Friday, May 05, 2017

The Vision (5.5.17): The Vanity of Youth

Image: Rose, North Garden, Virginia, May 2017

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 11:7-10.

Ecclesiastes 11: 9 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 judgement. 10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Solomon begins, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth….” (v. 9a). How are we rightly to divide or understand this? Some have suggested that Solomon was being sarcastic here: You want to act like a young fool, lacking seriousness, following the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes? Go ahead and see what ruin you come to!

Others, however, have argued that Solomon is not being sarcastic here but genuinely sincere. John Currid observes:

I don’t agree with that [sarcastic] interpretation. It appears that Solomon realizes that the days of youth are high-spirited and active. Days of youth are ones of great liveliness, adventure, and discovery. This is good, and as it should be (Ecclesiastes, p. 144).

One of the great blessing of being a parent is being able to be around your children in their youth, seeing their energy, watching their learning, observing their development. Young people should rejoice in their youth.

That being said, Solomon adds: “but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”

Enjoy the liveliness and the thrills and the excitement of youth, but remember that there is a God in heaven and one day he will be your Judge (see Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:27). This is not meant to frighten the hearer, but it is meant to put within him a healthy and respectful fear of God.

We all have a sinful tendency to be men-pleasers. That is a particular snare for the young, who want to be accepted and approved by their peers, and so risk becoming “a companion of fools” (Prov 13:20). We should fear God, however, rather than men.

Solomon proceeds to deliver two particular admonitions in v. 10:

First: “Therefore, remove sorrow from your heart.” I think this is an admonition or warning to the Christian youth to avoid those things in your life that will bring regret. Listen to mature Christians. Learn from their testimonies.

Second: “and put away evil from thy flesh.” A godly young person is to be a good steward of his spiritual life and a good steward of his body. Here is a verse that every Christian youth might well consider:

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

And here is another that I heard taught when I was a college student, that has always stuck with me:

Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word (KJV)

Psalm 119:9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word (NASB)

Imagine your life as like a river. If that river stays within its boundaries, and is channeled and directed in its proper course, it brings much good. But if it becomes swollen and overflows its bounds it can bring much harm and grief.

There are few things more attractive and winsome to see than a young person who loves Christ with all his heart, who, by God’s grace, exercises godly self-control, and who follows after righteousness, faith, charity, and peace. Do you want to stand out? Do you want to be different from the crowd? Do you want to avoid being just another cookie-cutter young person? Then live for Christ. It will make all the difference in the world.

Solomon ends the passage with this sober statement: “For childhood and youth are vanity” (cf. the ending in v. 8). Indeed, apart from Christ all the wonderful and exciting and joyful and hopeful things about being in the springtime of your life are meaningless.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle


Noah said...

I don't know if you got to see James White's post on the ecclesiastical text here. I have not listened to it all the way through, but I'm sure many of your readers would be interested in your thoughts -

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...

Hi Noah, Yes, I listened to this DL and had thought of sharing some thoughts. Stay tuned. JTR