I must tread carefully on this subject because I am getting old. Old age carries with it the baggage of weakness and a lack of awareness. It reminds me of the characterization of old age given in Ecclesiastes 12. “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly. Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint. Remember him before you become fearful of falling and worry about danger in the streets; before your hair turns white like an almond tree in bloom, and you drag along without energy like a dying grasshopper, and the caperberry no longer inspires sexual desire. Remember him before you near the grave, your everlasting home, when the mourners will weep at your funeral. Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young, before the silver cord of life snaps and the golden bowl is broken. Don’t wait until the water jar is smashed at the spring and the pulley is broken at the well. For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7) As many tell me, old age is not for sissies. Admittedly an old person cannot often do what they once did and is not as sharp as they once were.
But something else seems to be going on here. This is the quote from Hosea: “Worshipping foreign gods has sapped their strength, but they don’t even know it. Israel is like an old man with graying hair, unaware of how weak and old he has become.” (Hosea 7:9) King Lemuel was taught this by his mother. “O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my promises, do not spend your strength on women, on those who ruin kings. And it is not for kings to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave liquor. For if they drink, they may forget their duties and be unable to give justice to those who are oppressed.” (Proverbs 31:2-5) As we have previously seen in Hosea, the combination of booze and women is what saps strength and causes one to become unaware. The man who sneaks around with women is often vulnerable, i.e., weak. The man who drinks too much is always less aware than one who is sober. Hosea is telling Israel that their worship of false gods, which is accompanied by drinking and sexual immorality, has had a deleterious effect on them. It is making them weaker and stupider.
We live in a day when our society is worshipping false gods and drinking far too much. What we idolize can either make us stronger or weaker. An idol requires attention. If I devote all my attention to a hobby, to TV, to staring at my phone, to cleaning my house, or to following politics, I will have little strength for kingdom business. We all have a certain amount of strength given each day. How we choose to allocate this strength is essential. What I devote myself to will be where I apply my energy. I also have only a certain amount of attention span each day. Mornings are my best time. I never try to write late at night because I can’t maintain enough concentration. Spiritual matters require our attention. We must be focused. But, if I flitter away my cognitive powers of awareness on minor matters, then I have little left for important matters. Successful living demands we be strong and clear minded. Be careful not to waste your strength and mental acuity on pointless pursuits.