1st Sunday After Epiphany January 13, 2013
132(1-3), 133, 93, 132(5)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them”:
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
And the strong men bow down;
When the grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look through the windows grow dim;
When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of grinding is low;
When one rises up at the sound of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.
Also they are afraid of height,
And of terrors in the way;
When the almond tree blossoms,
The grasshopper is a burden,
And desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home,
And the mourners go about the streets.
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
In Christ Jesus, a Savior for young and old, dear fellow-redeemed:
They call my age-group “Generation-X” — the current 40-somethings. Travel down in age and you find “Generation Y” and “Z” and so forth. Travel up the years and you come to the “Baby-Boomers,” and up still further you reach the “Seniors.” At any given time there is an entire range of ages in society and that is what makes it work. From birth to death, each new generation takes the place of the one before it step-by-step up the ladder of time.
There is a problem in the way which many people travel this ladder of time. They begin as babies in the young generation and work their way up all the way to their golden years but they never seem able to find the perfect age for listening to God. In their youth they are too young, in adulthood they are too busy. In their maturity they are too worried. In sickness they are too sick and in old age they are too tired for all of that now. Then after putting it off for a lifetime, unfortunately, in their death they are too late.
We are all in various stages in the travel of time from youth to age. The best advice that an aged King Solomon could give is to REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR—NOW! Through the eyes of Solomon and with words inspired by the Holy Spirit we are going to I. Watch time takes its toll, be encouraged to II. Use time while it is still here, and learn how to III. Smile at time as it passes us by.
Imagine the stories that “Grandpa Adam” could have told to all the following generations that he saw in his 930 years of life. Certainly the best of these stories would have been those that came from that short time when he and Eve lived in the perfection of God’s new creation. No doubt Adam looked back and remembered His Creator and all the beauty of a creation that God Himself had declared to be, “very good” (cf. Genesis 1-2).
Adam and Eve could remember their Creator and tell their descendents all about the perfection of Eden, but it was a perfection that none of their descendants would see for themselves on this side of their own graves. Each time grandpa Adam and grandma Eve talked about the wonders of Eden surely a tear must have welled up in their eyes as they remembered how the perfection was tainted and the world marred for all the rest of time by their sin.
Remember your Creator and remember that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. Remember that He created them in complete perfection. Remember that He created the human body and everything else in such a way that it would live forever.
Sin has taken its toll and changed it all. Bodies that were created to live forever now die under the ravages of sin in what is usually less than 100 years. Unless an early death or Judgment Day comes first, you will face the effects of time and the resulting old age.
There are certain things that come along with the aging process. In a piece of remarkable Hebrew poetry, King Solomon by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, uses symbolic and poetic language to describe old age. As we follow his words step-by-step we can watch time take its toll and see the symptoms of aging unfold before our eyes. Those of you who have already experienced some of the affects of time’s toll will testify to Solomon’s accuracy, and the rest of us will also know it to be true from observation.
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them…” [v.1]
Solomon describes the days of old age as the days of “evil” or of misery. There is misery in the aches and pains of a body that has worked hard for many years and is now tiring. There is misery in the sleepless nights and loneliness as one-by-one the friends and family of one’s youth die. There is plenty of misery and trouble in young lives as well, but somehow once age takes its toll, there are so many who can no longer find pleasure in the days and years of their lives.
While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain; [v.2]
Age can take away the interest and delight in the beauty and pleasures which life once held. In youth, the sun is greeted with delight because of all the things to be done in the new day. The moon and the stars are lights of the night to gaze upon and enjoy. In old age, interest in the light of a bright sunny new day can fade and even the romantic delight of moon and starlight may grow dim. Memory, the mind, and the senses grow dull. Instead of a life of light and vigor, old age can bring with it the clouds of depression and loss of interest in things that once occupied life. What makes this situation worse is that after the clouds overhanging a life of old age break into a storm, they don’t always break up and disappear into sunny skies. Instead, the clouds just return again after the rain.
Solomon continues to describe the toll of time with specific effects on the body [vv.3-5]:
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble…
Scripture pictures the body as a tent or house for the soul. The arms and hands are the keepers of the house that bring needful things to it and defend against what harms. The day comes when the keepers of the house tremble and shake in their frailty.
The strong men bow down…The strength of a hard laborer is in his back and in his legs and with age these bend and bow. The grinders cease because they are few…The teeth of youth which would once tear into anything and grind at the food with enthusiasm gradually disappear, the grinding gives way to soft food, and great care must be exercised in eating. Those that look through the windows grow dim…eyes look out the windows of the house but in age they grow dim and lose their sight.
The doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low;
We use our voices to converse and conduct business in public. Our mouths are the gateways for the voices to go out into the streets and marketplaces. The lips which are the doors to our voices will gradually close because the voice behind them grows weak and falters. This takes place at that same time of life when the sound of grinding behind the doors is low because the grinders are few.
When one rises up at the sound of a bird,and all the daughters of music are brought low.
The simplest sound of a twittering bird can rouse someone from the light sleep of old age and yet, at the same time, the beauty and depth of music can no longer be heard and appreciated in its fullness; or else the clouds of old age make the hearer disinterested in the joyful sounds of the daughters of music, and he demands that they be kept silent.
Also they are afraid of height…Afraid of high places because of the difficulty of getting there and the lack of certainty whether they can get down. and of terrors in the way… The adventuresome nature of youth is gone and nearly ever endeavor is filled with fear so things are “played” very safe. When the almond tree blossoms… The almond tree blossoms in white in the very earliest of springtime. Similarly, in the late winter of life, the crown of one’s head blossoms with white and then the blossoms fall. The grasshopper is a burden…the smallest of things becomes a trial. And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. All of these are signs of the journey to death and the grave.
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. [v.6-7]. A loose cord will not hold anything together, a broken bowl cannot serve its purpose, a shattered pitcher cannot draw water from the well, nor can a broken wheel be used on the system that takes water out of a cistern.
These are all things that don’t work anymore. The body ceases to work at death. When God created Adam He molded him out of the clay and then God Himself breathed Adam’s life-breath into the clay and the two were joined for a lifetime. At death the life-breath and body again separate. The body decays to dust and the soul returns to God who will rejoin soul and body on the Last Day for an eternity in either Heaven or Hell.
As we watch time take its toll in ourselves and in others we can remember our Creator and remember that He never intended it to be this way. As we watch time take its toll we have a lasting reminder of our sinfulness and the death that sin brought into the world. In our aging process we have a lasting testimony to the sin that makes Jesus our Savior such a necessity and so great a treasure.
The message underlying Solomon’s detailed description of old age is a very simple and practical lesson: These days when things wear out are coming and are going to come upon you no matter how young you are now so make use of your time while you still have it. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
What you do when you follow this advice of Solomon depends on what the purpose of your life is. The children of the world say, “Hey…all right! Let’s go out make money, have some fun, live life to the fullest and just do it ‘cuz we gotta do it before we get too old!” The children of the world say this because the purpose of their life is this life. Children of God live for Christ and ask “What would God have me to do in the time I have left on earth? What will I do with the time that’s left?”
Solomon had experience both ways. He began life as a child of God but then was led into unbelief and idolatry and the desires and pleasures of the world by his unbelieving wives. In his old age, Solomon repented and returned to the Lord. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is filled with Solomon’s repentance and the conclusions he made as he looked back over it all. Solomon looked back and saw that everything he did for himself and things in this life was “vanity of vanities” and completely empty of lasting worth. He had wealth and he had buildings, he had honor and he had fame, but when he died what good would all of that be?
Solomon speaks through the ages to say, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth before the days of misery…before the silver cord be loosed…” No one is getting younger. No matter how old we are, the present time is always as much of the days of our youth as we will ever see again. Therefore, now is the time to remember your Creator.
Remember now and every day that God created you and still preserves you. Remember that you are His creation and not the master of your own life. Remember His expectations of holiness and complete obedience to His entire law. Remember His condemnation of all your sins. Remember how you will face Your Creator on the last day and have to answer for your conduct. Solomon ends his book of Ecclesiastes saying, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Remember how your Creator, despite your sinfulness, loved you with an everlasting and undeserved love and sent His Son Jesus to live, die, and rise again to forgive your sins. Remember how Jesus has reconciled sinners with God. Remember how the Holy Spirit has come through the Gospel to convert you and make you one of God’s beloved children. Remember how all of this has taken place by God’s grace so that a sinner, who receives the forgiveness won by Christ through faith, can stand before God’s judgment on the Last Day and be declared holy in all things.
Remember your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier with thanksgiving. Remember Him now in this time of your life. Remember and live to His glory not your own. Live as His children presenting your bodies and lives as living sacrifices to serve Him. Paul wrote to the Ephesians saying, “Walk circumspectly (carefully following God’s Word) not as fools but as wise redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Remember your Creator and make the best possible use of your time now while you still have it.
Now is the opportunity to make use of time to hear God’s Word, rejoice in what it says, grow in understanding, and be witnesses of the Light in this dark world by sharing the Gospel with others.
This is not to say that now is not the time to work in other things because we need to also exist in this life, but let Christ be reflected in the work that you do. Remembering your Creator at all times is not to say that you cannot relax and pursue hobbies and recreation, but let your recreation and entertainment be God-pleasing, without the sinful activities and temptations of the world. A good test for your activities is to ask yourself, “would I be happy or ashamed to have Jesus here with me right now?” and then know that He is with you and sees you, and act appropriately.
Those of you who are already older have a special way in which to make use of the time you have. You too are called upon to remember your Creator, but you also have the opportunity of instructing the younger generations by example and by words. Paul told Titus to counsel the older generations in this way: “That the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Titus 2:2-5).
With similar thoughts for the next generation, the Psalmist said, “[I will tell] to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Psalm 78:4).
Jesus is our perfect example of using time to its fullest for God’s glory. The twelve-year-old Jesus was about His Father’s business in the temple and the adult Jesus the night before His certain death said, “[Father], I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4).
May we all make use of the time we have in such a way that when our heavenly Father calls us home we may be able to say, “We have finished the work you have given us to do” and hear from our Father, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Old age, or the thought of it coming, brings with it the possibility of depression, worry, and fear. It can be very disturbing and frightening and sorrowful to see the effects of age deteriorate our bodies. At times the decay in the body leads to a deterioration of spirit and attitude and personality, so much so that it produces grumpiness, gruffness, and general irritability.
There is an old saying that you are only as old as you feel. It is a saying which couldn’t be more true. The body gets old and can’t help but feel old. However, in the weakening body there can still be a spirit of contentment and happiness. Beneath the age of the body can yet lie a youthful spirit and attitude. There are ways for children of God to remain youthful in spirit and so smile at the passing years even in the frailty of body.
There is a basic joy and uplifting satisfaction in living as a child of God and redeeming the time. As we busy ourselves with our heavenly Father’s business and redeem the time in whatever capacity our earthly condition permits, we will feel refreshed. Live as children of God remembering that He gave you life. Trust His care to bring you to His chosen end and then into eternal life. Then you will be able to smile even when life’s circumstances bring sorrow.
In addition to this general feeling of contentment in the Lord, God adds special blessings to help us smile in old age.
His Promise: “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:4)
The privilege to pray for His aid—this privilege also belongs to the young but there is a special reminder for the aged: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails” (Psalm 71:9).
For many the blessing of children and then grandchildren. God says they are one of His special blessings upon age: “Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father” (Proverbs 17:6).
The strength goes but God gives honor: “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Proverbs 20:29); and then a reminder to the youth to give honor: “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).
Entrance into eternal life: “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Among us there are some for whom life is just dawning, others for whom it is still on the rise, some at high noon, and there are some lives in which fingers of orange light are beginning to appear as they journey toward the sunset of their lives. In every case, young and old, let us each keep on remembering our God now and each day of our remaining life —whether long or short. Let us each say, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10). Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.