March 29th, 1992 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-29-92 8:15 a.m.
And welcome the throngs of you who are sharing this hour on KCBI and our network over the Southwest. You are now part of our precious First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the senior pastor bringing the message from Ecclesiastes. It is hard for me to realize this is the twelfth sermon, the twelfth sermon that I have prepared from this unusual book. I have two more. The next sermon will be entitled Our Home In Heaven, and the last sermon, the fourteenth, is entitled The Conclusion of the Whole Matter.
The sermon today is from the first verse in the twelfth, the last chapter, and is entitled Remembering God. You so well remember it all the days of your own life, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw nigh, when you say, I have no pleasure in them” [Ecclesiastes 12:1].
That word “now” is an entreaty. “Remember now,” it is a plea from the heart of this wisest of all men. He calls himself qōhelet. That’s the way he begins, “The words of qōhelet.” The Greek Septuagint, which was followed by Jerome in the Latin Vulgate translated qōhelet, ecclesiastes, which means “preacher.” So, in our text of this Believer’s Bible, it translates qōhelet as Preacher, “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” [Ecclesiastes 1:1]. And as a qōhelet, as an ecclesiastes, as a preacher, as an exhorter, he makes this entreaty, “Remember now your Creator” [Ecclesiastes 12:1].
The unusual thing about the author, Solomon: he had the ability to experience every providence in life and to carry it to its ultimate extremity. He tasted every cup and labeled it. He crossed every sea and charted every possible course. And when he came to the end of the experience, his word of description is amazing, hebel—emptiness, nothingness—translated in our Bible “vanity” [Ecclesiastes 12:8]. And he names these processes by which he went to the extremity of every experience in life: there is worldly wisdom and it also was vain and futile [Ecclesiastes 1:12-18]. Then he tried all kinds of pleasure and all kinds of laugher and mirth. Then he tried all kinds of pleasure and wine [Ecclesiastes 2:1-3]. Then he tried great works [Ecclesiastes 2:4]. Then he sought vast possessions [Ecclesiastes 2:5-9]. Then he threw his whole strength and life into success, and finally came to the ultimate extremity of all and pronounced it emptiness, hebel, futility, nothingness! [Ecclesiastes 2:11].
It is like the experiences of our own pilgrimage: when we were babies, enticed by a rattler or by children’s toys, then outgrow it. Experience of a boy and a girl, and the amusements of childhood; then we outgrow them, they are a wearisomeness and a nothingness. Then the excitement of youth and all the things that pertain to teenage life, then it’s a nuisance and a drag. Then finally manhood and womanhood and the achievements and the adventures and the ambitions of men and women; and finally they also are a nuisance and a wearisomeness and a futility.
I sometimes think of the progress of humanity. Get in an airplane and fly a thousand miles an hour through the sky just to arrive a little earlier. Isn’t that strange? When that fellow comes out of the sky in an airplane or this one follows a flea-bitten mule in the field, in a hospital they look strangely alike. Isn’t that amazing? How empty and futility progress is. Or take the achievement of walking on the moon and coming back to earth, the same mortal creature. Or these miracles that we enjoy everyday; a radio, a radio, and a television; finally, filled with ennui as we look at it, watch it, bored with it.
It is a remarkable thing and a wonderful thing in the life of qōhelet, this Solomonic wonder of genius; when he came to the end of the way, he was not bitter, nor was he caustic, nor ultimately disillusioned, but he found himself bowing in the presence of the great God, our Creator. And so his last chapter begins, “Remember now,” please—an entreaty, “remember your Creator; your God” [Ecclesiastes 12:1].
So we’re going to follow for a moment this morning the things that he learned. Number one, Solomon learned in that pilgrimage, he learned that we can never find meaning of life in our own understanding, but it must come from afar. The light must be shed upon us by the revelation of God [Psalm 119:105]; otherwise, I live in gross and impenetrable darkness. The little sparks of our own speculations and rationalization and sophistication are not able to enlighten the world in which we live. If we depend upon ourselves and our understanding, then the whole world is covered with everlasting and impenetrable blackness and darkness. Light must come upon it from afar, from the Son of God [John 12:46].
The tragedy of this is: there are so many who refuse that light. They turn aside from the revelation of God, God’s Holy Bible. They turn aside from the revelation of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and they close their hearts to the appeal of the blessed Savior, and time and eternity are blotted out in existence and meaning in their hearts and lives. What a tragedy when we can only understand time in terms of eternity. We can only understand the meaning of life in the revelation of God, and it is only in the hope and promise we have in Him that life has any meaning at all. O Lord, that we might open our hearts and our minds to the great beautiful revelations of God in Christ Jesus.
Number two: he learned that it is the omnipotent hands of God who determines and shapes our lives and our destinies; all of us are bound in those perimeters of God’s will and choice for us. That is so abundantly seen and felt and plainly observed in all of our lives. In a small narrow area we may be free, but in the great mass of our humanity we are bound by the omnipotent hands of Almighty God.
Did you ever hear somebody say, “I wish I could have lived back…” and then name it? If you’re a Christian, “I wish I could have lived back in the days when Jesus was crucified and I could have stood by Him in His trial and in His cross.” Then did you ever think how utterly impossible that is? You were born at a certain time [Ecclesiastes 3:2]. You belong to this generation, and you are a part of this age. Did you have anything to do with it? It is by the omnipotent choice and destiny of God that you are where you are, the age you are, the generation in which you live and belong [Ecclesiastes 3:2].
Think of the way God Himself, alone, is responsible for our very being and existence; my bone structure, the color of my eyes, my sex, a male. All of the things that pertain to me, God did it. I had nothing to do with it at all; and I sometimes marvel how God chooses the different destines and talents that we possess.
I have stood in the Louvre in Paris, France, and I have watched those artist there as they paint on their easels. And I have said to an artist, “Oh, how gifted you are. I couldn’t begin to do that.” And he will make a gesture of his hand and say, “I am nothing. Look at that painting of Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.”
Where does that come from, the talents that God gives us or doesn’t give us? I couldn’t begin to assay, to propose, to even think in terms of being a painter. I have done the same thing in the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy, the greatest collection of art in the world in that P-i-t-t-i, that Pitti Palace. And I have stood by some of those artists as they were painting with their brushes on an easel. And I’ve said to them, “I wish I could do that. You are so gifted.” And he will make a gesture with his hand and say: “Look at that Raphael, Madonna and Child. I am nothing compared to the genius of Raphael.” Where does that come from? I couldn’t begin to start, to commence, even try to paint anything that looked real, much less that had deep spiritual meaning. It is God! It is the omnipotent hands and choices of God that make us [Philippians 2:13]; that’s what he learned.
A third thing he learned: that it is in the youth time of life that is the glory time of life to give yourself to God [Ecclesiastes 12:1]. O Lord, and he avows that life is nothing but the outworking of the choices we make when we’re young. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? All the things that follow after in life are nothing but the outworking of the decisions that you make when you are young.
Do you remember? Sure you do. When David met Goliath and how confident he was and how assured he was, though he was just an older teenager at that time? [1 Samuel 17:45-47]. And he gloriously overcame that giant Goliath: the champion of the gods and the armies of Philistia [1 Samuel 17:48-51]. But do you remember also King Saul talking to that youth and he says to him, “How is it that you think that you can confront such a giant as Goliath, you, a shepherd boy, you?” [1 Samuel 17:33]. And do you remember how David replied, “Thy servant, a shepherd, was in the field with the flock, and there came a lion and stole a lamb and I slew him! And there came a bear and seized the lamb and I slew him! And this giant will be no more to me than that lion and that bear” [1 Samuel 17:34-37]. Out of the experiences of childhood he was strong before the Lord. That’s true in all of human life. The years after that follow are but the outworking of the experiences and the decisions we make when we’re young.
I so well and poignantly remember the tent in the little town in which I grew up, and the preacher who held the revival meeting. And that Sunday morning there were two of us who walked down the aisle, giving our lives to God to be preachers. In front of me, there walked the brother of the evangelist. He was an old farmer and he said God had called him to preach and he was answering God’s call that day. And then of course, just a mere boy, I followed him saying, “God had called me to preach,” and I was giving Him my life.
So well and poignantly do I remember attending the service in which that old farmer preached one time, one time—one time. When is the time to answer God’s call? When is the time to give your heart and life to the great purposes of God? When you are young! “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” [Ecclesiastes 12:1]. All that follows after will be but an outworking of that decision that you made then.
You know, it’s a strange thing how life is. The years pause the soul. They paralyze the will. They harden the heart. Did you know if you will cover my eye and leave it covered for a while, and I don’t use it, I can’t see, I’m blind? Did you know if you close my ears and I don’t use them for a while, I can’t hear? Did you know if you bind my hand and I don’t lift it, when you unloose it, I can’t raise it, I can’t use it? Isn’t that a strange thing how life is put together? And if I don’t use my heart and my soul and my will and my mind for God, if I don’t, I become a paralytic, I can’t. That’s so strange.
Did you know that beyond fifteen years of age, only one out of twenty-five thousand ever turn to the Lord? And did you know that beyond twenty-five years of age, only one out of one quarter of a million ever turn to God? O Lord! “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth” [Ecclesiastes 12:1]; in the decision time of life.
And what a beautiful privilege it is thus to find an immortality in God’s blessings [Matthew 6:20]—not at all a vassal to Satan, or a slave to the flesh, or diseased in body, or filled with the fear of hell and of death—but to walk in the light of the glory of God all the days of your life [2 Corinthians 4:6]. It’s a precious and beautiful entreaty that the Solomon king makes, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” [Ecclesiastes 12:1].
I must conclude, one other: he learned that the great meaning and purpose of life is to discover God’s will for us and to give ourselves to it, to be happy in it, and to receive it as from His beautiful and gracious hands [James 1:17]. Do you remember this? A little boy is talking and he says,
Most every day a little boy
Comes driving by our house
With the nicest little pony—
Just the color of a mouse;
And a groom rides close behind him,
So he we won’t get hurt, you see,
And I used to wish the pony
And the cart belonged to me.
I used to watch him from our porch
And wish that I could own
His pony and his little cart,
And drive it out alone.
And once when I knelt down
To pray, I asked the Lord that He
Would fix it so the pony
And the cart belonged to me.
But yesterday, I saw him
Where he lives, and now I know
Why he never goes out walking—
Cause his legs are withered so!
And last night when I was kneeling
With my hand on mother’s knee,
I thanked God he had the pony
And the cart instead of me.
[“Contentment,” author unknown]
Accepting God’s assignment for us, and being happy in it [Colossians 3:23].
Do you remember the story, the streetcar comes and a little boy so crippled cries aloud, “Mr. Conductor, Mr. Conductor, wait up, wait up for me?” And the conductor stops the streetcar and a crippled little boy clamors up, climbs up, and sits down by a man on a seat in the streetcar. And the man turns to the little lad and says to him, “You seem so bright and so happy but you’re so crippled. How can you be so happy?” And the little lad replies, he says, “Mister, my daddy tells me that always God gives us what is best, and don’t you think I ought to be happy in what is best?”
Isn’t that a wonderful way to be? We accept as from God’s hands our assignment in life, and we praise God for His blessing in it. That means that if I am a preacher, I ought to offer God, in service and love, my utmost and my best if this is God’s will for me. Like John, “He must increase, I must decrease” [John 3:30], “and as the bridegroom’s friend listening to his voice, my joy is full” [John 3:29].
Isn’t that a wonderful way to be? If you are a preacher, then your utmost loving and praising and exalting the Lord Jesus. If you are a missionary, as the apostle Paul avowed in Ephesians 3, “I am the least of all the saints, but by the grace of God He chose me to preach the gospel to the Gentiles” [Ephesians 3:8], and poured into that message his utmost.
Are you a technician? Jethro said to his son-in-law Moses, “This is the way to organize your great multitude,” doing utmost for God. Are you a doctor? How wonderful to be a wonderful physician like Luke. Are you a layman like Jude? Are you a business woman like Lydia? Are you a housewife like Elizabeth? Or are you a mother like Mary? Oh, the sweet privilege of accepting as from God His assignments for us from heaven, and offering to Him our highest best [Romans 12:1-2]. It’s a beautiful way to live and it’s a precious way to work.
Remember Thy Creator
Where to find the meaning of life
Our youth is when we need to learn about God
Learn early in life
Duty of man-keep the divine will of God who can place us in His kingdom