Remember Thy Creator
January 19th, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
REMEMBER THY CREATOR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-19-58 7:30 p.m.
How many of us have a Bible? Hold up your hands. All right, let us turn to the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Book of Ecclesiastes. Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes; the last chapter of Ecclesiastes; Ecclesiastes number 12, the twelfth chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Now let us read the whole chapter. Do we have it? Right about the middle of your Bible; Ecclesiastes, the twelfth chapter. Ready? All of us together:
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;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.
And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.
The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
And most evidently, as you read it, you see it is a conclusion, it is an exhortation. It is made by one who calls himself qohelet. He introduces himself in the first chapter of the book by that name: "The words of qohelet the son of David, king in Jerusalem" [Ecclesiastes 1:1]. And after the presentation of the first eleven chapters of the words of wisdom he hath set in order, he concludes with this exhortation in the twelfth chapter that we have just read. Just what does that Hebrew word qohelet mean? Actually, it refers to an addresser of an assembly, a speaker to an assembly. And when the Septuagint translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they translated it ekklesiastes, "Ecclesiastes." And Jerome, who translated the Greek and the Hebrew into Vulgate Latin, translated it "Ecclesiastes." And that’s how you have it translated in our English Bible: "the Preacher." That’s about as good translation I suppose as any could make; "the Preacher," "the words of the Preacher," "the qohelet, "the exhorter," "the son of David, king in Jerusalem."
That’s Solomon; he’s the only son of David who ever reigned in Jerusalem, and he’s the only king who could ever have wrought such a thing as this author says that he did in order to make a report back to us. For this qohelet did something that no other man has ever done: he carried human experience in many separate lines to its extremity, to its uttermost; and then came and reported on what he had discovered. He tasted every cup and labeled it. He sailed over every sea and charted its every course. He carried these lines of human experience as far as human experience could take them, and inevitably came back with the same report. He took money and carried the experience of what money was able to provide to its uttermost, and then said, "Vanity of vanities, all of it is vanity" [Ecclesiastes 2:4-11]. He took pleasure and carried pleasure to its utmost, and then when he had carried it as far as that uttermost, he said, "Vanity of vanities, all of it is vanity" [Ecclesiastes 2:1-3]. Then he took indulgence and appetite and pleasure and carried them to their excess, and when he had done that to its uttermost, he came back and said, "Indulgence is vanity, vanity of vanities" [Ecclesiastes 1:17, 2:3]. Then he took power and wealth and worldly glory and carried them to their uttermost, and then came back to report, "Vanity of vanities, all of it is vanities" [Ecclesiastes 2:12-23]. He tried one world after another; and he discovered that in every world there was satiation and weariness, there was tiredness and enough-ness.
He took one world, I say, after another, and found all of those worlds were alike. There is a world to the infant with his toys and with his little games. Then the toys and the little infantile child games become a weariness, and he lays them aside. Then the infant becomes a boy with his knife and his games. Then the day comes when it’s a satiation; and he lays the days of his boyhood aside. Then he comes to youth and he has his enterprises and his romances and all of his young dreams. Then the day comes when he lays the world of youth aside; he’s outgrown it. And finally, he becomes a man; a man filled with all the dreams of philosophical conquest and answer, of scientific achievement, of the amassing of wealth, of the search for fame and success, and finally finds that even the world of his manhood brings to it really no new life and actually no new achievement. Did you ever consider that?
Take, for example, this world of the airplane. What a marvelous contrivance is an airplane. That thing up there in the sky, twenty-thousand, twenty-five thousand feet, going five hundred miles an hour; eating up there in perfect comfort, walking up and down, visiting with your friends, way up there in the sky. And then, land where? Land in New York, still New York; land in Washington, still in Washington; land in Los Angeles, still Los Angeles; land in Hong Kong, just Hong Kong; with all of the achievement of this air age, you still are just the same, landing in the same places. And finally it becomes so usual and so accustomed that if it loses thirty minutes in a thousand miles you’re unhappy and disgruntled. I’m unhappy and disgruntled most of the time. I leave out at nine o’clock in the morning with a non-stop flight to Nashville, Tennessee. Now I’m already set to get mad and unhappy and disgruntled because it’s not going to get there on time; and I’m just all prepared for it. Now isn’t that something? Whereas we used to go to Nashville, Tennessee, our forefathers, maybe in a covered wagon, take them three months to get there, I’m planning to get there in two hours; but my life doesn’t change because of these miraculous things that have come to pass. Here’s an old boy going through the sky in a jet plane and breaks the sound barrier, and he lands in a hospital. And here’s a fellow, driving along behind a couple of old flop-eared mules, and he lands in the hospital. And oh my word, by every doctor that ever lived, both of them look exactly alike, no difference at all, no difference at all, none at all.
We are now entering a new age, they say, a space age. All these Sputniks roving around up there in the sky; dead dogs in them now, pretty soon there’ll be dead people up there in them. You listen to me. When they finally achieve a Sputnik that’ll go to the moon and go to Mars, and finally to Jupiter, it’ll be the same Sputniks that have been roaming around down here in this atmosphere; won’t change a bit. I saw in today’s paper a cartoon. And in that cartoon was a picture of the moon; and on that moon was a stake, and on that stake were the arms and the sign of blasphemous, godless Soviet Russia; my soul, my soul! If I went to the moon, or if I went to Mars, or if I went to Jupiter, I’d still have that same blasphemous, godless bunch to put up with; don’t change, don’t change. All of experience is that way.
Why, you can’t remember it, but I can; the fellow across the street was a genius at little old do-winkings with his hands, and he was putting together over there what they called a radio. I never heard of any such thing. I went over there to see what that neighbor was putting together, and lo and behold with a great big horn that went out there, and a whole lot of doomajiggers down here, and a whole bunch of gadgets and wires and stuff there; I put on those little earphones and I could hear an amazing thing! Now all I can hear, I don’t even think about it anymore, except "would somebody cut off that bop and boop and cat stuff," Lord help us! Don’t even think about the miracle of it; doesn’t enter my mind anymore! I’m accustomed to it. So with all of life, every piece of it; it has its satiation, it has what the French call ennui, it has a weariness and a tiredness about it. If it’s to drink, if it’s to be famous, if it’s for conquest, if it’s for money, if it’s for anything in this world, it finally has its weariness, its tiredness, and its satiation. That’s what he was saying.
But, he didn’t conclude in that kind of a disappointed and pessimistic note; for in his search, he came upon an infinite and a glorious wisdom. In it he found the true meaning of life, and the true measure of the worth of a man, and he found it in God. And he came back and reported these things that we have just read in the conclusion of his book called Ecclesiastes. The first thing he learned was this: that the real meaning of life and of this world can never be found in itself; but it must be found from above, by light shed upon it from afar. Just like this world: in itself it is dark and meaningless; the light that gladdens this world comes from some other place. So it is with a man’s life; as long as our light is the poor sparks of our own rationalization, life has no meaning and it is dark. But when the light of the revelation of God is shed upon it, the whole world is ablaze with glory. That’s where we make our mistake so easily and so often. We think, "I will shut out God! I will shut out the Book! I will shut out the revelation and make death the final stop!" And when you do, this globe becomes nothing other than a charnel house, a graveyard, a burying ground; and it has no meaning and no destiny. It is a place to die in and that’s all! But oh, when the life and the light of God is shed abroad in our minds and in our hearts, there’s a new hope, there’s a new faith, there’s a new song, there’s a new meaning; it doesn’t come from here, but it comes from above.
Second thing that he learned: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" [Ecclesiastes 12:1]. The second thing he learned: that it’s in the dawn time of life, in the youth time of life that we have our glory time to find and to discover and to know this glorious revelation of God, the will of God; to love it, to do it, to follow it in the youth time of life. Wonder why. I think it is obvious if you think of it. "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth," because youth time is decision time; and all of the remainder of life is nothing else but the working out of the decisions that we make in the days of our youth. Oh, I wish I could turn that around. I wish it could be that a man makes the decisions of his life when he’s experienced, when he has an old head on his shoulders, when he knows. But God, in an infinite wisdom that I cannot understand, didn’t make it that way. The great and final and life determining decisions are all of them made when we are young and inexperienced. And that’s why qohelet pleads, "Remember God, God’s will, God’s light, God’s revelation; remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth" [Ecclesiastes 12:1]. Decision time; what you do with your life has to be made in the days of your youth, as a boy, as a girl, almost before you are a man or a woman.
When the preacher was up there preaching, he made an invitation, "Is there somebody here today who feels called in his soul to give his life to full-time Christian service?" I stepped out of the pew and into the aisle to go down to the front; but by the time I got down to the front, there was an old man standing in front of me, and he got to the preacher first. And they fell in each other’s arms; for the man who went in front of me, the old man, was the brother of the evangelist who was holding the revival meeting. And I stood there waiting to give the preacher my hand, and I heard them talk to each other. And the old man said to the evangelist, his own blood brother, he said to him, "Brother, I was called of God to preach when I was a child, but I said, ‘No,’ and refused." He said, "Brother, for all these years I have said ‘no’ to God. But," he said, "now I have surrendered, and I give my life to Jesus to be a preacher in full-time Christian service." And they wept and cried and hugged each other, and everybody rejoiced. And then I gave him my hand and said God had called me to be a preacher, and I was going to respond with my life. Well, I was just a kid, a little boy; nobody paid any attention to me, they were looking at that remarkable thing of that old man, at last after sixty years, surrendering to the will of God.
So, on the next Sunday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock they made the announcement, "He’s going to preach his first sermon." And we all crunched in and we filled the place. And I sat on the front row to listen to him preach his first sermon. Brother, you should have heard it; a donkey could have done just as good, just as well, just as good. I never saw a fellow whose knees creaked in my life like that old man’s did. I never saw a fellow who talked like that fellow did. I never saw a fellow whose thoughts were as scattered as his were. It was a travesty; and that was the last sermon that he ever preached, the last one. He never preached again; you never heard of him. The time to make a decision for God is in the springtime, in the dawn time, in the youth time of life. When you come to the end of the way and say, "Now, Lord"; God, in His heaven mocks, He laughs; it’s a travesty. You think, "I can get by with that"; try it and see. It damns the life, it blasts the hope, it ruins the soul. There’s no time that you will ever have opportunity to make a decision for God like that but in the youth time of life. And when the sands of time have run away, all you can do is wring your hands and lament, "O God, and O God, and O God; I wish I had done it sixty years before." "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" [Ecclesiastes 12:1].
Reason why he says "the days of thy youth," those are decision times. You will make your decision about your home as a youth, almost as a boy and a girl. And why do you mention that? I’ll tell you why: because I sit there in that office of mine day after day and year after year and have for the years of my ministry, and most of the heartaches that come in this life seems to me are marital heartaches. Why didn’t you pray about that? Why didn’t you seek God’s will about that? Why didn’t you wait on the Lord about that? Made a decision on your own and married wrong, married the wrong boy, married the wrong girl, had the wrong companion. Sometimes it’s like a millstone around your neck all the days of your life. And sometimes it’s worse than that. If you were to ask me, "Preacher, what is hell like?" I’d say, "You come with me, I can show it to you about on every corner. Wherever you find a home where the people in that home are not married right, brother, that’s hell in the morning and hell in the evening and hell in the middle of the night." You just ought to listen; you just ought to know, O God, what it is to marry in the Lord, to pray about that life’s companion, to seek the wisdom of heaven. That’s why the preacher says, "Remember God in the days of your youth." Why does he say, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth"? Because those are the days of decision; and they shall mold, those decisions you make when you are a child, shall mold the whole character and the outflowing and afterflowing of your life.
I don’t know, but there’s something about the mind and the heart and the soul that is just like his human body. It becomes insensitive and callous, and the will can become as paralyzed as a nerve in your body or a muscle in your frame. For example, you close this eye, just close it, shut it up, close that eye. Leave it closed for a certain period of time, take the bandage away, and I’m blind in it, I can’t see out of it; the nerves have atrophied, it is paralyzed! Take this ear; plug up that ear, leave it plugged up, leave it shut up for a period of time. Then take out the plug, and I can’t hear; I’m deaf in that ear! It has atrophied, it is paralyzed. Take this right hand, bind it there by my side – then I couldn’t talk – take that right hand, bind it there by my side, and leave it bound there for a certain period of time; can’t move it. Tie it down there by my side, then unbind it, and I couldn’t raise my hand if my life depended on it. The nerve has atrophied, the muscle has wasted away; I am paralyzed in my hand! That’s the way it is with a man’s soul and with a man’s life: somehow his will, his spiritual intuitions, become paralyzed and insensitive and calloused. And the decision for or against God will almost always be made in your life; I want you to look at this geometrical progression. Listen to it. There is only one youth in five thousand that makes it a decision for God after eighteen years of age. Now listen to the geometrical progression. There is only one young man or young woman in one quarter of a million that makes a decision for God after twenty-five years of age. O Lord, it’s now or never. And that’s why he made the appeal: "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth," the decision time of life [Ecclesiastes 12:1].
I’m going to cut out, leave out practically all of the rest of the sermon. I just want to point out one other thing, and that is this: Qohelet learned, the Preacher learned that the great end of life, its holy purpose, the conclusion of the whole matter is this, and he said it in these words: "Fear God, reverence God, walk in His way and will, in His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" [Ecclesiastes 12:13]. What he meant by that was this: the whole meaning and conclusion and end and consummation of life is this, that we accept God’s will for us, find our place in His kingdom, and achieve that purpose humbly and the best that we can. Could I illustrate it? Not all of us are made alike; we’re fashioned according to the hands of what he calls the Creator. You say, "Ah, ah nothing." How come you to be a boy and not a girl? How come you to be a girl and not a boy? God did that. How come you to be born in this age, why weren’t you born a hundred years ago? Why is it that you’re born in this age and not born in 2050? God’s choice. How is it that you are of a certain stature and height? Who chose the color of your eyes, the color of your hair and the frame of your body? Oh, in so many ways do we see the sovereign choice of God. So it is with our life: some of us have half of a talent, some of us have a whole talent, some of us have five, and some of us maybe ten; and some of us have this opportunity, and some of us have this heritage; and some of them have this background, and some of them have that other; oh, from how many ways and courses and places in life hath the Lord chosen us and set us. Now this is the exhortation of qohelet: wherever it is, there are we to accept from God our Creator these heritages; and in them, with them, humbly do the best and utmost we can walking in the way and the will of the Lord.
Are you going to be a housewife? Do it for God. Are you going to be a mother? Do it for God. Are you going to be a physician? Do it for God. Are you going to be a businessman? Do it for God. Are you going to be a preacher? Preach for God. Are you going to work as a day laborer? Shovel for God. Whatever it is, the conclusion of the whole matter, in the will and in the word of the Lord; for this is the whole duty of man [Ecclesiastes 12:13]. We reach our stature and our greatest, noblest height when what we do we’re doing for our Lord.
God bless each one of us in his place as the Lord hath chosen and called us in His elective purpose. There you are, here we are, all of us for the glory of the Lord.
Now while we sing our song, somebody give his heart in faith to Christ, somebody put his life in the church, a family to come, one somebody you to come, would you make it tonight? Is there a youth tonight to decide for Christ, answer with his life the call of the Lord? As God shall open the door and say the word and lead the way, would you come and stand by me? "Here I am, preacher, and here I come." Into that aisle, down to the front; down these stairwells, "Here I am, here I come, pastor. I give you my hand, I give my heart to God." As the Lord shall lead and open the door, would you make it now? While we stand and while we sing.
REMEMBER THY CREATOR
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Where to find the meaning of life
II. Our youth is when we need to learn about God
III. Learn early in life
IV. Duty of man-keep the divine will of God who can place us in His kingdom