Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 These verses connect to the themes of this book. Solomon’s counsel is to take each day of his life as from the hand of God as Solomon has just said in the previous chapter in Ecclesiastes 3:24-26), realizing that God has a fitting time for each thing to be done Ecclesiastes 3:1. The significance of this section is that man is responsible to discern the right times for right actions; and when he does the right action according to God’s time, the result is “beautiful” Ecclesiastes 3:11. This corresponds to Ephesians 2:10.
Ecclesiastes 3:2 There is a season for birth and a time to die. We struggle with these issues today. For various reasons people are debating whether it is wise to have children. But we have been commanded to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28; 9:1; 1 Timothy 5:14). God promises to provide for us and our children and when we trust Him blessings come.
The testimony of those who have come from large families is that while they may not have had the same resources of those with less children they would not trade their families for more material goods. Children have always been looked upon as a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3-5), and barrenness a judgment from him (Genesis 30:22-23; 1 Samuel 1:6-7; 2:1-11; Isaiah 4:1; Luke 1:25).
Death is in the hands of the Lord and yet with increased medical knowledge we have been able to be extend the limits of life to beyond what was deemed natural years ago. Yet this still is in keeping with God’s command to affirm life. We do look for God’s plan, not euthanasia, to determine when and whether to resuscitate lives that are ready to slip away. Planting and reaping are most significant to Israel whose calendar is centered on the harvest as the feasts of Israel describe. Men may sow but it is God who gives the increase as Psalm 65:9-13 tells us.
Ecclesiastes 3:3 Killing is an inevitable part of life under the sun. Human life was taken in war and as a result of justice in response to certain crimes. Animals were sacrificed in the Temple for atonement and also killed for food which since the flood God has sanctioned. Sin brought death into the world and so has become involved in it as well.
God ordered the killing of Israel’s enemies and brought death to Israel when they rebelled against Him Ezekiel 34. The sacrifices point to the perfect sacrifice when He gave up the life of his own Son. As a builder, Solomon knew that there is a time to tear down a building before rebuilding on the same site. The New Covenant deals with this kind of metaphor. For example, the apostle Paul tells us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:13; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Colossians 3:5).
Ecclesiastes 3:4 laughter comes from the Hebrew שָׂחַק sah-chahk which means to laugh or to play as in 2 Samuel 6:5, 6:21, It is the root of Isaac’s name (Genesis 21:5-7). There are appropriate times for tears and laughter (Romans 12:15). God’s people are to have a healthy attitude toward weeping and mourning as a meaningful and healing part of life (John 11:35).
Ecclesiastes 3:5 – There is a time to clear the ground of stones for building and planting (Isaiah 5:1-2). The casting of stones was a way of rendering a field useless to an enemy by covering it with stones (2 Kings 3:19, 3:25). There are also times for expressing or refraining from love, which coming from Solomon is interesting considering all is his wives and concubines, but we must give him credit for being knowledgeable on this subject.
Ecclesiastes 3:6 We are consciously involved in seeking giving up our search but are passive in the losing and keeping. Some things are within our control while others are outside of it. A loved one may be taken from us in a tragic accident. On the other hand, there are times when we must voluntarily part with things that we may hold dear. We need to have a proper perspective on possessions: Thankfulness in our gain, but to be prepared to lose; keep, but be prepared to give away. John Wesley advised his followers, ‘Gain all you can; save all you can; give all you can.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 “To tear” and “to sew” likely speaks of may the beginning and ending of a mourning period, when garments are ripped (Job 2:12; 2 Samuel 1:11), and then mended. It is also described in Scripture as a sign of anger (Matthew 26:65; Acts 14:14). Then there is the wisdom of knowing the proper time to speak and refrain from speaking. Yeshua and James speaks of the taming of the tongue (Matthew 12:36-37; James 3:3-12) and Paul as well (Colossians 4:6).
Ecclesiastes 3:8 Love and hate both have their place, provided we love and hate the proper things (Romans 12:9; 1 John 4:20). Solomon is not approving these things, but observing them as part of life. War and peace is based in the emotions of love and hate.
Jesus gives God’s perspective in the Sermon on the Mount where murder and adultery begin in the heart before being acted on. Life must be looked upon in the light of all of these pieces, when they are properly balanced by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. God is sovereignly in control and has a time and a purpose for everything (Romans 8:28).
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 God has his proper time for every event, but we naturally want to grasp the whole plan he has for our lives. In these verses there is refocus on life not just “under the sun” as he now brings God into his perspective. He repeats the questions he asked in Ecclesiastes 1:3, “Is all this labor really worth it?” Solomon’s response follows.
In Ecclesiastes 3:10 he sees that life is from God and that while it comes from His hand it is not easy. But if we acknowledge that it is from the Hand of God we begin to have a different perspective on the trials we experience. If life is only a burden we often time fail to miss the blessings that come our way as well. When considered from the perspective of eternity as in Ecclesiastes 3:11 we will eventually be able to see the tapestry from a far rather from up close and have a different picture.
God has put an eternal perspective in our hearts so that we understand that there is more to this life than today. Since we are created in the image of God we are different than the rest of creation. Before the Fall God gave to Adam and Eve all they needed for living. When they chose to have their own knowledge of good and evil and take sovereignty for themselves they cut themselves off from God, and were left to go along day by day without clear direction, no longer living in the light of God’s whole plan.
In this fallen world we need to ask daily, “Lord, what would you have me do now? I know my life has an eternal purpose, and I desire to understand how all things work together for good. Through His Word and His Spirit He guides, speaks and leads us.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-14 As Ecclesiastes 3:11 stated our lives are linked to eternity in that we are created in the image of God, who is eternal. We also have a certain amount of dominion given to us concerning creation (Genesis 1:26-28); This perspective of the eternal that is in our hearts link us to heaven. This is one of the reasons we will never find full satisfaction in this life there is a dimension in our souls that is missing and that only God can fill.
However there is an aspect of life in which we can experience joy. Solomon alluded to this in Ecclesiastes 2:24 A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.
This satisfaction comes when God is in the picture. Life in the light of the certainty of death appears to be temporary but if it is lived in the face of God then in Him their is an eternal perspective which gives life deeper significance, meaning and can be appreciated with thankfulness. Solomon is encouraging his readers to find meaning and joy in serving God. The proper attitude for us is the fear of the Lord (Ecclesiastes 3:14), which is submission to His sovereign authority and care.
Ecclesiastes 3:15 This verse along with Ecclesiastes 3:14 tells us that we can be sure that life is not going to change. We will not make any real changes from what has been and what will be under God’s hand. The Good News Bible gives us some insight in its translation: “God makes the same things happen again and again”. We do not control what happens to us.
The crucial question is not what happens, but how we handle it. As Believers we are called to face what happens with a confidence and joy since we know in Paul’s words that nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). Unlike life ‘under the sun’ the believer experiences God’s kingdom who works all things together for good.
Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 God in giving man a certain amount of authority over creation was called to exercise a God-like function—justice. Solomon however views that in the courts of law instead of justice there was evil. This failure is rooted in the nature of fallen man. True justice is elusive unless there is righteousness. Righteousness can only be found in God’s Word and is fully realized in the Word incarnate.
We are called to make judgements but our judgements are impaired because of our sin. Only God is the righteous judge, and Solomon shows us that God is testing man so he can see clearly that in this area he falls short. He, too, will face the true righteous Judge. Man’s destiny is to face the judgement of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 Solomon goes on to conclude that man is no more than an animal of a different species. His destiny is no different from a dog or any other animal. However Solomon is not saying there is no difference between men and animals. He is simply observing that they have two things in common: they both die and their bodies return to the dust (Genesis 2:7; 3:19).
When it comes to death, man has no special advantage: he too turns to dust. However man has a most significant advantage over animals, first we have dominion, and secondly through faith in Messiah Yeshua we will one day be resurrected and receive glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35ff). Death occurs when the spirit leaves the body (James 2:26; Luke 8:55). In Ecclesiastes 3:21, Solomon states that men and animals do not have the same experience at death, even though they both turn to dust after death.
Man’s spirit goes to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), while the spirit of an animal ceases to exist. There is the temptation to be concerned about the soul of our favorite pet but we can trust God concerning them, He will do what is right, and in eternity we will be fine with this.
Solomon closes this section by reminding us again to accept life from God’s hand and enjoy it while we can (Ecclesiastes 3:22). Nobody knows what the future holds; and even if we did know, we can’t return to life after we have died and start to enjoy it again. Knowing that God is in sovereign control of life (Ecclesiastes 3:1), we can submit to Him and be at peace.