Tonight, our study begins in Chapter 3. Solomon is going to show us that man in not in control of things, but God is.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:† 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;† 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;† 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;† 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;† 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;† 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;† 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.†
I wanted to read all these verses so we could see the complete picture. These fourteen opposites continue with the theme that Solomon has been teaching about how each person goes through similar events just as the winds blows and the sun rises and sets. He is saying that man has no control of what is going to happen to him over time, which is true in the general sense.
Of course, there are some things that we can control such as how we live our life, but many of things that come our way we have no control over. For example, we have no control over when we are going to be born. With the exception of committing suicide, we donít know when we are going to die. Even when someone has a terminal illness and a doctor will give that person 2 to 4 months to lives, he really doesnít know because sometimes he might guess right other times he will be way off.
Since God has set forth the seasons we live by, we also have a time that we must plant in order for stuff to grow and then a time for the harvest. Obviously, if we try to resist what God has put into place and plant something in the winter it will not grow or if we decide to harvest a crop before it is ready or when it is to late that will not work either. The only way we can be successful is by working with Godís timing.
There is a time to kill, such as killing an animal so that we can eat. It would be foolish of us to go around just killing animal after animal and letting them go to waste. We are to make the most of what God has given us to eat.
As we live our lives we will experience different emotions such as weeping and mourning as we lose a loved one or when we feel compassionate toward our brother or sister in Christ who has suffered hardship or lose. There will also be a time for laughter and dance, which expresses joy for the good things that happen to us or to our brethren. We are taught this basic thought in:
1 Corinthians 12:26 †And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. †
Romans 12:15 †Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
It is hard to tell what Solomon was talking about when he said A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones. Some see this is a military reference. The casting away of the stones would mean how they would throw stones to destroy another. The gathering of stones would refer to preparing the way for †a military victory such as found in Isaiah 62:10.
Others view it as a farming reference. The casting of away of stones would be when the farmer realizes the field he is trying to clear of rocks has to many so he throws the stones back down to go look for a better piece of land. The gathering of stones would be him remove the stones from some land he intends to plant. Whatever was intended by this saying, it still shows that it has certain time when it is to be done.
He also says there is a time to show affection by embracing and time not to do that. For example, when we come to worship God or we are in a public place, it is not the time for husband and wife to embrace in the way they would in private. Though some couples disregard this simple principle, it should be done in its proper place. †
Next, he says: 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;† 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew;
Sometimes in our life things are going good and we gain, but sometimes things go bad and we lose kind of like the stock market. Depending on the time, there may be things we want to keep, but once they serve no purpose then it is time to throw them away. If we always try to keep everything, we will end up buried in junk and we might end up on a reality show like Hoarders.
There are many ways we could look at a time to tear and a time to sew, but the basic idea behind is that sometimes it time tear things down such as a condemned building, but other times it is time to sew it up or repair it.
This next is a good one: A time to keep silence, And a time to speak. There are times when it best to not say a word, but many times we speak anyways and it usually causes a lot more problems then we had hoped for. On the other side of that, there are times when we should not be silent but speak out especial when it comes to speaking out for what is right in the sight of God. James gives the best advice on knowing when to speak and when to be silent.
James 1:19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
We learn that there is a time to love, and a time to hate. As Christians, love should always be our main motivation in life, but the Bible also teaches us to hate the evil way:
Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
Finally, he says there is a time of war and time of peace. As Christian we are to strive to be at peace with others, but it is not always possible because man has a way of creating war even with those who do not desire it. So, war and peace will always be a part of our lives in one form or another.
Then Solomon asks the question:
9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
He answers this question as he continues in verse 10:
†10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.† 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.† 12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives,† 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor -- it is the gift of God.† 14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.† 15 That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.
Ultimately, a worker can profit from his labors by embracing what God has blessed him with and by doing things at the right time. Again, we see Solomon saying great things about God and how He made everything beautiful in its time. For example, I think of the seasons that we have. All of them have their own beauty about them and God made them for our enjoyment.
He also says that God has put eternity into our hearts. Whether someone admits it or not, we all have the desire for eternal life, something better than what we have now. I personally believe this is why you see so many gods that man has created throughout history why they have tendency to seek out a higher power. It is unfortunate that many use this desire to seek out false gods, when they could have the real thing with God Almighty. Our God is the only true God that gives us eternal life.
Solomon says: ďexcept that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.Ē As wise as Solomon was and as much research as he did, he understands that Godís ways, how He works, and the details of eternity are far beyond our grasp. As Paul said:
Romans 11:33 †Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
Even today with our all advancements we have made, we still cannot and never will be able to comprehend the depths of God, but we can be thankful that we know everything we need to know to be pleasing to Him and what we must do to have eternal life through His written Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3).
As Solomon continues in verse 12, he tells us that we should rejoice in what do, and we should enjoy our food and our drink because it is the gift of God. He created the world for us to use and to enjoy. He wants us to be happy, and He wants us to find purpose in our life, which comes from acknowledging God and living our life for Him. We should be thankful for all that God has provided for us:
James 1:17 †Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 †in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Notice the last few verses again:
14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.† 15 That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.
Whatever God puts in place or what He promises it shall never fail because it is forever. Whatever He puts into place, there is nothing we can add or take away from it. One thing that comes to mind is the Word of God. It was given to us and we will always have it. Man can try to destroy it, but they will always fail. When they cannot destroy it, they try to add to it or take away from it. While they convince some to follow their additions and subtractions, manís wisdom will never change Godís will.
When we read the Scriptures, and see what God does to those who try to add or take away from what He has established, and we see how they were punished for their actions it will cause us to fear or we could say respect God and His ways. God will judge us by our actions. We will have to give an account for those things we have done and not repented of:
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Solomon expands on this thought in:
Ecclesiastes 3:16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.† 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
As Solomon observed those around him in various placesm he could see that even in places where justice was being served and the righteous dwelled that wickedness could be found there as well. This is nothing new because one does not have to look far to find those who embrace sin, but what is sad is that sometimes the righteous will allow themselves to become wicked even when they know the consequences of their actions.
As Solomon stated, there will be a time that every matter will be judged by God. That time will be at the end of time. As Jesus pointed out in Mt. 25, there will be a great separation on that day. The righteous will be on one side and will return to heaven with the Lord, but the unrighteous will receive their eternal punishment in hell.
Matthew 25:46 †And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
The great news is that we can control what our destination will be because God has given us a free will to choose what path we will travel in life. As I said earlier, we cannot control many of the things that happen in our life, but we have complete control on how we life our life. We are promised if we live our life for God and respect Him that we will get to be part of the group that gets to go to heaven for eternity.
Ecclesiastes 3:18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts.† 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.† 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.†
In this section, I believe that Solomon is speaking from the perspective of those who do not fear God because they do not believe He is real. The wicked people need to understand that without God, they are just beast. They will die like a beast and have no advantage over them if there is no eternity. Peter referred to the false teaches as brute beast in 2 Pet. 2:12ff and talks about how they will perish for the deeds. Those living the wicked life would get off easy if they just died and no longer existed, but the truth of the matter is that they will spend eternity in that awful place we know as hell where there is no rest (Rev. 14:11).
As Solomon says this is all vanity because it is a waste of a good life when we live as if there is no God.
21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?† 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
We must keep in mind that most of the time Solomon is writing from the perspective of God not being in the picture. Though he expresses doubt of whether there is any difference between a person dying or an animal dying, he later shows that he believes that the spirit of man returns to God.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
As Solomon states in these last two verses 21-22, those who live their life without God can only rejoice in their work because that is the only joy they will ever experience. The atheists of this world have to come to this same conclusion. All I can say is that thinking that way would be a sad existence, but thankfully it is not that way.
We can know that the righteous who trust in God and live for Him have much more to look forward to than what this brief life can offer, and we can know that the works we do here on earth as we glorify God in whatever we do will not be in vanity because we will be rewarded for our labors in heaven As Paul said:
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Let us learn from this chapter in Solomonís life that God is in control and we must work within His realm. When we embrace Him and live our life for Him we will be successful because no matter what good things or bad things come are way, we have the hope and assurance of eternal life with Him in heaven. We also learn that those who choose to live life without God will at best have some joy during their short stay here on earth, but they have nothing to look forward to and they will be forever separated from God in hell.
So, as Christians let us rejoice and be happy with this life we have knowing that we have something great waiting for us in eternity.