Remember Your Creator

1Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,

before the days of trouble come

and the years approach when you will say,

"I find no pleasure in them"—

2Before the sun and the light

and the moon and the stars grow dark,

and the clouds return after the rain;

3When the keepers of the house tremble,

and the strong men stoop,

when the grinders cease because they are few,

and those looking through the windows grow dim;

4When the doors to the street are closed

and the sound of grinding fades;

when men rise up at the sound of birds,

but all their songs grow faint;

5When men are afraid of heights

and of dangers in the streets;

when the almond tree blossoms

and the grasshopper drags himself along

and desire no longer is stirred.

Then man goes to his eternal home

and mourners go about the streets.

6Remember Him—

before the silver cord is severed,

or the golden bowl is broken;

before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,

or the wheel broken at the well,

7And the dust returns to the ground it came from,

and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Solomon has finished his examination of worldly wisdom, and now aims to bring his book to a conclusion. Solomon found no satisfying answers through worldly wisdom to the problem of the meaninglessness of life. So, as he concludes his book, he emphasizes man’s relationship to his Creator. In this section, he gives us a poem that encourages us, through a poignant description of old age, to "remember" our Creator while we are still young.

In my opinion, this poem is one of the best in all literature, its standing as such being enhanced because it is included in God’s inspired Word. Like much great poetry, there are a multitude of interpretations, and levels of interpretations, to the word-pictures that Solomon uses. Yet, as we read this poem, even if we do not come to fully understand all the levels of meaning given in these word-pictures, we can intuitively feel that they describe the decline of the body as one grows older, and nears death.

The poem begins with words of advice from Solomon: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’" (vs. 1). To "remember" here means more than just bringing to mind. Action in response to mere remembrance is implied. "When he uses the word ‘remember’, he is not asking for mere mental cognizance, for the biblical term ‘to remember’ means much more than simple recall. Besides reflecting on and pondering the work of God in creating each individual and His world, there is the strong implication of action… To remember our Creator calls for decisive action based on recollection and reflection on all that God is and has done for us" [Kaiser, 118]. "For our part, to remember Him is no perfunctory or purely mental act: it is to drop our pretence of self-sufficiency and commit ourselves to Him" [Motyer, 100]. With remembrance of Him, comes remembrance of His Word and His commandments. Remembrance fosters obedience.

It is sad that we have to be reminded to remember our Creator, but such is the case. Thoughts of and gratitude to our Creator should come naturally, especially in the days of youth when joys and pleasures abound. To aid His people in remembrance of Him, God established certain sacraments. For the Israelites, the Passover was established to remind them of God’s miraculous intervention to free them from their taskmasters, the Egyptians. For Christians, Jesus established the sacrament of communion to remind His people of His sacrifice for us (see I Cor. 11:24–25).

Solomon exhorts us to remember our Creator in our youth, "before the days of trouble come." It is important, of course, to know and serve God early in life, but it is more difficult to do so. In our youth, we feel invincible, and so we consider death and our eternal destiny to be far away. Solomon tells us to consider our eternal destiny, to remember our Creator in our youth, so that we would develop a relationship with our Creator, in order that we may have the strength of the Lord, and the hope of eternal life, to endure the "days of trouble" that come with old age.

In verses 2 through 5, Solomon uses analogous word-pictures to describe old age. First, he compares old age to the coming of winter: "Before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain" (vs. 2). In the next few verses, Solomon seems to be comparing the aging of the body to the decaying of an old house and household: "When the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim" (vs. 3). Many commentators interpret the trembling "keepers of the house" and the stooping "strong men" as trembling arms and stooping legs, clear signs of aging. The dwindling "grinders" seem to indicate the losing of teeth, and then the loss of eyesight seems to be described by "those looking through the windows grow dim." And then things progress so that "the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades" (vs. 4). The "doors to the street" closing could be the lips closing over where teeth used to be, as the "sound of grinding fades" due to the total lack of teeth.

In old age, sleep is typically not sound: "When men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint" (vs. 4). Sleep is disturbed even by the "sound of birds", even though the ability to hear is degraded, as "all their songs grow faint." Old age also brings new fears: "When men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets" (vs. 5). The unsteadiness of step causes a fear "of heights"; the frailty of the body causes a fear of "dangers in the streets", as the aged become more vulnerable. "When the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred" (vs. 5). The blossoming "almond tree" is probably referring to the graying of hair. Then, getting around becomes so difficult that it is compared to a wounded grasshopper dragging itself along. Finally, "desire no longer is stirred", which most likely refers to the cessation of sexual desire. In the end, death comes: "Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets" (vs. 5).

Solomon again exhorts: "Remember Him—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well" (vs. 6). The poetic image used here seems to be that of a fountain of life, with the drawing of the water being the drawing of the lifeblood. If we do not remember God in our youth, as previously exhorted, Solomon pleads at least to remember Him before access to the fountain of life is impeded, when "the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it" (vs. 7). This last phrase points out that it is worth noting that the body and spirit go different places after death. While the body returns to the ground as dust, the spirit goes to God. Solomon is exhorting us to prepare for this meeting. For those who have "remembered" their Creator, who have heeded His Word and accepted the salvation provided by His Son, this meeting will be joyous. For those who have lived their own lives, and ignored their Creator, this meeting is to be feared, just as death is to be feared. Are you afraid of death? Are you afraid to meet God? "Remember your Creator."

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