Now we will begin chapter 3 of the great book of Ecclesiastes.
3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:”
- Here Solomon begins his poem on time. The two things we will see here in this passage are patience for things to come, and having correct judgement on when to do certain things in certain situations. We need to look for spiritual significance in everything he says here. So as we go through this poem think back to a time when this happened in God’s word.
3:2 “There is a time to be born, and there is a time to die. There is a time to plant, and there is a time to pull things up.“
- “Planting” and “pulling up” can be used with what a farmer does, and we can compare God to a farmer. God can plant the seed in our mind, and we can pull it up.
3:3 “There is a time to kill, and there is a time to cure. There is a time to pull down, and there is a time to build up.”
- “Kill” here may also mean to “suffer” so in Israel’s case, they suffered for not obeying God. But God is the one who can cure them. “Pulling down” can refer to our words, when we say negative things about someone, we pull them down. But we are supposed to “build up” people with our words, just as we talked about in the last article.
3:4 “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,”
- We see in these two pairs opposite emotions. Some circumstances influence us to weep or mourn, others to laugh and dance. What Solomon points out here is a healthy lifestyle. One should not be happy all the time, or depressed all the time. There is a time for both, and we must show them both.
3:5 “There is a time to scatter stones, and there is a time to gather stones together. There is a time to hug, and there is a time not to hug.”
- The scattering of stones and the gathering of stones could mean many different things. Mostly I think of this as scattering stones meaning destroying, and gathering stones meaning preparing to build. In hugging you show love or care, and sometimes it;s not the right time to do it, self-explanatory there.
3:6 “There is a time to search for something, and there is a time to lose something. There is a time to keep things, and there is a time to throw things away.
- Sometimes we search, and search, and search for things we’re trying to find. And then later we stumble across it when we weren’t searching for it. That’s the way it goes sometimes, it’s good to search and to explore and other times it’s good to lose something. Why would it be good to lose something? If no one lost anything, there would be no need to “search” for anything. Solomon here expresses the beautiful balance between humans and their mistakes. Also there is a time to keep things for later use and throw away those things that will not be used.
3:7 “There is a time to tear things, and there is a time to mend things. There is a time to be silent, and there is a time to speak.”
- Let’s put our minds in the day this was written to answer the question why there is a time to tear things. When someone died, and people grieved over them. They would tear their clothe’s and put on sackcloth. We see this with Jacob in Genesis 37:29 and with King David in 2 Samuel 1:11-12. Sometimes we need to mend clothes to be able to wear them again. Fools speak when they are not supposed to (Proverbs 18:2). We should know the times we ought to speak, but there are some circumstances, like spreading the Gospel, in which we should speak up.
3:8 “There is a time to love and there is a time to hate. There is a time for war, and there is a time for peace.”
- We should love all people and love all good things. But “hate” here doesn’t mean hate people. It means to hate things that are evil (Amos 5:15). War has always been a part of history and it will always will be, but peace is also necessary.
3:9-10 “I would like to know what advantage anyone gets from all his or her hard work. I have noticed the kinds of difficult work that God demands from people.”
- Solomon again goes back to the toil of humans and to what advantage we get from it. Solomon had a demanding task himself, being a ruler over a kingdom. he’s asking the question “What does labor do for anyone?”
3:11 “God makes everything happen at the right time. He has given people a desire to know the future. But we can never understand completely what God has done from the beginning to the end of time.”
- God controls time, in fact he created time. Just as Solomon said he has given us that desire to know what lies ahead. That’s why we plan things, to be prepared for the future. But we will never understand fully what he has done, because he has done all things.
3:12 “ People should be happy all the time that they live on the earth. And they should do good things. I am sure that this is the best thing for people.”
- Doesn’t this contradict what he just said above, about there being a time to be happy and sad? No, he says that we should be happy all the time that we “live on this earth”. There is a difference. We should be happy that we get another day to live.
3:13 “We should satisfy ourselves with our food and with our work. We should enjoy our life as we work. And we can eat and drink with joy. This pleasure is God’s gift to us.”
- God gives us all things. Therefore, we should be content with what we have. Our work is valuable to the Lord, (1 Corinthians 15:58) and we should enjoy life because he has given us all things.
3:14 “I know that God’s work lasts for always. Nobody can add to what God does. Nobody can take away from what God does. It is perfect in every way. God has done this so that people will be afraid to make him angry.”
- What we see here is God’s actions are permanent. Whatever God does he does it for the best reason and it is perfect. God also gives Solomon some insight as to why he has it set up this way. To make people fear him so they will respect the Lord and not make him angry because we blame him when things happen. Just as Psalm 100:5 proclaims, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
3:15 “Everything that happens has happened before. Whatever will happen in the future has already happened in the past. God makes the same things happen again and again.”
- History repeats itself. It applies today and it applied in biblical times. We are human, we make mistakes and often times we don’t learn from them. But the saying “God makes the same things happen” sounds like he’s controlling every move. But he doesn’t, he can make the same things happen again if he chooses, remember everything he does is good.
3:16 “And I discovered something else in the world. In the place where judges make judgements, they make wicked decisions. In that place where we expect fair decisions, the judges are not fair.”
- Here as being king, Solomon realized how the judges really worked. Judges can sometimes be influenced by things, and in that day it was probably money. So they would claim rich people innocent because of their money and not the poor.
3:17 “God is the judge of everything. And he will declare his judgement about everyone. He sees those people who do right things. And he sees those people who do wrong and wicked things. He has arranged a time and a place for every activity’, I told myself.”
- God sees everything that happens on this earth, and he knows who is good and who is evil. Judgment will be declared on the day of judgment by God to all. Evil will get what they deserve and the good what they deserve.
3:18-20 “God is testing people. He is showing us that we are like animals. The same thing happens to people and to animals. Animals and people all die. We all live and breathe like animals. So people have no advantage over animals. All this is very hard to understand.We all go to the same place. God made people and animals out of dust and we will all return to dust.”
- Solomon is showing us how we are like animals.We both live, breath, die, and return to dust the same way. Now that’s what the physical bodies do.
3:21 “Nobody can know whether a man’s spirit will go up to heaven. And nobody can know whether an animal’s spirit will go down into the earth.”
- The future of the spirit is what’s uncertain. Men’s spirit could go to heaven or hell, just as it is uncertain whether an animal’s spirit will go down into the earth or not.
3:22 “So I saw what is the best thing for a person. He must enjoy his work, because to enjoy his life is God’s gift. Nobody can know what will happen in the future.”
- The best thing for a person is to enjoy life because the future is unclear. But, for a Christian we know what the spiritual future holds for us, but we should still be thankful for this life he gives us.
This is the end of Chapter 3.