In our study of Ecclesiastes chapter three, we continue our search for purpose by looking at the battle between the physical and the spiritual. In chapter two, we looked at man trying to find purpose in this world. Now, Solomon will compare that to spiritual things.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
The phrase "under the heaven" or "under the sun" refers to the physical things of creation in our universe. Solomon tells us that there is a set time for all of the physical things of this earth.
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
He begins with the simple matter of life and death. All things on this earth have a certain physical lifespan that is determined by God. It does not make any difference who you are or how much you have because the season of death comes to all.
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
During this season of life, we all have days when we are happy as well as days when we are sad. Usually this "season" is determined by events around us and our reaction to them. Once again, it does not matter how much you have because there will be events that tend to make you sad. Many people try to avoid the seasons of sadness with drugs, alcohol or other things to dull the mind. This trying to escape from the rhythm of life is a tool used by Satan to bring about addiction.
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
Now, Solomon examines the timing of our physical actions on this earth. There is a time in all of our lives when we are to gather the things (stones) that we need for building our life on this earth. Many spend a long time in this season with their focus on gathering more stones than those around them in order to climb the ladder of success. In other cases, people ignore the gathering of stones and instead focus on their physical pleasure.
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
Many people spend their lives chasing the future and some people spend all of their time caught up in the past. Although we can spend time remembering the past and dreaming about the future, we live in today and must keep focused on the task at hand to be productive.
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
In our dealings with others, sometimes we have to tell them some harsh realities of life but we can do this with love to build them up. There is a time for us to talk but we must also listen in order to have a conversation.
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
In this world (under the sun), there have been periods of relative peace and times of great wars. We were told by Jesus that there would be even more times of war as we get closer to His return.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
The "burden God has laid on men" speaks of the battle that goes on inside of each of us. This battle is between the flesh/physical (under the sun) and the spiritual (under the Son). God has made the earth a wonderful place to live with all kinds of wonderful things for us to enjoy. Even with all that is around us, we still have a yearning to live forever (eternity) and to know what lies ahead for us. The first part of this battle (determining our place in eternity) is very simple as we must accept Jesus Christ for our salvation. The second phase of the battle which is walking the talk continues until we pass on or until Jesus comes back to get us. This battle is the fight to remain focused on the things of God in a world of distractions. Our simple minds cannot understand how or why God created all of this and the depth of His love for us in sending His Son here for us.
I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God.
Our season on this earth should be a time of happiness, if we are in Christ. God has prepared things for each of us to do and, if we listen to the Spirit and follow, He will lead us to do good things and to enjoy our walk with Him. This having God with us to guide and comfort us comes through His grace (a gift).
I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
Everything that was or is was put in place by God and, though it is hard for us to understand, we cannot add or take away anything from what He has already done. What is the purpose of everything? Quite simply, all of creation was meant to worship God. The word "revere", here, is the Hebrew word "yare" which means "to fear" but not in the sense that we think of it. In Hebrew, the thought is connected to love and not terror. It is a behavior and not a feeling. The behavior that is described is worship.
Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.
God is a god of patterns because of the fact that He is unchanging. He does not need to change because He is perfect in all of His ways. I have heard many Christians ask the question: Why should I study the Old Testament? This verse is the best reason that I can give them and I have to ask them the question: Do you want to know what God is going to do? If their answer is yes, then, we must study the past (Old Testament) because God is a god of patterns.
And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment - wickedness was there, in the place of justice - wickedness was there. I thought in my heart, 'God will bring to judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.'
Does it seem like evil is overtaking the world? That is what Solomon sees as he compares justice here on the earth with the justice that is to come through Jesus Christ. He saw the coming of two judgments as the actions of the sons of God will be examined and rewards will be given while the wicked will be judged and punished. This is what is spoken of by John in Revelation 20.
I also thought, 'As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?'
Solomon saw that God tests men so that we can see that, in our physical life here on the earth, we are subject to death just like the animals are. While we are alive on earth, we often have a sense of being in control but, as we get closer and closer to the end of our lives, we realize that God has numbered our days and we will die just like the animals. Do dogs go to heaven? Solomon did not have the answer.
So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
Solomon's conclusion about under the sun (physical) things and under the Son (spiritual)? Once we have our final destiny established through our faith in the Son, we can enjoy the things that God has for us to do while we are here on the earth. We see far too many people (even Christians) trudging through this life with little joy. That is not what God has for us and that is not what He has set before us. If we ask Him what He wants us to do while we are here and we listen for His answer through the Holy Spirit, we will be where He wants us to be. When we are in the position that God has for us and doing what He has laid out for us to do, we can have the joy that Solomon spoke about in our work.