“Time Marches On” (Ecclesiastes 3)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 3

The word “Ecclesiastes” is a word for a public assembly or congregation, and a record of the ponderings of the wisest of men, King Solomon. Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart and gives us opportunity to consider the soul of a man whose lusts had taken him far from the LORD. In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; pleasure] under the heaven [sky].”

As a youth, I could not grasp what old folks meant when they remarked, “time is flying.” I have come to realize time does indeed fly. Sometimes, I catch myself reflecting on former days, and seasons of life that have passed. Whether physically, or in my thoughts, I go back and visit places that held meaning when I was young. Familiar places hold precious, memories. The names of deceased loved ones still resonate in my heart. Familiar names and faces, long silenced by death, echo in my thoughts, and I am reminded, there is “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Solomon drew several analogies in today’s text, and each began with “a time,” and all bring us to the conclusion that time is passing (3:3-8). And so, the king who had assessed life as “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:26), asked his readers, 9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).

Man’s life apart from God is aimless, and pointless. (3:10-11)

We might sum up Solomon’s observations with an exclamation, “What’s the use?” The king observed, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised [troubled] in it” (3:10). The king had seen the troubles, trials and travails that God allows to come upon men. Though He had created everything good, and beautiful (3:11), and set in man’s heart a longing for eternity, it was the entrance of sin into the world that brought the curse of God’s judgment upon man and creation (Genesis 3:17-19).

God has placed in man’s heart the reality of eternity, and a longing He alone can satisfy. (3:12-14)

Though born under the curse of sin, and therefore mortal, man longs for immortality (3:12; Romans 6:23a). That men are able to enjoy the fruits of their labors, is a testimony of God’s grace and favor (3:13); however, all that men build apart from God (wealth, fame, legacies, buildings, monuments) is temporal and passing. Only what God has ordered and blessed will endure. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear [revere; be afraid] before him” (3:14).

God’s Sovereign Courtroom (3:15-17)

The preacher’s focus then turned to a courtroom where God presided as judge, and Solomon observed the LORD was judge of the wicked and the righteous (3:16). The New Testament reveals there will indeed be two judgments. Revelation 20:11-15 gives us God’s prophetic revelation of the Great White Throne, where the LORD will judge the lost who rejected Christ’s sacrifice for their sins by His death, burial and resurrection. The righteous, those who placed their faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for their sins, will be judged according to their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Solomon understood there would be a day when all men would be judged by God (3:17).

The Destinies of Men and Beast (3:18-22)

I have been asked by some who were particularly fond of their pets, where their spirit might go after death. Many have had pets who were great companions, and it is only natural that the same soul that longs for eternal life, would also long for those they love to enjoy the same, even their pets.

Solomon observed that death eventually befalls man and beast (3:19-20). The curse of sin is death, and “we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). Man, and beast eventually go to the grave, for “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (3:20).

But what about the spirit of man, and the spirit of the beast? Solomon writes, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (3:21) The spirit of man, and the spirit of beasts are not the same. The beasts of the earth were created by the spoken word of God (Genesis 1:25); however, God made man (Genesis 1:26-27), and “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Unlike beasts, the breath of God gave man life, and an eternal soul. When beasts die, they cease to exist and their spirit “goeth downward to the earth (3:21). When a man dies, his spirit “goeth upward” (3:21), and “shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7).

Closing thoughts – God who “made every thing beautiful in his time [season]” and put “the world [lit. eternity]in [our] heart [mind; thoughts] (3:11). Only God can satisfy the soul. Will you not turn from your sin, and trust the LORD’S provision of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ? (1 John 5:13)

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith