“When the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop…” (Ecclesiastes 12:3).
It wasn’t just their haircuts that marked them as military when they came into Walmart. Backs straight, stomachs flat, muscles taut—they were standing tall and strong. He wasn’t. Shoulders slumped a little. Hands shook a little. And his feet shuffled. He smiled to see them. Once, he had been like them. He still felt a kinship. Once, he too had worn the uniform. At one time he had rappelled with ease. Once upon a time, he had jumped out of airplanes. Now, he sits on a stool and says, “Hello!” as people enter the store. Now he is only an elderly greeter.
Thirty years ago, he was in control of his life—so he thought. Thirty-five years ago, his strength and skill could overcome any trouble—so he thought. Forty years ago, he knew he needed no one’s help. He knew he needed no God.
That was not smart. By divine inspiration, the smartest man ever was prompted to write the words, “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’…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
Such wise words demand our attention. We might not be able to predict future world events, but we surely can foresee a certainty in our life. Unless we die young, we will grow old. We will grow feeble. And then we will die.
The 12th chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes is worth reading at any age, but especially when we are young and healthy. It forces us to put our life into perspective. With dramatic wording, Solomon describes how it is to grow old: when life is no longer bright; when chewing is difficult; when eyesight fades and sounds grow faint; and when one drags himself through the day.
His words, “when the strong man stoops” make us think of that former paratrooper now sitting on a stool in Walmart. And then what? “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).“
A depressing picture. No wonder Solomon laments, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” “Everything is meaningless!” Our skills and strength, our health and vitality, our whole life is, indeed, meaningless—but only if it is lived without God. It’s true, we are only dust. But that is not the whole story. “Remember your Creator!” We are not just some organism brought to life by a fluke. We are the handiwork of the eternal God. He gave us the gift of life for a purpose. From him come our strengths and skills. To him should be given our lives filled with thanks and faithfulness.
Old age is not our master. Frailty is not our endgame. The One who said, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” (John 11:25)
But he does not condemn his servants to a miserable existence until they finally deploy to heaven. The body may weaken and fail, but the soul, the “real us,” can grow stronger. Our spirits can soar, even if our shoulders sag.
This is his promise: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Let the young remember their Creator. He alone is their strength and their life. Let the old remember their Creator. He alone is their strength and their life. The time will surely come when strong men stoop.
But we will overcome.
We pray: Eternal Father, strong to save, show us the picture of our lives. Point out the bleakness of our inherent frailty. But show us, as well, the brightness of your glory that lifts us above and beyond the strains of life to soar on high. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, MN. Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military