The Best of Times: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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Yet it also casts a dark shadow, because it reminds us of the inevitability of trouble and evil, and of the relentless monotony of life. Whatever may be our skill and initiative, our real masters seem to be these inexorable seasons: not only those of the calendar, but that tide of events which moves us now to one kind of action which seems fitting, now to another which puts all into reverse. A time to be born, and a time to die A time to kill : Solomon did not tell us there was a time for murder.

A time to dance : The English Puritan commentator John Trapp seemed to be wary of this time to dance. Where there is dancing, there the devil is, saith a Father: and cannot men be merry unless they have the devil for their playfellow? Dancing, saith another, is a circle, whose centre is the devil, but busily blowing up the fire of lust, as in Herod, that old goat. The poetic quality of the list shows that even the tragic, dark aspects of life can be artfully — and powerfully — presented.

This list also shows us the need to take full advantage of the time God gives us Ephesians , Colossians Esau came too late; so did the foolish virgins. If the gale of grace be over-past, the gate shut, the drawbridge taken up, there is no possibility of entrance. Ecc A glimmer of hope in seeing God as the master of time. What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 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.


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I have seen the God-given task which the sons of men are to be occupied : The Preacher asked the kind of question he had asked before; but this time he found an answer in the God-given task that God gives to man. He has made everything beautiful in its time : This sense of balance considers the poetic list in the previous section.

Solomon thought of the good and bad as they were described, and understood that God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts : The Preacher understood that man has an awareness and a longing for the eternal, and that God has put this in their hearts. We can say that eternity is in our hearts because we are made in the image of an eternal God. Every appetite in nature and grace has its appropriate satisfaction. The well-known missionary and author Don Richardson used the phrase eternity in their hearts to describe the phenomenon of redemptive analogies in most all aboriginal cultures.

Almost every culture has traditions, customs, or ways of thinking that reflect basic Biblical truth, and these can be used by missionaries to explain the gospel. Except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end : Though God has given man a longing for and awareness of eternity, God has not revealed very much about His eternal work. This keeps the yearning for eternity alive in the heart of man as a yet-to-be-fulfilled longing.

Ecc What the Preacher knows. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor — it is the gift of God. 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. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past. I know that nothing is better for them to rejoice, and to do good in their lives I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever : Here the Preacher escapes — ever so briefly — his under the sun thinking.

It is not the mere mention of God that brings the escape; it is also the knowledge that God is eternal and that this matters to us God does it, that men should fear before Him. And God requires an account of what is past : Again, this reflects a brief escape from under the sun thinking.

If God judges the heart and deeds of man, then everything has meaning. Once again Qoheleth has shown, in passing, that the despair he describes is not his own, and need not be ours. Ecc The problem of injustice and an uneasy assurance of solving this problem. Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, Wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, Iniquity was there.

I saw under the sun: in the place of judgment, wickedness was there : Solomon looked at the world — the here and now world, apart from considering eternity — and saw that there was great evil and injustice. Instead of fair judgment he found wickedness ; instead of righteousness he found iniquity. This is a significant problem under the sun.

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If man does not have to reckon with eternity; if this life is all there is, then many of the wicked and evil people win and many good and righteous people lose. The idea of karma does not consistently work — at least not in this life. Because there is a time there for every purpose and for every work , God will judge the deeds of man to see if it fit the proper purpose and work.

Ecc The common fate of animals and humans under the sun. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?

Concerning the condition of the sons of men On this basis, he could say that there is little difference in the life and destiny between humans and animals. As one dies, so dies the other : The Preacher thought of an animal dying and its body decomposing.

Then he thought that by all outward appearance, the same happens to a human body.

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Therefore, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. This is no argument for the doctrine of annihilationism, the idea that the unrighteous dead simply cease to exist, either immediately or after some time of punishment. It is no argument for two reasons. First, Solomon spoke here as a man unconvinced of eternity and the meaning it brings to life. Second, we believe what 2 Timothy says: that Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The understanding of the afterlife is cloudy and uncertain in the Old Testament, but much clearer in the New Testament.

We sense that the Preacher hoped there was a different destiny between people and animals. Ecc Finding peace under the sun. So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him? So I perceived : It is true that Solomon perceived this, but he did so on the faulty assumptions of under the sun thinking. Nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works After briefly flirting with a confidence in eternity Ecclesiastes , the Preacher has returned to his under the sun thinking.


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    David committed adultery with Bath-sheba, and then he had her husband killed in battle, so he might marry her. In punishment, God took their first child. Ecclesiastes "A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;". A very good example of a time to cast away stones is when you are clearing a field for cultivation. The time to gather stones is when you are building a stone house.