12 Teacher: And so we come to the end of this musing over life. My advice to you is to remember your Creator, God, while you are young: before life gets hard and the injustice of old age comes upon you—before the years arrive when pleasure feels far out of reach— 2 before the sun and light and the moon and stars fade to darkness and before cloud-covered skies return after the rain. 3 Remember Him before the arms and legs of the keeper of the house begin to tremble—before the strong grow uneasy and bent over with age—before toothless gums aren’t able to chew food and eyes grow dim. 4 Remember Him before the doors are shut in the streets and hearing fails and everyday sounds fade away—before the slightest sound of a bird’s chirp awakens the sleeping but the song itself has fallen silent. 5 People will be afraid of falling from heights and terrifying obstacles in the streets. Realize that hair turns white like the blossoms on the almond tree, one becomes slow and large like a gluttonous grasshopper, and even caper berries no longer stimulate desire. In the end, all must go to our eternal home while there are mourners in the streets. 6-7 So before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is shattered: before the earthen jar is smashed at the spring and the wheel at the well is broken—before the dust returns to the earth that gave it and the spirit-breath returns to God who breathed it, let us remember our Creator. 8 Life is fleeting; it just slips through your fingers. All vanishes like mist.
The teacher advises the readers to “remember” their Creator. Remembrance is a pervasive theme in Scripture. Throughout the Bible, God remembers His covenant people, and the covenant people are told to remember the promises and actions of God on their behalf. In the Book of Psalms, “remember” occurs 45 times, sometimes written by the suffering faithful who cry out to God to remember (Psalms 25:6–7; 74:2, 18, 22; 89:47), and sometimes by the worshiper who marvels that God has remembered (Psalms 8:4; 78:39; 111:5; 136:23). Thus remembering in the Old Testament is an action of both God and God’s people.
Memory was as fundamental to the faith of ancient Israel as it is today. Believers gather together to remember who they are and to whom they belong. This communal memory shapes reality, forms identities, and determines right living.
9 Not only did the teacher attain wisdom by careful observation, study, and setting out many proverbs, but he was also generous with his knowledge and eagerly shared it with people. 10 The teacher also searched for just the right words to bring hope and encouragement, and he wrote honestly about truth and the realities of life.
11 The words of the wise are like goads; the collected sayings of the masters are like the nail-tipped sticks used to drive the sheep, given by one Shepherd.
Wise words ring true in our ears, whether we want to hear them or not. They prod us, convict us, and move us; and heeding them strengthens us.
12 So be warned, my child, of anything else that might be said! There is no end to writing books, and excessive study only exhausts the body. 13 And, when all is said and done, here is the last word: worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands, for this is what God expects of every person. 14 For God will judge every action—including everything done in secret—whether it be good or evil.