In Ecclesiastes chapters one and two Solomon wrote about the life he experienced under the sun (life from a human perspective). Through the lens of “death is certain,” he saw the futility of striving to possess the world only to lose it. Chapter three of Ecclesiastes challenges the monotony he experienced.
Warren Wiersbe opens his commentary on Ecclesiastes chapter 3 this way: insects have lifecycles, but humans have histories. A bee is pretty much like another bee but each person is unique. If people are not unique, then they are not important. If people are not important, then life has no meaning and isn’t worth living.
Wiersbe divides chapter three into three sections:
- Life above man – Eccl. 3:1-8 (God orders the time and seasons)
- Life within man – Eccl. 3:9-14 (God put eternity in the heart of man)
- Life ahead of man – Eccl. 3:15-22 (Death is certain)
Life above man:
Imagine for a moment that there were no natural laws governing our universe. Life would certainly be chaotic. Take gravity for example, what if it was a variable and not constant. What if the total number of hours in each day fluctuated wildly from day to day? What if there were no seasons? On and on I could go.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is one of the more famous passages in the Bible. These verses are a description of how beautify and magnificently God has ordered time. Solomon uses 14 poetic statements to convey how God is at work in the life of the individual.
Birth, death – these aren’t accidents, they are divinely ordered.
Planting and plucking – a successful farmer works with nature not against it.
Killing and healing – could be referring to sickness and plagues. Why one person dies and another lives is one of those unanswerable questions that must be left to divine providence
Casting away stones and gathering them – stones had to be cast out of a field before plowing, stones needed to be gathered for building or to be used to destroy someone else’s property
Embrace and refrain – many possible meanings, including Hebrew inference to sexual embrace. Another suggested meaning, a time to say hello and a time to say goodbye.
Getting and losing – possible meaning a time to search and a time to cease searching.
Tearing and mending – tearing of clothing is a Jewish expression signifying grief or mourning.
Loving and hating – a reference to national war and peace? Another possible meaning in a different context involves loving the sinner and hating the sin.
Life within man:
- A person’s life is a gift from God (v10) – if we believe life is a gift we will have a better attitude towards burdens we are sometimes forced to carry.
- Consider two scriptures – Genesis 42:36 “All these things are against me.” And Romans 8:28 “ALL things work together for good.” We must choose our perspective
- Man’s life is linked to eternity (v11) – we can’t be fully satisfied with achievements or accomplishments until we understand that God has a complete plan for us. This plan spans eternity. Another way to look at it, “we will always have a longing inside for something more than what we have experienced until we know God” (Dr. David Jeremiah)
- I can enjoy life now (v12-14) – Life may be transitory but whatever God does lasts for eternity. Be thankful for what we have and enjoy it.
- Remember: faith is only as good as the object of our faith. The greatest object of faith is God. If we fear (revere) God we need not fear anything else.
Life ahead of man:
God seeks what is passed by (v15). Chuck Swindoll suggests that when we pass by things, or walk away from what God wants us to learn, God will keep bringing us back again and again until he has broken through to us.
Solomon observed injustice and oppression. He concluded that if there was a time and a season for everything under the sun, then it stands to reason that will have a time for future judgment.
Two of life’s biggest perplexities: why do bad things happen to good people? And why do the wicked seem to prosper or go unpunished? Evangelist Vance Havner suggests this explanation: “God writes over some of our days: “will explain later!””
Verses 18 through 20 are difficult and confusing. They seem to address the certainty of death for all creatures. Dr. Jeremiah offers this explanation: A man and his dog romp in the same field, breathe the same air, and die on the same acre. They are more alike physically than they are different (considering just their physical bodies).
“Who knows” (can be worded “is it possible”) that a man’s spirit ascends to God while the animal’s spirit returns to the earth (see Ecclesiastes 12:7). The uncertainty lies with the destiny of the animal’s spirit.
So I saw that there was nothing better for men that they should be happy in their work, for that is what they are here for… Ecclesiastes 3:22a NLT