Solomon calls for us to remember and serve God while we are still physically able. He speaks of the end of life in metaphors that sound a lot like what Israel would face later.
I don’t believe that Solomon is saying that you should only remember God while you are young. It feels like he is speaking of the blessing of physical strength and health of the young. As the man grows older, he loses that blessing until one day his life is spent and he returns to dust.
The images Solomon uses to describe the waning of life remind me of the trials Israel went through as punishment for her sin. They were certainly ‘evil days’ in the sight of the people. I have no doubt that many of the people found little pleasure in living while in captivity. The keepers of the house did tremble and the strong men were bent under the yoke of bondage. Few remained in Israel to grind, the doors on the streets were shut, and fear ran through the hearts of the people.
Yet even in these ‘evil days’ some still praised the Lord. Some still trusted in Him for deliverance. Some still had hope for a restoring of what was lost. Some held onto a promise of a better future.
This is what I would like to say to Solomon as he describes the ‘evil days’ that come to every man after his youth is spent. Life DOES NOT have to be despised just because one is ‘too old’ and failing in health. David loved the Lord to his dying day and he found ways to inspire those around him. He continued to issue commands, including appointing Solomon as his successor, in his latter years. I also believe, from reading his psalms, that he KNEW there was more beyond this life.
Those who know the Lord and have given their lives to Him need not fear death. We don’t want to rush headlong into it but neither do we want to be dragged kicking and screaming to the last moment. When our physical strength begins to fail it is hard! It is even harder for those who have depended on that strength all their lives. When those days come, as they will for all of us, we have a choice. Become bitter or find a better way for the new days.
Those days don’t have to be ‘evil days’. They can become days of sharing with the next generation the knowledge gained through a life lived well; one that glorified God. They are years for training up others to take on the tasks you will leave behind. They can be days, or years, of joy spent with memories AND hope. Hope that the work you were a part of will continue on and hope for what is still to come for you.
Yes, seek to live as many days as possible on this earth. Live them with a heart surrendered to God. Fight for your health by taking care of your physical body as best as you can. Recognize that you WILL ‘lose a step’ here and there along the way. Use the medical science God has allowed to grow upon the earth to sustain and comfort you as you move through life. And LOVE ABUNDANTLY until your final breath.
But when that breath comes, look up! You are not at the end but a beginning! The beginning of eternity spent with the God that we LONG to know even better. It is the beginning of ‘face-to-face time’ with God.
My mom told me a story about when my grandmother, on my father’s side, was dying. She was dying of liver failure. It was a painful death that stretched out over many years. During those years, she continued to praise God. I can’t say I NEVER heard her say a cross word but she lived a life of love until the end. During her last days, she asked family to leave the window open in her room so Jesus could come get her easier. It wasn’t warm weather at the time but the family honored her request. She passed in peace from this life into the next. And her family, thought they grieved the loss of her, were CERTAIN that she was in the arms of God. They could celebrate her life instead of mourn her death.
I’m wondering if Solomon’s outlook is bleak because this season in his life is when he moved away from serving the Lord. He began worshiping other gods at the prompting of his many wives. Sweetness didn’t await him on the other side of the grave. I don’t know if he ever repented of this before his death. That WILL (and DID) matter for what waited for him. If in sin, he had a right to be afraid!
Father God, when You take me from this life let it be filled with JOY! I know You await my arrival. Let it also be without pain. Let me be found doing whatever ‘work’ You have for me. And let there be a song in my heart if not on my lips! I know I’m not perfect and I will make mistakes but replacing You with another god is NOT going to be one of them! YOU are my God!