Whereas chapter 11 concentrated on exhorting us to be enthusiastically committed, the beginning of chapter 12 exhorts us not to forget God in our enthusiasm. It is easy to do.
Rejoice, he says—but do not forget God! God intends life to be good, but do not forget Him. This means, then, that if we enjoy life yet remember God, we will enjoy the things that He allows us to have, but we will never allow them to control us and will always keep our appetites in check because we fear God, want to impress Him, and want to do right and good. In this way, we will truly enjoy what God has given.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)
This chapter marks a decisive change in the book in that it not only becomes much more positive than it has been preceding this, but it also becomes more exhortive.
Remember that the term qoheleth means "the lecturer" or "the preacher." The preacher is now calling on the people who are listening to his dissertation to make a decision. He does not say, "You can make any kind of decision you want," but He weighs his advice heavily in one direction. He says, "I want you to make a decision, but this is the decision I think you ought to make."
It becomes positive in its tone and exhortive in terms of making a decision as to what they should do with the knowledge that he has given them thus far. He strongly urges his readers or hearers to cast their lots with God.
This section begins in Ecclesiastes 11:1 and ends in 12:7. There is a sustained theme of exhortation to hold wholeheartedly to the faith and to decisive commitment to obedience to God, regardless of whether life is adverse or comfortable.
Remember that at the beginning of the book he said that life is frustrating. If God is involved in a person's life, he has the opportunity to remove a great deal of the frustration from his life. His relationship with God will take the meaninglessness, the vanity, out of life. But all the children of God are required to make that choice because both choices are still there.
Not only that, but we know from earlier in the book that the life of the person who is living by faith will also be filled with many of the same kind of adversities that those living in vanity are. He has to live with the understanding that many things are out of his control.
The Christian therefore has to deal with this, and the way this is done is to make a decisive commitment to cast his lot to live by faith. If he does that, then Romans 8:28 will be fulfilled in his life. The difficulties will be there, but because the Christian has involved God in the way that he lives his life, then all things will indeed work together for good to those who are the elect and who love God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)
God says that individuals will have to account for all of their works, including our secret sins. Even the words we have spoken will be judged.
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment
Do you know of someone who has done everything perfectly? Conversely, do you know of someone whose whole life is one big mistake? Have you ever made mistakes—maybe a lot of them? We have all done stupid things in our lives. Many of us would like to make all our mistakes somehow disappear—or maybe relive certain portions of our lives because of the huge mess we may have made of things.
But that is not possible. God gives us one shot at life, and we have to make the most of it. Hebrews 9:27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." We have one life to live, and then God tallies up the score. He sees how much we have grown from the point at which we started. He sees if we have really changed from a selfish, egotistical, carnal person into an outgoing, loving, spiritual Christian.
Teenagers, however, have a problem: inexperience and lack of knowledge. They have not seen for themselves how bad the world really is. Frankly, many have an attitude against adults, especially their parents. They feel they have all the disadvantages and none of the advantages; that everything is stacked against them; that they will never live up to their parents' expectations; that they are being judged for everything they do.
They often make excuses for doing things they know they should not do. They say, "I'm only 15," as if that justifies anything. They sometimes blame their friends and their influence when they do something wrong. They justify their actions by saying, "It doesn't hurt to try something once." Or, "It must be okay because everyone else is doing it, and it's not hurting them."
Newsflash! Though God does take youth, ignorance, and inexperience into consideration, He still holds a person responsible for everything he does. Age makes no difference. Just because a person is young, God will not excuse him from what he has done wrong or from the sometimes-dire consequences of his sins.
Notice that God does not say: "Okay, young people, I want you to sit in your rooms all day and study your Bibles and pray and fast and meditate. Maybe if you are good little monks, I'll let you take a walk outside for a few minutes—but then it's back to your dreary little room!"
No! He wants teens to have a good time! He says, "Be happy in your youth! Do whatever will bring you good cheer. Do what seems best! But—always remember that you're not only going to have to answer to your parents for what you have decided to do, but you'll have to explain to Me why you acted so rashly and stupidly that you had to go and sin."
Sometimes, young people think God's way of life is dull and boring, but it is definitely not. However, God is less interested in fun than in right and wrong. "Fun" is subjective to each person; one person's fun is another's bore! However, we cannot decide what is right and wrong; God has already decided that for us. So, even a pleasurable experience can be sinful, and that is why fun should not be the main reason we want to do something. The first thing we should determine is whether an activity is right or not.
God Himself wants the best for teenagers. As our ultimate parent, He has written some instructions down just for the youth. Teens can turn to them anytime and know exactly what God wants them to do. Of course, the whole Bible is instruction for all of us, but the book of Proverbs is written especially for young people. Try reading a chapter of that book each day for a month, and notice how many times it says, "My son. . .." That means the passage is addressed specifically to a younger person.
Young people, have fun—but be careful. Think about what you are doing. Try to remember that God is watching and act so as not to disappoint Him. Consider your parents and their feelings and their reputation. Try to think things through. Try to foresee the result of your actions. Then, if you are wise in your choices, you will never have to regret your mistakes. That is worth a lot!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
For Teens Too!
God wants young people to enjoy this exciting time of their lives and to be happy. But, being God, He knows that youthful ambitions and energies can get a person into trouble. Such troubles have happened many times to young people in God's church. Thus, with His encouragement He gives a gentle warning: As young people follow their impulses and desires, they need to realize that God will evaluate all they think and do against His teaching.
This applies equally to all of us in all age groups. We must seek joy and happiness within the boundaries of God's moral standards. He promises to bring us into account for all our activities (Romans 2:5-11).
My Parents Won't Let Me!