standard of ethics when he practices a rigorous abstinence, and goes through life denying himself the delights to which outward nature and inward instincts invite him. There is also the man of prudent policy, who thinks that in a state of society such as that in which the Preacher lived and wrote, where there is no security for life or property, it is better not to enter into new relationships or to embark in great enterprises; let life be cut down to its smallest limits. Hence the necessity for such a cheery invitation as that in the text. But we must mark -
II. THE EXTENT TO WHICH IT GOES. Clearly the words must not be taken in their widest possible sense. That would be not liberty, but license; that would not encourage enjoyment, but sanction vice. The Preacher would have the young man, who is full of strength, energy, hope, affection, have the full heritage which the Father of spirits and Author of this world intended and provided for him. Let him give play to all the sound impulses of his nature; let him taste the exquisite enjoyment of a pure affection and of happy friendship; let him be an eager and earnest competitor in the contest of strength, of skill, of the studio, of the mart, of the council, of the senate; let him throw his full energies into the activities, recreations, ambitions, aspirations, of his time; let him play his part as his heart inclines and as his capacities enable him. But let him not cross the line which divides virtue from vice, wisdom from folly, conscientiousness from unscrupulousness. For there has to be taken into account -
III. ONE POWERFULLY RESTRAINING THOUGHT. God will bring him into judgment. And God's judgment is threefold.
1. He judges us every moment, deciding whether our thought, our feeling, our action, is right or wrong; and he is thus continually approving or disapproving, and is constantly pleased or displeased. Surely this is not a Divine judgment to be disregarded.
2. He causes an evil habit to be visited, sooner or later, with the penalty which appropriately follows it - sickness, feebleness, poverty, mental incapacity, human condemnation, ruin, death, as the case may be.
3. He reserves the day of trial and of account for the hour when life is over. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth, and walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.