Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:1), explores various aspects of reality, contrasting two worldviews: 1) life under the sun (life without the acknowledgement of God) and 2) life beyond the sun, as it were (life with the acknowledgement of God). In Ecclesiastes 12:1, Solomon gives critical guidance for the worldview he posits as true: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” [emphasis added]. This instruction follows an exposition of the assertion that all is vanity “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:7). All is empty in a life lived “under the sun,” that is, in a life lived without acknowledging God. Life beyond the sun is meaningful and accords with truth.
In Ecclesiastes 11:9, Solomon turns his attention to the young man as he addresses the proper attitude of youth. Solomon concludes chapter 11 by asserting that childhood and the prime years of life are fleeting. He begins chapter 12, still talking to the young man, giving another imperative to remember the Creator throughout one’s youth or childhood. Interestingly, two verses prior, Solomon tells the youth to “follow the ways of your heart” (Ecclesiastes 11:9)—but with the important knowledge that God will judge all actions.
Ecclesiastes 11:9—12:4 deals with the freedom humanity possesses (as a gift from God) to follow the desires of their hearts. The caution is that we should utilize that freedom knowing that all actions will come under God’s judgment. The question then becomes, what might we do with our freedom?
Solomon qualifies how the desires of the heart should be guided: 1) know that God will judge your actions, 2) remove grief and anger, and 3) remember your Creator. At both ends of the qualifying statements, the focus is on God and our relationship with Him. This idea of remembering one’s Creator refers to a continual remembering, not simply a one-time occurrence (cf. Deuteronomy 8:18). Remembering one’s Creator is the foundational concept for a proper worldview.
Solomon is imploring the reader to live life in accordance with life beyond the sun; recognize the Creator of all things; live with the Creator throughout the days of youth. We must cultivate a godly fear of the One to whom we must give account. To live life under the sun, without remembering our Creator, is vanity and meaningless (Ecclesiastes 12:8).
This passage emphasizes the wisdom of remembering the Creator in one’s youth because, as one grows older, physical limitations begin to diminish freedom (Ecclesiastes 11:10), ultimately concluding with death (Ecclesiastes 12:7). What a tragedy it is to walk through the prime years of one’s life in vanity and meaninglessness because of one’s failure to recognize the Creator!