Ecclesiastes 7 Commentary Summary

Ecclesiastes 7 Commentary

Enjoy this Ecclesiastes 7 Commentary!

The value of difficult things over pleasant things

So, in Ecclesiastes 7:1-14, the Preacher talks to us about the value of difficult things over pleasant things.

We might notice that our life seems to be filled with difficult things – difficult people, difficult situations, problems that are over our head, etc. And it’s when life is filled with these kinds of things that we’re most likely to bitterly contend with God.

But, the Preacher wants us to think differently about difficult things. He asserts that they’re more valuable than the pleasant things that you and I prefer to experience.

So, let’s read Ecclesiastes 7:1…

7:1 A good name [reputation] is better than precious ointment [perfume];

Well, that’s not so bad. Who doesn’t want a good reputation? I’d want that. But would you agree that it’s hard to gain a good reputation and really easy to lose it? In that sense, it’s difficult. Whereas, perfume is pleasant and it’s a good thing – but the value of the difficult in this case is greater than the value of the pleasant.

And, so, I think that statement is easy to accept, but what do you think about the second part of Ecclesiastes 7:1?…

and the day of death [is better] than the day of one’s birth.

Now, when you think of it, both of these days are difficult. But at least you don’t remember the day of your birth. Plus, there’s so much hope when you’re born. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Your parents are happy. Everyone’s happy. In those senses it’s a pleasant thing.

But then the day of your death. What’s pleasant about that? I mean, really, the only pleasantness that we can derive from it is if we’re believers and if death is simply our entrance into life. And yet, even then, can’t you wish for some other way to enter into glory? Isn’t this one reason we yearn for the rapture of the Church? We don’t want to experience death. The day of one’s death is difficult. And yet, the Preacher wants us to value this day above your birth day.

Why? Let’s keep reading…

Why?

2 It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral], than to go to the house of feasting: for that [death] is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

So, Ecclesiastes 7:2 sheds more light on why the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. Death is the end of everyone. And therefore – don’t try to avoid it. Rather, take it to heart. Consider this truth and learn. Be ready for death. Be ready to face this God that the Preacher keeps talking about. And let your knowledge of death lead you to consider what comes after – not merely reality under the sun – but spiritual reality.

Sorrow vs. Laughter

Next, the Preacher compares another difficult thing with something pleasant…

3 Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better [in sadness of face (sober reflection) there is good for the heart].

The context here is the house of mourning – or a funeral. Sadness of face is good for the heart. There are things that God shows us through sorrow that teach us so much more than laughter ever can.

And that’s why Ecclesiastes 7:4 is true…

Mourning vs. Mirth

4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

If your heart is in the house of mourning – if you consider the end of your life and let that sober reality sink in and act on that reality – then you’re in good company. Because those thoughts are the exact ones that wise men have. It’s wise for you to consider your end and act based on what you learn.

On the other hand, the fool won’t go there. The fool doesn’t consider death. He’d rather be in the house of mirth. He’d rather just enjoy life and forget all about the reality of death. But whether he faces that reality now voluntarily or not – he will eventually meet his end. And he’s going to be completely unprepared.

Rebukes vs. Songs

Next, the Preacher moves from the value of the difficult task of considering one’s death to hearing rebuke…

5 It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. 6 For as the crackling of [quick-burning] thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.

Songs are lovely. Who doesn’t like music? It’s pleasant.

And at the same time, who likes rebuke? No one.

And yet, you would do better to listen to the difficult rebuke of a wise man than to listen to the pleasant song of a fool.

Then the Preacher pictures the fool’s song-producing voice as something fleeting that will quickly vanish in light of eternity. Those thorns under a pot will burn and crackle quickly and will be no more. That laughter and mirth enjoyed by a fool is vanity. It’s fleeting. It will ultimately end. And he’ll be unprepared for what’s to come.

Oppression and Gifts

And then it seems like the next verse is a warning about the potential of a wise man becoming a fool…

7 Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad [into a fool]; and a gift destroyeth [bribe corrupts] the heart.

So, this is saying that either – 1) when a wise man oppresses someone else he will become a fool or 2) that the wise man can become a fool by witnessing oppression happening around him. And whichever of those is the case, it’s similar to the effect that a bribe has on a person – it corrupts that person’s heart. So, too, does oppression turn a wise man into a fool.

End vs. Beginning

And then in Ecclesiastes 7:8 the Preacher goes back to comparing difficult things with pleasant things…

8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Again, the beginning of something is naturally more exciting and hopeful. But the Preacher sees that the value of the end of that thing is higher. And the second part of that verse holds the key to understanding this. You need to be patient to accept this. It’s hard to wait for the end of a matter. The beginning of a thing is right there immediately. You don’t need to wait for it. But waiting for the end of it takes patience. And in the Preacher’s mind, that’s a good thing. It’s good to patiently wait for the end of something. Patience is a good thing.

Haste and Anger

And as long as the Preacher is talking about patience and pride in one’s spirit, he continues in Ecclesiastes 7:9 talking about other potential problems within one’s spirit…

9 Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.

Be patient. And don’t be hasty – the opposite of patient – to be angry. Only fools do that. And you want to be wise, don’t you? So, don’t be quick to anger. Be slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to hear – as James says in the New Testament.

Wistful Thinking

Moving on, I’m thinking that most of us who are a little farther along in life have been caught thinking the way that the Preacher criticizes next in Ecclesiastes 7:10…

10 Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this [asking this question is not wise].

So, you and I might want to value the former days when things were easier and more pleasant for us. I assume that many things were easier and more pleasant for most of us when we were children than they are now. Now you have responsibilities. Now, when you make a mistake it can really cost you. You’re in the real world now. When you were a child, you were taken care of – or you should have been, at least. Your responsibilities were probably relatively few in comparison to what you face now. And sometimes you just don’t remember problems in the world back then – whereas maybe now you’re keenly aware of them, and even worried about them.

But the Preacher wants you to estimate the value of the easy days of old as far less than what you’re experiencing now. It’s not wise for you to say “Why were the old days better than what I have now?” And this admonition aligns well with all that we’ve seen so far. Hard and difficult things are good for you and me. They’re ultimately much better than easy and pleasant things. They sober you up and get you searching for God in the midst of the difficulty. Or at least, they should.

Wisdom vs. Money

Next, the Preacher goes on to consider the relative value of wisdom and money…

11 Wisdom is good with [like] an inheritance: and by it there is profit to them that see the sun. 12 For wisdom is a defence [protection], and [like] money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth [preserves] life to them that have it.

So, both wisdom and money can provide some protection in various ways. But money won’t save your life. Wisdom has the potential to do just that. And again, we have money here – which is pleasant and wisdom which is difficult to obtain. And again, the difficult wins over the pleasant.

Prosperity vs. Adversity

And lastly in this section, we’re directed to the relative value of adversity, which is difficult, and prosperity, which is pleasant…

13 Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? 14 ¶ In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set [made] the one over against [as well as] the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him [can’t know what the future holds].

God has made both the day of adversity and the day of prosperity. Rejoice when things are pleasant and abundant. But also when you’re experiencing difficulty – just remember that God has made both.

And the reason he has made both is so that no one really knows what’s coming next – it could be prosperity or adversity. And I think the idea is that since you don’t know what’s next you need to get out of your mindset of life lived merely under the sun and start trusting the God who knows what’s coming next – indeed, who has foreordained what’s coming next and who can help you through it and whose work is unchangeable – you can’t straighten what he’s made crooked and vice versa.

So, now, the Preacher is going to move on – because he believes that you got the point of valuing difficult things over pleasant things.

Next, the Preacher considers contradictions to the law of retribution

Contradiction to the law of retribution

15 ¶ All [the following two] things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in [despite] his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in [despite] his wickedness.

It would seem that in a perfect world, a man who does right would have a prolonged life and one who is evil would have a very short life. And sometimes that is the case, but the Preacher has seen in his life instances where that is not the case. The man who does right dies young and the man who is evil lives a long time.

Long Life by Doing Right

And so, for the person who is going to try to achieve long life by doing right, the Preacher has a message in Ecclesiastes 7:16 and following…

16 Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise [do not depend upon your righteousness or wisdom FOR YOURSELF (reflexive) to obtain long life]: why shouldest thou destroy thyself [be disappointed when you die early]?

This is obviously not talking about the righteousness that’s imputed or credited to a person when he believes God’s promise – like Abraham did regarding God’s promise of a descendant or like New Testament Christians do regarding God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ. I think this is more like right and wise living. And the emphasis I think is on having a long life. That’s what we saw in the previous verse – that emphasis on prolonging one’s life.

So, in light of that, If you try really, really hard to make yourself righteous and wise so that you have a long life – you’re going to be disappointed when you happen to die early. So, don’t waste your time trying to prolong your life by those means. It might not work.

Short Life by Doing Evil

And the flip side of that is also true…

17 Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?

So, don’t be evil and foolish either. Those actions might actually end your life prematurely. Yes, you might prolong your life even though you’re wicked and foolish. The Preacher said that he’s seen that happen. But there’s a really good chance that you’ll die earlier than usual if you live that kind of lifestyle.

Balance

So, there’s a balance to be achieved here…

18 It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this [one warning]; yea, also from this [other warning] withdraw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all [go forth in both, obey both].

So, pay attention to both of these warnings. Don’t make great efforts to prolong your life through super-right living. You might be disappointed and there won’t be much to show for your extraordinary efforts. And don’t be a fool or you might die prematurely. Obey both commands. And – above all – fear God.

And lastly, the Preacher turns his attention to the need for wisdom in dealing with the unjust

Wisdom needed in dealing with the unjust

19 ¶ Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city. 20 ¶ For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. 21 ¶ Also take no heed unto [do not give your heart to] all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: 22 For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.

You need wisdom precisely because of the absence of just men who do right and don’t sin. And because of that, don’t listen too carefully to people or you’ll likely hear your servant or your friend or whomever else curse you!

And you might think – what?! How can my servant or buddy or whatever curse me?! That’s where the Preacher comes back with this convicting thought – you, too, have cursed others, haven’t you?

What offense we take at people speaking poorly of us. But do we ever consider how we’ve spoken of others?

So, here’s the first piece of wisdom in dealing with the unjust – realize that no one is totally just and without sin under the sun. Not even you.

More Need of Wisdom

And the Preacher’s not done with this theme of needing wisdom in dealing with the unjust…

23 ¶ All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. 24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out? 25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness:

Now, we’ve heard this kind of statement before. It seems to be the Preacher’s attempt to communicate his efforts to understand the way things are under the sun.

Latest Findings

But it’s in Ecclesiastes 7:26 that he gets to his latest findings regarding life under the sun…

26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.

So, this is speaking of the evil, adulterous, seductive woman. This is another instance where we need wisdom in dealing with the unjust.

Women

And the Preacher continues…

27 Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: 28 Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one [righteous] man among a thousand have I found [which isn’t saying much]; but a woman among all those have I not found [which is saying even less].

And I’m sure this kind of statement is very offensive to the broader culture in which we live. But this is what the Preacher says. He’s found maybe one righteous man in a thousand. He hasn’t found any righteous women. That’s not to say that there were no righteous women in the Preacher’s day. But he is saying that he couldn’t find any. And again since behind the Preacher is Solomon, it’s not hard to see why he might not have found any righteous women – since he got married to all those pagan wives.

God Made Us Good

But, whatever the case, this is what the Preacher ultimately arrives at –whether speaking of men or women…

29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions [evil schemes, devices].

And this unfortunately is why you and I need wisdom in dealing with unjust people. And sadly almost everyone is this way. And this is the case in spite of God originally creating man upright. But we’ve all sought out many evil schemes.

Summary of Ecclesiastes 6-7

So, enjoy the good things that God has given, submit to his sovereignty in your life, value difficult things over pleasant things, remember these contradictions to the law of retribution, and deal wisely with the unjust. That’s Ecclesiastes 6-7.

Ecclesiastes 6 Commentary Summary Meaning Explained

We’re starting in Ecclesiastes 6:1 for this Ecclesiastes 6 Commentary. But in order to get the significance of that verse and the section it’s in, we need to back up just a little.

In Ecclesiastes 5 we learned that for those to whom God has given riches and wealth, he’s also given the ability to eat from those things. This is a gift from God, we’re told.

But, there’s an exception to that rule. Sometimes things don’t work out that way.

The evil of not enjoying good things

And the Preacher wants to tell us about that situation in Ecclesiastes 6:1-9 where he discusses the evil of not enjoying good things

KJV Ecclesiastes 6:1 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common [prevalent] among men:

So, actually I said that this is an exception to the rule. But really, this situation is common among men. It’s probably still an exception, but it’s a rather common one. So, here’s the evil exception…

Riches Without Enjoyment

 2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger [someone else] eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

So, the situation is – a man who has everything he needs and should be enjoying it—but he isn’t. God – for whatever reason isn’t allowing it. God usually does – but in this common case, he doesn’t. And as a result, someone else gets to enjoy the fruit of this man’s labor. I don’t have many more details than this, so it’s hard to try to imagine what the Preacher had in mind. But this is what we have.

Horrible Situation

And if this is the case – if a man has everything he needs to enjoy life and yet he can’t for whatever reason, in the Preacher’s mind, the situation is so horrible that the man might as well never have been born. That’s what he says in Ecclesiastes 6:3…

3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial [even if he’s never buried – because he never dies, hypothetically]; I say, that an untimely birth [a stillborn] is better than he.

So, the Preacher gathers a few hypothetical situations that are all positive. Begetting 100 children – which, mind you, the preacher sees as good and not evil. Having many years of life. Never dying, even!

Well, if any or all of these situations come to pass – so long as the man isn’t filled with good in this life, then he might as well have never lived. A baby who is born dead is better than that man.

Why would the Preacher say that?

Why?

Well, he explains himself in Ecclesiastes 6:4-5…

 4 For [Though] he [the stillborn] cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. 5 Moreover [Though] he [the stillborn] hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this [stillborn] hath more rest than the other [the man in v 2].

So, that’s what it comes down to. The still born at least had rest – whereas this man who had everything, but couldn’t enjoy it is just miserable.

They Both Die

And even more basic than that, both of these people die. That’s what he says in Ecclesiastes 6:6…

6 Yea, though he [the man] live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place? [both die]

So, to the Preacher, one of the worst things that can happen to a person in this life is to have stuff but not enjoy it. It’s a tragedy in his eyes.

But there’s another side to this problem of not enjoying what God gives you. We just talked about one side – which is having enough to be content but then somehow having someone else enjoy it.

Greed and Lust

But now in Ecclesiastes 6:7-9, the Preacher is going to explore another reason for not being able to enjoy what God’s given – greed and lust

7 ¶ All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled [satisfied].

Isn’t that awful? Man works to feed himself and yet it’s not as if man’s appetite is ever satisfied. And since that’s the case, the Preacher asks…

Ever Satisfied?

 8 For [So] what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living [by knowing how to survive]?

The work that man does, it’s all ultimately for his appetite to be satisfied. And yet his appetite is never ultimately satisfied. So, what does it matter if you’re wise or foolish? What does it matter if you’re poor and know how to survive? You still won’t be able to satisfy your appetite.

No Satisfaction

And, so, the Preacher says…

9 Better is the sight of the eyes [having what the eye can see] than the wandering of the desire [walking of the soul, pursuing what the soul desires]: this [this constant longing] is also vanity and vexation of spirit.

So, it’s better to have what your eye can see – what you have. In other words, be content with what you have. Don’t keep restlessly seeking more. If you do, it’s vanity and it will vex your spirit.

So, enjoy the good things that God gives you. That’s what the Preacher has admonished us thus far.

Submit to God’s sovereignty in your life

Now, it’s hard to enjoy the things that God has given you when you have a contentious spirit about the way that he’s ordering your life. When you’re consumed by greed and lust, you know that you’re not really bowing to God’s plans for you in this life.

And that’s why in the next section, the Preacher wants to urge you to submit to God’s sovereignty in your life in Ecclesiastes 6:10-12…

10 ¶ That which hath been is named already [foreordained], and it is [has been] known that it [what] is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he [God].

So, God has foreordained everything. He has known man – what he is, what will happen to him, etc. And therefore, don’t think you can contend with him and somehow prevail.

Now, this doesn’t exclude prayer. But it definitely does exclude bitter contention with God. Don’t bitterly argue with God about what he’s doing in your life. He has a plan for you that he determined before you were born. So, don’t feel like you’re going to get ahead by bitterly arguing with God about his plans. Rather, submit to him who is mightier than you.

Feeling Contentious?

But if you do feel the need to be contentious, here’s what the Preacher says…

11 Seeing there be many things that increase vanity [the more (contending) words, the more vanity], what is man the better [how is man benefited by this]?

How are you benefited by angrily contending with God? You’re not. It’s vanity for you and me to do this.

The Main Thing

And, here’s the main thing…

12 For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?

So, do you really think that you know better than God about how your life ought to be run? Your life is spent like a shadow. It goes by quick. You don’t know the future. How can you or I pretend to know how God ought to direct our lives? We need to submit to his authority.

And, you know, part of submitting to God’s sovereignty in our lives involves learning how to value various things that we experience. What is truly good for us in this life?

Ecclesiastes 5 Summary Commentary

Ecclesiastes 5 Summary

Enjoy this Ecclesiastes 5 summary!

Relating to God

So, let’s get to thinking about God – seeing as nothing is worth anything apart from him. And the Preacher wants to help you do that. So, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 he’s going to tell us about how we should relate to God. And throughout these 7 verses we’ll be repeatedly admonished about our speech in regard to God. Let’s first read verses 1 and 2 where we’ll be told that our words to God should be carefully thought out, and few.

Words to God Should be Carefully Thought Out and Few

KJV Ecclesiastes 5:1 Keep thy foot [guard your steps/be careful what you do] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. 2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

So, when you go to worship God, listen a lot and speak very little. Remember your sinfulness. Don’t be like a fool that doesn’t consider that he does evil. Don’t feel the need to be quick to say anything. Remember that God is in heaven and knows what you need. He’s in heaven and is the one in control. You want to hear what he says, rather than him hearing what you think. So, humble yourself, settle down, and listen to God. That’s what we should do as we come to worship the Lord.

First Proverb about Dreams and Words

Then the Preacher adds this proverb about dreams and words in Ecclesiastes 5:3…

3 ¶ For a dream cometh through the multitude of business [many cares – explain this]; and a fool’s voice is known by [comes through a] multitude of words.

He’s going to give another proverb about dreams and words in Ecclesiastes 5:7. But the idea is that you don’t want to be like the fool who isn’t careful about his words and just talks and talks.

Vows to God Should be Thoughtfully Made and Always Kept

Then, next in Ecclesiastes 5:4-6, we’re led to consider something else about our speech in relation to God. Your vows and promises to God should be thoughtfully made, and always kept.

4 ¶ When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. 6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh [you] to sin; neither say thou before the angel [messenger/priest], that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice [because of what you say], and destroy the work of thine hands?

So, then, if you do end up opening your mouth and saying something and in this case you make a vow or a promise to God – don’t take that lightly. Do the thing you said you would do. If you have no intention of doing what you promised, you would be better to just not make any promises to God.

And in Old Testament Israel, this promise would be a formal thing that the priest would be involved in. And you don’t want that minister to have to come and then be faced with having to explain your rash promise to him. But it’s not just the human minister you have to deal with in a situation like that. You have God who is now angry and could potentially destroy the work of your hands because you lied to him. You told him you’d do something and you didn’t do it. He holds people responsible for this kind of thing. Don’t be light about making promises to God. Your words directed toward him matter.

Second Proverb about Dreams and Words

And then the Preacher ends this section about our words to God giving a second proverb about dreams and words in Ecclesiastes 5:7.

7 ¶ For in the multitude of dreams [I think not the ones from God, just natural ones] and many words there are also divers vanities: but [here’s the focus] fear thou God.

Fear God. Do this by:

  1. Really considering the things you say to God and
  2. Following through on whatever you say to him with those thoughtful words of yours.

So, God is very much in the picture in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7. We’ve been taught how to relate to him with our words.

How to Think of Oppression

But I think that God drops back out of the picture as we transition into the next section – in

Ecclesiastes 5:8-9 – where we’re brought back to the matter of oppression. In this case, we’re instructed on how to think about oppression. Before, we were just made aware of the awful reality of the matter. But now we’re going to be taught how to think – or, really, how not to think – about that awful reality…

8 ¶ If thou seest the oppression [oppression/extortion] of the poor, and violent perverting [robbery] of judgment [justice] and justice [righteousness] in a province, marvel [amazed/astonished/astounded/wonder] not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth [a high official is watched over/protected by a higher official]; and there be higher than they [there are higher officials over them, who protect them]. 9 Moreover the profit [produce] of the earth is for all [of these officials]: the king himself is served by the field.

Don’t Be Amazed

So, the Preacher advises us against being amazed or astonished or astounded when we see the poor being extorted – their goods being seized unjustly. When we see justice and righteousness being robbed in a province.

Now, he’s not telling us to not be concerned. He’s certainly not telling us that extortion and robbery of justice and righteousness are good things. He’s simply advising us to not view this as some strange unusual thing that’s never happened before.

Why? Why not marvel at this? Because one official watches over another. And unfortunately, I think this is not talking about accountability. I think this is a use of the word “regardeth” that means something more along the lines of “protect”. So, one official is protected by another. And then there are higher officials over them that protect them.

So the idea is that there’s a plethora of corrupt officials and they’re all in on the corruption. So, is there really any reason you’d marvel at the fact that corruption runs rampant when you’ve got a pyramid of unprincipled evil men in control and watching over and protecting each other?

Corrupt Officials

In addition to those considerations, we have Ecclesiastes 5:9. There we’re told that the produce of the land is for all of these corrupt officials. And of course, the top of the line is the king. It doesn’t go any higher than him. And we can assume that he’s in on the take as well. And what Ecclesiastes 5:9 reminds us of is that he, too, like the rest of the officials that watch out for each other – he’s a recipient of the produce of the land.

Again, we have no mention of God and of his ultimate judgement of evil – like we saw earlier in the book. This is all you have to think concerning corrupt government apart from a knowledge of God. Just don’t marvel. Take it in stride. It’s inevitable. That’s a pretty miserable way to live. But it’s the reality of life under the sun apart from God.

Thinking Right about Riches

Now, the Preacher moves on to Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 where we’re taught how to think about riches.

Riches Alone Provide No Real Satisfaction

First, in Ecclesiastes 5:10 the Preacher tells us that riches alone provide no real satisfaction

10 ¶ He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

Isn’t that a conundrum? And one reason that this is the case is the next verse where we see the truth that the more you have, the more people take

The More You Have, the More People Take

11 ¶ When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?

Just ask a winner of one of these lottery jackpots and they’ll be able to illustrate for you the truth of this verse.

So, don’t love riches because the more you have, the more people take – especially those corrupt government officials we just talked about!

Relative Value of Labor and Riches Compared

So, that leads the Preacher to compare the relative value of labor and riches. Ecclesiastes 5:12.

12 ¶ The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer [allow] him to sleep.

So, it’s not riches that we need to pursue. Rather, we should pursue work. And the Preacher looks at the sleep life of the rich and the laborer. The sleep of the laborer is sweet. The sleep of the rich is constantly interrupted by worrying about his riches. Maybe he has nightmares about the corrupt government officials that are out to get his money – or other people who want a piece of the pie.

Dangers of Hoarding Riches

And the last consideration concerning our thinking right about riches is in Ecclesiastes 5:13-17 where we explore the dangers of hoarding riches.

13 ¶ There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept [guarded/hoarded] for the owners thereof to their hurt. 14 But those riches perish by evil travail [a bad investment/bad luck/misfortune]: and [although] he begetteth a son, and [yet] there is nothing in his hand [to leave to his son]. 15 As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. 16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? 17 All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

So, the man here hoards riches and this results in hurt for him. But actually, the man ends up losing it all through a bad investment. As a result he doesn’t have anything to leave his children. He goes to the grave a poor man. And even if he kept all his money to the day of his death, he can’t take anything with him. So, what benefit does he have for all his work and all his hoarding and all his days of eating in darkness and being filled with sorrow and sickness? Absolutely none.

Enjoy Life

Therefore, the Preacher ends chapter 5 with this conclusion – enjoy life

18 ¶ Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. 19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and [also he] hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. 20 For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him [keeps him occupied] in [with] the joy of his heart [that he derives from his labor].

Summary of Ecclesiastes 4-5

So, realize the awful reality of oppression and yet don’t be surprised at its existence. Find the right balance in regard to work and appreciate the benefits of companionship. Recognize the superiority but ultimate vanity of wisdom. Be sober in your speech to God. Think right about riches. And ultimately, enjoy God’s good gifts to you – one major gift being the ability to enjoy your work and its fruit.

That’s a fair summary of the message of Ecclesiastes 4-5.

Ecclesiastes 4 Commentary

Ecclesiastes 4-5

Ecclesiastes 4 Commentary: In Ecclesiastes 4 and 5 the Preacher wants to talk to us about the following subjects:

  • Oppression
  • Work
  • Companionship
  • Wisdom
  • God
  • Riches
  • Enjoying life

And really – what more is there to life? So, in these chapters we get a good cross-section of issues of life and how to approach them.

So, let’s study first of all, what the Preacher has to say about the awful reality of oppression in this world in Ecclesiastes 4:1-3.

The Awful Reality of Oppression

So, first – let’s notice that oppression doesn’t go unnoticed. The Preacher considered it. And God notices it, too. But we need to understand that this is one of those sections where God seems to be out of the picture.

There’s a time when the Preacher can comfort himself that God will make all wrongs right – like we saw with the matter of injustice in the places of judgement. But here in Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, the Preacher doesn’t bring God into the picture.

Now, again, the Preacher wants to lead us through this thought about oppression – not as a king who can actually do something about oppression – but as one who is experiencing it just like anyone else who has no power to change it himself.

And in this case, the Preacher wants to lead us through this scenario as one who isn’t even able to comfort himself with the thought of God’s future judgement. How does a lost man – who’s sensitive to the plight of the oppressed, and yet can’t do anything about it – how does he view this oppression?

Well, the Preacher notices this oppression as I said. He sees the tears of the oppressed. He witnesses the total lack of anyone to comfort the oppressed. And in fact the ones who are doing the oppressing have power on their side. They can force their oppression on others.

The Dead Have It Better

And this is all the Preacher can come to as a hypothetical lost man – the dead are to be praised or considered more fortunate or congratulated. Why? Because they’re not around to see this maddening injustice.

Those Not Born Are Better

And actually – to take it a step further – this situation of oppression is so deeply disturbing to a sensitive but lost man that he’ll conclude that it is better to just never be born into this kind of world where oppression is ubiquitous and unstoppable.

I’m not saying that the Preacher is a lost man. In fact, he can’t be – based on other things he says. But I am saying that the Preacher is leading us through the mindset of a lost man – or at least how a lost man would logically think about this phenomenon of oppression in this world.

And then he just leaves it there for now!

There’s something perhaps a little unsatisfying with that kind of abrupt ending to this consideration. But isn’t that how life is apart from God? It’s unsatisfying. And the Preacher’s abrupt transition to another topic in Ecclesiastes 4:4-6 mirrors how life is without being able to rest in God and his sovereignty.

Finding Balance in the Realities of Work

Well, next, the Preacher turns to consider work. In particular, he leads us through finding balance in the realities of work in Ecclesiastes 4:4-6.

Envy or Rivalry

So, to start, every work and skill that a man has is – depending on how you translate the Hebrew – either:

  1. The stimulus that causes others to envy him or
  2. The result of rivalry between that man and others

And either way – the Preacher says that this is vanity. I think I actually prefer the first reading that we have here in the King James Version. Because competition isn’t necessarily – in my mind – meaningless. We benefit from competition. But no one benefits from envy. Envy is truly vain and meaningless and profitless. So, envying the abilities and skills and labor of others is vain.

So, avoid envy.

Laziness

And while you’re avoiding envy – Ecclesiastes 4:5 – avoid laziness in regard to work.  The fool sits back and folds his hands. He doesn’t work. And because he doesn’t work he won’t eat either. And that’s the idea in the second part of Ecclesiastes 4:5. The fool eats his own flesh – or is pictured as doing so – because there’s nothing to eat due to all of his laziness.

So, avoid envy and avoid laziness.

Be Happy

And as you’re avoiding envy and laziness – be happy with a tranquil and quiet life (Ecclesiastes 4:6).

Now, all else being equal, would you rather have one handful of something or two? Like – gold. Would you rather fill one hand with gold or two? You’d want two.

But balance that with the kind of lifestyle that attends your two handfuls of whatever it is. Sometimes it’s better to settle for less compensation or whatever else if it’s a calm and quiet situation – rather than receiving double and doing so through a great amount of labor and vexation.

So – in other words – don’t overcompensate in light of the last warning against laziness and swing totally to the opposite end of the spectrum where you’re working constantly and at a fevered pace simply to accumulate more stuff to yourself. Find a middle ground – I think is what the Preacher is advising us.

So, avoid envy. Avoid laziness. And avoid overworking yourself just to get ahead materially. Find balance in the realities of work.

The Benefits of Companionship

Now, the Preacher moves on to consider the benefits of companionship in Ecclesiastes 4:7-12.

Don’t be a Workaholic

Now, in a sense, Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 are a continuation of the previous section about finding a balance in your work life. The Preacher is still addressing work and an imbalanced view of it. The guy in this new section is working so hard. There’s no end to his work. And yet strangely he’s not satisfied with all that work and what it produces – riches.

But Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 also transition us into considering companionship. The man is “one” and he’s “alone”. He doesn’t have a “second” or a partner. He doesn’t even have a child or sibling. He’s all alone in this world. And he’s laboring so hard – but ultimately, he never asks himself – and he should! – whom he’s actually laboring for, to such an extent that he’s missing out on some good things in life that would be right for him to pursue and enjoy.

So, we find in Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 a combination of:

  1. A warning to keep work – and life beyond work – balanced and
  2. The benefits of companionship

And really, we see the negative argument for companionship here. The man doesn’t have anyone else to share his work and its fruit with. He’s not happy with riches and yet he’s not able to improve the life of others with his excessive labor.

Companionship is Important

And then we get into Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Here, the Preacher keeps some of his earlier emphasis on work – but the emphasis is much heavier on the concept of companionship and its benefits.

Two is better than one. That’s the Preacher’s contention. Why are two better than one?

Well, first of all, generally speaking, two get more done than one. There’s a good reward for their labor.

Further, two people can support each other. If one falls and he’s all alone – there’s no one else there and so there’s no one to help him get back up. But if there’s a second, that person can help the first get back up. And that falling and getting back up can apply to physical falls or even to non-physical emotional or spiritual falls.

Next, two can keep each other warm. Now, of course if you want to keep yourself warm these days, this isn’t the first thing you think of – “oh, let me go get someone to help me keep warm”. We have heat. We have blankets. And you know – they had those things in the Old Testament as well. But do you remember what happened to David – the father of the author of this book? Remember when he was very old and about to die? He was cold. Very cold. And they didn’t just heap more blankets on him. They didn’t put warmer clothing on him. Apparently those things wouldn’t work for him. No, they found a person to lay down with him to keep him warm. It’s that kind of situation that I think the Preacher has in mind here.

Next, there’s strength in numbers. If one prevails against one man, then if another is with the one being attacked, the two will win.

And lastly, a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. Again, this is speaking of strength in numbers. And it might just be saying that a rope that’s made up of three separate cords is much stronger than one that is made of one or two cords. But some see here a reference to the rightful place of God in a life. We’ve been talking about two being better than one. But where did this “three” come from all of a sudden? Perhaps the third character is a reference to God.

And that’s the end of that section – verses 7 through 12.

So, we started chapter 4 dealing with the awful realities of oppression in this life. Then we explored work and finding the right balance in our minds regarding work. That led to a consideration of the benefits of companionship. And now, we jump to another seemingly-unrelated matter. Just like the jump from oppression to work seemed unrelated, now we’re making a similar move from work and companionship to wisdom.

In verses 13 through 16, to end chapter 4, we consider the superiority but ultimate vanity of wisdom. Let’s read.

Superiority but Ultimate Vanity of Wisdom

So, this section begins by asserting that wisdom is the trump card. It is better than anything – in particular, it’s better to have wisdom than to have age on your side or to have power and money on your side. That’s Ecclesiastes 4:13.

13 ¶ Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.

Poor Child vs. Foolish King

Ecclesiastes 4:14 leads us through that poor and wise child coming out of prison to become king after that old and foolish king. And Ecclesiastes 4:15 tells us that everyone followed that new king who was the formerly poor wise child who came out of prison. So, that’s all so exciting. Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?

14 For out of prison he [the king – maybe the child] cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor [he was born poor in what would become his kingdom]. 15 I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with [coming to follow] the second child that shall stand up in his stead. 

No End to the People

But Ecclesiastes 4:16 brings us back out of fairy tale and into reality. There’s no end to all the people who come and pass off the scene. And because of that, that wise poor child who was formerly in prison and then became king – well, he ends up being forgotten just like anyone else!

16 There is no end of all the people, even of all that have been before them: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him [but even though he was so popular, neither those before nor after the wise young child will remember him]. Surely this also is vanity and vexation of spirit.

But what a remarkable life this child lived! And it was due to his wisdom. So, good for him. But the Preacher wants to remind us that in this life, wisdom is excellent – and yet, the one who has it will still end up being forgotten just like everyone else. And to the Preacher, that is vanity. It’s striving after wind or working so hard just to realize that what you’ve achieved is nothingness and ultimately empty.

And again, in this section, God is left out of the picture. Wisdom is great – but without God it’s useless. It doesn’t matter how wonderful your life is if you don’t have God. Because your life will end and everyone will forget about your remarkable achievements.

 

Ecclesiastes 3 Meaning Commentary

Ecclesiastes 2:24-3:8

Now, as we move on to chapter 3 for our Ecclesiastes 3 Meaning article, it seems like God gets back out of the picture again. He isn’t mentioned in the first 8 verses. And yet I think the message of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is still fairly positive. In these verses we see time viewed from a human perspective. And even from a human perspective, time is viewed as orderly. And that’s a good thing.

Season

So, there’s an appointed time – or “season” – for everything. And there’s a time for every activity or event – or as the KJV says, “purpose” – under the sun. Everything that happens on earth has an appointed time. It all happens in such an orderly manner. Again, this is a good thing.

3:1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:

Birth and Death

There’s a time when you’re born. And that’s a time of joy. A time of newness. Of beginnings. There’s hope. There are aspirations. Plans are made. Parents prepare themselves to guide this new life through the various twists and turns that the world will present.

a time to be born,
and a time to die;

And just like there’s a time for birth, there’s also a time for death. It happens to all. It’s appointed for a man once to die.

Some people like to say that the death process is beautiful. Now, there’s a real sense in which death is very ugly. It isn’t the way that God originally created things. He didn’t make things to die. It’s an enemy and the result of sin.

And yet, even this ugly sad process has a place in life under the sun.

The joy and anticipation of birth is met and – from the vantage point of this life – overwhelmed by the sorrow and pain of death.

The newness of birth gives way to the finality of death.

This can be depressing. But you cannot deny that it’s orderly. Things begin and things end in this life. That’s just the way it is under the sun.

Planting and Uprooting

There’s also a time to plant and a time to pluck up or uproot. Farmers and amateur gardeners know about this.

a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

There’s a time to plant your vegetables. You do so in hope of a harvest. You have plans for what you’re going to do with your vegetables and fruit and such.

And then the end of the season comes – and the very things you yourself planted with your own hands – now you’re uprooting them. And the uprooting happens at a certain time. You don’t just harvest when you feel like it. No – the crops give you signs that its time to uproot. And when the appointed orderly time comes, you do what comes naturally.

And unlike the life/death cycle we just spoke of previously, there’s really no sense of loss or grief with planting and reaping. At the same time, this cycle is just like the previous one – in the sense that it’s orderly.

Killing and Healing

Next, there’s a time to kill and a time to heal.

a time to kill,
and a time to heal;

If Qoheleth is looking at this from a perspective of agriculture – maybe he moves on from the last cycle of planting and harvesting crops to now speaking of taking care of animals.

There is a time to kill an animal – a cow or goat or chicken – whatever animals one might have on a farm. You raise that chicken or goat for a while – but the whole time you’re doing it with the end of slaughtering it and eating it eventually.

And yet – if while you’re engaged in that process, the chicken gets sick or injured or whatever – you’re going to try your best to heal it.

Those two actions – killing and healing – seem contradictory. But you and I know that in the cycles of life, these two things can and do happen together constantly. And they happen at the right time – in an orderly fashion.

Breaking Down and Building Up

Further, there’s a time to break down and a time to build up.

a time to break down,
and a time to build up;

I imagine that if we’re still on the farm in Qoheleth’s mind then this is either referring to a wall or to a house or maybe to a temporary shelter of some kind.

Maybe he’s thinking of pulling down an old barn and raising a new one.

Weeping and Laughing

Moving on, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh. There are appropriate times for each of these activities.

a time to weep,
and a time to laugh;

You wouldn’t necessarily laugh at a funeral. I mean, there might be some real joy in either of these venues. But you would think a person strange who was just spontaneously laughing during a solemn funeral ceremony.

You’d also think it odd if someone was weeping at the joyful birth of his child. Or at his wedding. Not just a tear here or there – but full-blown weeping. You would start worrying about that relationship if the groom was sobbing uncontrollably during the vows.

The point again is that there’s a right orderly time for everything on earth. Time – viewed from man’s perspective – is orderly. And that’s a good thing.

Mourning and Dancing

Similarly, there’s a time to mourn and a time to dance.

a time to mourn,
and a time to dance;

This is similar to the last phrase we looked at. And let me just say that – yes, dancing is good. It’s good – just like music is good or like clothing is good. It’s good when it’s done in a non-sensual manner. David danced. Miriam and the daughters of Israel danced. And it wasn’t wrong of them to do that. When it becomes wrong is when it’s sexualized in public.

So with that disclaimer, yes, there is a time to dance.

There’s also a time to mourn.

There’s an appropriate time for each of these activities.

Throwing and Gathering Stones

Next, there’s a time to throw stones and a time to gather them. Now, it’s simple enough to see what this text says. But it’s rather difficult to get at its meaning.

a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;

Meaning: Sex?

Some say it’s a euphemism for sexual relations. And that might possibly fit with the next statement about embracing. Though I’m not sure how folks who think that this is what it’s talking about would prove their case. I didn’t see where else this phrase was used of sexual relations. So, I’d tend to think that’s not what this is speaking of.

Meaning: Revenge?

Others say it has to do with the practice of throwing stones into the field of an enemy to ruin his crops. But, I kind of doubt that Qoheleth is sanctioning that kind of destructive unloving behavior.

Meaning: Children’s Game

Or is this speaking more on the level of children’s activites? Maybe he has in mind the games that kids play. There’s a time when they throw the stones. And there’s a time that they need to gather them up… only in order to throw them again! That would fit in well with the cyclical nature of things on this earth — gather them, throw them, and on and on.

Meaning: Death Penalty

The only other possibility I could think of is perhaps this is speaking of stoning as a death penalty. There is a time – in ancient Israel, at least – to throw stones at a convicted criminal. And there would be a corresponding time of gathering those stones together – probably in order to use them again as an agent of punishment.

So, there are a number of interpretative options with that one, but I think it’s probably either referring to kids’ games or stoning as a death penalty.

Embracing or Not

Then we have that there’s a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

a time to embrace,
and a time to refrain from embracing;

And I think this is speaking of interpersonal relationships.

Jesus himself knew what this was like. There was a time when he could rightly embrace each of his disciples. But then a day came when he would say in the words of David, “he who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me,” referring to Judas. There was a betrayal in his life. And so the one whom he would normally embrace is now one he would not embrace.

And I don’t doubt that you personally have experienced that kind of reversal in relationships you’ve had. It’s heartbreaking. But there’s an appropriate time for each action.

You wouldn’t embrace one who has betrayed you – unless there’s been some serious reconciliation, of course. And you wouldn’t refrain from embracing someone close to you.

There’s an appropriate time for each of these postures.

Searching and Calling It Quits

Then there’s a time to get and a time to lose. Or – really – a time to search and a time to give up as lost what you’re searching for.

a time to seek,
and a time to lose;

Our oldest son used a pacifier when he was a baby. And there came a time when we wanted to get him to stop using the pacifier. We planned and prayed about how to get him to stop. Because we had heard how difficult it is for some kids to relinquish the pacifier. So, with a lot of prayer and planning, we were going to implement the “de-pacifiering”. But the thing was that one day my wife was with him at the table. And he was eating. My wife was making some food and had her back turned to him. He had his pacifier and he had taken it out of his mouth and it was in his hand. My wife remembers hearing him throw the pacifier to the ground. We looked for that thing for a while. There was – for us – a time to search for it. Not that we wanted it back – we just wanted to know where it was! But as much as we searched, we couldn’t find that thing! We asked our son where it went. He didn’t know. We ended up moving out of the apartment and we still couldn’t find it. So, hopefully someone since then has found it and put it to good use.

I give that as an illustration of the search process and the end of that process when you need to give up on the thing as lost forever. There’s an appropriate time for both events in this life.

Keeping and Throwing Away

Next, there’s a time to keep and a time to throw away.

a time to keep,
and a time to cast away;

My wife and I were in rare form on Friday. We somehow were given grace to go into cleaning mode. Oh, we were throwing away stuff left and right. It was great. I even got rid of some 3 ½ ” floppy drives. You might not even know what those are! Yeah, some of my wife’s old college papers were on them. And I had just kept them – maybe I could excuse my hoarding instincts as biblical. I mean, there is “a time to keep”, after all. No, that’s not why I did it, of course. But there is a time to keep. I mean, sometimes it’s fun to look at those documents. And you never know when you might want to access them. But when you don’t even have a device that can read the files anymore, you know it might be the appropriate time to – as Qoheleth says – throw away. And so, that was our appropriate event Friday – to throw a bunch of stuff out – magazines, old electronics, papers – it was the appropriate time to throw those things away.

Rending and Sewing

There’s also a time to rend and a time to sew. There’s a time to rip a garment apart and a time to sew it back up together.

a time to rend,
and a time to sew;

A lot of my old clothing ends up as rags around our house. Sometimes I see pieces of an old shirt and think – oh yeah, I remember that shirt! But then I see that it’s all ripped up and I’m brought back to the reality that the appropriate time had come for that old ratty shirt to be made into a rag. It was time for it to be rent or torn up.

At the same time, I might have a shirt or some pants that have a small tear in them. And it might be more appropriate to sew those back up instead of just automatically rending them and turning them into rags.

There’s a time for either course of action.

Silence and Speaking

There’s a time to keep silence and a time to speak up.

a time to keep silence,
and a time to speak;

And we can struggle with this one. When to speak and when to keep silent. There’s a right time for both.

Can you imagine a person that speaks all the time? Well, you actually may know someone like that. It’s not pleasant.

And you also may know what it’s like to have a person that never speaks – and not because he physically can’t. But because he won’t. He remains silent no matter what.

Neither of these people are ideal or healthy. There is indeed a time to both speak and to keep silent. You and I need wisdom to know which activity is appropriate at any given time. But both are appropriate in their appointed time.

Love and Hate

There’s a time to love and a time to hate.

a time to love,
and a time to hate;

There’s a balance to be achieved here, too. Someone who loves everything in this world is imbalanced. And someone who hates everything is likewise imbalanced.

That’s because God himself balances love and hate. The Bible tells us that God is love. That’s a direct quotation. But we’re also told that he hates certain things and individuals.

Jesus in the book of Revelation tells us that he hated the deeds of a certain group of individuals. Hate? Yes.

God tells us that he hated the individual Esau and loved the individual Jacob. Hate?? Yep.

The point is that God is balanced. He loves the world so much that he sent Jesus to die for our sins. But he hates the world so much so — that if you’re a friend of the world you make yourself an enemy of God — and he goes on and commands his people to not love the world, just like he doesn’t.

God’s love and hate is balanced. And it should be with his creatures as well. There’s an appropriate time to both love and hate.

War and Peace

And lastly, there’s a time of war and a time of peace.

a time for war,
and a time for peace.

Now, when I lived in Fort Atkinson I used to see a sign between there and the little town of Milton that said “Peace Now. Stop the War.” Now, I think I recall this sign being there from way back in 2004 or so. And it’s still there, the last time I checked. This guy has had this sign up for over a decade. What war is he talking about? I get the sense that he’s probably just against all war and so, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war against the Islamic State, or whatever else – if it’s war, there are people who are just automatically opposed to it, no question.

But there is a time for war. We might wish that there wasn’t. And there will be a time when Jesus returns and reigns and then there will be no more war. But in this life there is war. There’s an appropriate time for war.

But there certainly also is an appropriate time for peace. Both activities find their appropriate time or season under the sun.

And so you have these 14 couplets of 28 activities that find their proper time under the sun. And all of them are the exact opposite of the other. And yet, the fact that these activities are the opposite of the one they’re paired with – that doesn’t change the fact that there’s an appropriate time for each of the activities mentioned.

So, we’ve begun to see the human quest for meaning being satisfied.

Enjoy life. It’s God’s gift to you right now.

And think of time as an orderly system in which every activity falls into place and has its appropriate time.

Time

So now, we’ll consider how God views time.

We’ve been seeing that the book of Ecclesiastes is very down-to-earth. Who would have thought that God wants our mindset to be on enjoying the simple pleasures he gives us in this life? Eating. Drinking. Working. We’re supposed to enjoy those things. That’s what we learned so far.

And the key to transform our meaningless, futile life under the sun? God! God is the key in turning the monotony of life into something meaningful. And that means that not even the things that he gives us to enjoy are the key to enjoyment and satisfaction. No – they’re his gifts to us. And we always need to be careful to look beyond the gift to the giver. But as we’re looking to the giver he wants us to enjoy his gifts.

And so now we’re going to be receiving some more counsel from God along the lines of what we’ve just been discussing. What is God’s advice to you regarding what you should do in this world? This is I think what we’ll see in Ecclesiastes 3:9-22 — Enjoy Your Life Now.

Wait. Did I — an Independent Fundamental Baptist — just say that? The title of my message is Enjoy Your Life Now?? This sounds like one of the titles on the racks at Walmart under the Spirituality section right next to Oprah’s new book!

But I trust that what I’m about to proclaim here is faithful to the Scripture. I trust it’s true and if it’s God’s truth then it’s what we need right now.

So let’s be counseled by God on Enjoying Your Life Now.

Verses 9-22 in Seven Sub-Sections

We’ll start by noting that there are 7 sections in Ecclesiastes 3:9-22. Let me just briefly give you the breakdown of this main section and then we’ll come back and consider each one individually.

Verses 9-10

In Ecclesiastes 3:9-10 we have Man’s Work Revisited. Did you notice that through these first 3 chapters the Preacher has been speaking a lot about work? Even when he was trying to pursue pleasure for satisfaction he ended up working! So, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3:9-10 comes back to this theme of Man’s Work.

Verse 11

After that, he turns in Ecclesiastes 3:11 to Man’s Relationship to Time and Eternity. He’s already dealt with the theme of time in the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Remember? A time to be born and a time to die, etc. But he hasn’t mentioned eternity yet. So, that’s what we’ll see in Ecclesiastes 3:11 – Man’s Relationship to Time and Eternity.

Verses 12-13

Then in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13, the Preacher restates his thesis that Man Should Enjoy His Life & Work. And the first two sub-sections we just glossed over contribute to that conclusion that Man Should Enjoy His Life & Work.

Verses 14-15

After that, we’ll see the Preacher turning his focus to God’s Work. And he’ll tell us there that God’s Work is Permanent & Continuous in Ecclesiastes 3:14-15.

Verses 16-17

Then the Preacher takes some time to speak of a particular aspect of God’s Work – His Judgement of evil. So Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 speak of God’s Work of Judgement.

Verses 18-21

Next, The Preacher focuses on another work of God. Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 point us to God’s Work of Humbling Man through Death.

Verse 22

And the last of the 7 sections summarizes everything. Ecclesiastes 3:22 – Man Should Enjoy Life & Not Worry About the Future – Enjoy Your Life Now!

Verses 9-22 In Detail

So, now that we’ve laid some groundwork, let’s go a little bit deeper with this section.

Man’s Work Revisited

As I said, Ecclesiastes 3:9-10 speak of Man’s Work Revisited.

3:9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboreth? 10 I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith.

So, again, we see the Preacher’s focus on work. In some ways these first three chapters at least seem to be the Preacher showing us the vanity and meaninglessness of work and labor and activity apart from God.

But we were led to believe that he was past all that negative stuff about how worthless work is. I thought he was just telling us about how we’re supposed to enjoy work and see it as a gift from God!

Well, then He goes on to ask about the ultimate profit that one can derive from work. Uh-oh. Again, this sounds negative – like he’s getting ready to smash all of our hopes again. But he doesn’t do that. No, look at the next section. It says that God has made everything – what? Beautiful. That sounds pretty positive.

Man’s Relationship to Time and Eternity

So let’s read Ecclesiastes 3:11 and consider Man’s Relationship to Time & Eternity.

3:11 He hath made everything beautiful in its time: also he hath set eternity in their heart, yet so that man cannot find out the work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end.

I would imagine that “everything” here must include man’s work. Everything – including that work, God has made beautiful or appropriate. He’s made everything to fit beautifully in his time – or in its appropriate time. Again, this hearkens back to the Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There’s an appropriate time for everything. And when an activity is done at the right time, the Preacher is saying that that’s beautiful.

And yet, there’s something beyond that. There’s something more to life than the things done under the sun. And the reason we know that that’s the case is because God has put the world in our heart. The word there translated as “world” is the Hebrew Olam – forever, long time, eternity.

God has put eternity in our heart. We know there’s more than what we’ve experienced thus far in our life. And it’s just out of our reach. That’s what the Preacher says. There’s this eternity out there beyond our comprehension. And it’s just dark enough that we can’t find out the work that God has done from the beginning to the end.

We know that things happened before us and we know that things will happen after we’re gone from this life. But what those things were or will be – we don’t know.

But here again – God knows. And that’s what the Preacher wants us to remember. Yes, he focuses on the fact that we can’t know eternity past or future. But even more importantly – God does know those things.

And I think the idea is that you want to know that God. You want to make sure you’re on his side. He’s got work to do from eternity past to eternity future. And you want to be sure that you’re part of that work. I think that’s what he’s getting at.

Enjoy Your Work

So, the Preacher revisited the issue of man’s work. Then he admitted that even work in its time is a beautiful thing – while also adding the element of eternity that he wants his audience to be mindful of. And in light of all of that, in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 he asserts that Man Should Enjoy His Life & Work.

3:12 I know that there is nothing better for them, than to rejoice, and to do good so long as they live. 13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labor, is the gift of God.

So this is the Preacher’s conclusion – rejoice, do good, eat, drink, enjoy your work – in this life. And recognize that this is all a gift from God – both the actities and the enjoyment that you can find in any of those activites – it’s all God’s gift to you. As much as he allows you to have, take it.

God’s Work is Permanent

That’s the conclusion regarding man’s work. And with that, the Preacher turns to consider God’s work. In particular, he asserts that God’s Work is Permanent, Complete, & Continuous in Ecclesiastes 3:14-15.

3:14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it; and God hath done it, that men should fear before him. 15 That which is hath been long ago; and that which is to be hath long ago been: and God seeketh again that which is passed away.

So, God’s work is permanent. What a contrast we see between man’s work and God’s work. Man’s work can grant a certain amount of joy. And God wants us to enjoy it as a gift from him. And yet it’s fleeting. It ends at some point.

On the other hand, God’s work lasts forever. Isn’t that interesting?

The work of man, at its best remains for a while and is given to others after the death of the man who did it.

But what God does endures forever.

And I think the question that the Preacher extends to the man under the sun who has hitherto had no interest whatsoever in spiritual unseen realities is – “Don’t you want to know this God? The one whose work is eternal?

God’s Work is Complete and Perfect

So, God’s work is permanent.

Further, God’s work is complete and perfect. You can’t put or add to it. There’s nothing lacking from what God does – unlike the work of man. With human work, there’s always something that could have theoretically been done to improve on it. Not with God’s work, though.

And you can’t take away anything from it. It’s not as if he does anything inappropriate that needs to be corrected or taken out of his work. God’s work is complete and perfect.

Fear God

And we humans are supposed to take a lesson away from this fact of God’s permanent perfect work. We should fear before him. We should stand in awe of his work. We should see the great contrast between what God can do and what mere man can do.

Again, I think this is another chance that the Preacher is using to draw the natural man to the true God.

God’s Work is Perpetual

And lastly in this section we have that God’s work is continuous or perpetual. What happened in the past is happening now. And what will happen in the future already happened in the past. And the Preacher has used this line of argument before to discourage the natural man from being comfortable in seeking true fulfillment in the stuff of this life. But now he’s going to use this statement to point to God’s work and this attribute of it – that it’s continuous or perpetual.

I think that’s so significant. The same bare facts without God being placed properly in view can lead a man to despair. But put God back into the picture where he rightly belongs – and all of a sudden this is a good thing. Again, God makes all the difference. He makes the difference between you and me living a life of vanity and emptiness or living a life of fulfillment, being fulfilled by the only one who can provide that for us.

God’s Work of Judgement

But now we can move on to the next section in Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 where we’re directed to consider God’s Work of Judgement.

3:16 And moreover I saw under the sun, in the place of justice, that wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, that wickedness was there. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

So, the Preacher’s eye turns to the fact of injustice in this life.

Now, it’s one thing when the injustice is perpetrated by individuals who are then judged in the place where that society designates as the place of justice – the place where justice is served out. The place where the righteous should be vindicated and where the wicked should be punished.

But that’s not what the Preacher observes. He observes the total overthrow of an institution. Because that’s what happens when you have an institution in a society that’s designed to mete out justice against evil-doers… when in fact the ones who are given such a charge are the evil-doers themselves!

And our minds jump immediately to perhaps several decisions made in our Supreme Court where it appears that there was wickedness and iniquity in the very place designed to condemn and stop those things. And this is a problem in our day. But we should be a little comforted – the Preacher experienced these exact same dynamics.

Now, I’ll just point out that this is one more reason that I think the author of this book doesn’t want to be too closely linked with Solomon. Because, if Solomon the king were to see injustice in places of judgement, you’d think that he’d do more than just say something in his heart – which we’ll see in the next verse.

Right? He could and would have been required to put an end to the injustice as the king. So, that’s another reason I would caution against equating the Preacher immediately with no distinctions with King Solomon.

So, the Preacher sees this injustice and iniquity and he does just like we do. He needs to work this out in his heart. It can be so distressing to see wicked men do the exact opposite of what even our consciences know is right and just. And here’s how the Preacher handles it.

He consoles himself with the undeniable and unavoidable fact that God will judge the righteous and the wicked. It’s going to happen. And – see – that conviction of future judgement is something that the natural man doesn’t have at his disposal. Because even if he does try to take comfort in it – he needs to come to terms with the fact that he’s a worthy recipient of that same judgement.

In the Preacher’s mind, his observation that there’s a proper time for everything to be done means that surely judgement is coming some day. Judgement is another activity – though when it comes to God’s judgement of course it won’t be under the sun. And yet just like every other activity, God has ordained a time for it to happen.

God Humbles Man

So the Preacher started considering God’s permanent, continuous, and perfect work. Then he zeroed in on God’s work of judgement. And next he’s going to lead us in considering God’s Work of Humbling Man through Death in Ecclesiastes 3:18-21.

3:18 I said in my heart, It is because of the sons of men, that God may prove them, and that they may see that they themselves are but as beasts. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; and man hath no preeminence above the beasts: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21 Who knoweth the spirit of man, whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast, whether it goeth downward to the earth?

So, the Preacher is kind of working backward in his thinking now.

He started speaking of God’s work of judgement. But when does that judgement occur?

Well, it’s not in this life. The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us – “it’s appointed unto man once to … die.” And then what? “After this – after death – the judgement.” That’s the order of things. Death. Then judgement.

We’ve considered judgement, which is the end of the road. But how does one get to the judgement? Through death.

And so that’s the Preacher’s logic. He spoke of judgement. Now it’s time to speak of the vehicle that conveys men to judgement – death.

And the Preacher says something in his heart again in Ecclesiastes 3:18. He muses about the estate of the sons of men. I think in the context this is speaking of the universality of death – the very matter he’s going to get to in this section. And concerning death, God has made it this way to humble men – by showing us that we’re beasts.

And of course this isn’t some hint of molecules-to-man evolution that was dreamed up by Charles Darwin. We are beasts in the sense that – Ecclesiastes 3:19 – as beasts die, so does man.

You might think that you’re above mere beasts. You might think you have some advantage or preeminence over – say – your dog. And yes in some ways you and I are higher than animals. We were made in God’s image. And yet, both you and your dog or cat or parakeet or your pet scorpion – both you and they will die some day.

We have the same breath that God gives and God takes away some day. Our bodies are all made of dust. And that’s interesting, because in Genesis we’re explicitly told that man was made of dust. And Genesis does tell us that God ordered the earth to bring forth living creatures. And between that reference and the one we have here in Ecclesiastes we discover that that process involved beasts being made of dust as well.

So, we’re all made of dust. And when that one breath we all have is removed we all go back to the dust.

And I think that last verse – Ecclesiastes 3:21 – is aimed at the man under the sun, who has no interest in spiritual realities. How do you really know – oh natural man – whether your end is any more special than the end of beasts?

And yet, if that natural man has been listening so far, he knows that there’s a judgement coming – and really, animals don’t seem to be a part of that judgement. So, there is a distinction between man and beasts – man is judged in the end. And yet in this life with what the natural eye can see, it appears that both man and beasts just cease to exist. Their bodies stop operating and they return to the ground from where they were originally created.

Enjoy Life and Don’t Worry

And in light of all that – in light of the fact that man will die just like a beast and that there’s a judgement to come and that all of this is God’s work and that it cannot be prevented and it cannot be changed – and certainly in light of man’s relationship to time and eternity – the Preacher returns to his assertion that Man Should Enjoy Life & Not Worry about the Future in Ecclesiates 3:22 to end this section.

3:22 Wherefore I saw that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him back to see what shall be after him?

Let’s start with that last statement. This is key – there will be events that occur after your death. And you’re not going to see them. You’re limited as a human. You die – as we’ve just been reminded of. And so, given that fact, you should enjoy your life now. Don’t worry about what’ll happen in the future. Just concern yourself with the present. And keep it in mind that the enjoyment of work and activity is your portion. It’s your inheritance. And like an inheritance, someone is leaving it you. Who would that be? Yeah, it’s God.

Conclusion

So, enjoy your life now – realizing the main role that God plays in it all – and reverencing him for that fact.