I have spent the past few days in Indiana with my parents to help my father through knee replacement surgery. My dad will turn 71 this coming December, and while I have known he is not the man he used to be, nothing magnifies that like a surgery like this. It seems like only yesterday that he was teaching me how to climb ladders and build things. Now, he can hardly walk (and that is not only because of a new knee). He is frail. As I sat in the room with him yesterday, my mind kept coming back to Solomon's words of old age:
"Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them'; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut--when the sound of the grinding is low, and the one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low--they are afraid also of what is high, and the terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and the desire fails, because the man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets -- before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity" (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8).
His argument is to use the time in your life when you are younger to establish a habit of remembering your Creator because in your old age, it gets more difficult. Recall God's presence daily, live in a relationship with Him, seek to discover the greatness and glory of God while you are still young . . . before it is too late. All of these statements are metaphors for the deterioration of the body due to old age.
When Solomon refers to the sun, moon, & stars, he is referring to the eyes growing dim. The keepers of the house is a metaphor for your hands which might end up shaking some day. The strong men are the muscles which will not work the way they used to work. The grinders are your teeth, which do not chew the way they used to. Those that look out the window is another reference to your eyes which become more and more dim the older you become.
And then there are your ears. The doors on the street are shut, meaning you cannot hear what is going on around you. But the ears begin to play a cruel joke on you. For while you cannot hear during the day, you wake up early in the morning because of the slightest sounds, like a bird chirping.
When you grow older, you are not as tough as you used to be. The almond tree is probably a reference to your hair becoming white, losing its normal color. When he mentions the grasshopper dragging along, he has in mind that when you get older, you begin to shuffle along as you walk.
On and on Solomon goes talking about the effects of old age. His point is that you should remember your Creator while you have time. I have witnessed the effects of old age in my father the past few days. It is very likely I saw a picture of my future, which makes me want to make the most of my time now before I get older and the silver cord is snapped. This has been good for me.