Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 3

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


The Variability of Human Life (Ecclesiastes 3:1-9)


In a statement of the obvious, Solomon wrote,

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 the elderly meant when they said, “Time is flying.” I have come to understand that time does indeed fly. Sometimes, I catch myself reflecting on former days and past seasons of life. Whether physically or in my thoughts, I have visited places that held meaning when I was younger. They are familiar places that hold precious memories for me.

I confess that the names and memories of deceased loved ones still resonate in my heart. Their voices are long silenced by death, 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” (Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Solomon drew several analogies in today’s Scripture reading, and each began with “a time” (3:2-8). That expression reminds us that time irreversibly passes (Ecclesiastes 3:3-8). So, the king, who assessed life as “vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 2:26), asked his readers: “What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:9).


The Aimlessness of Life Apart from God (Ecclesiastes 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” (Ecclesiastes 3:10). He had seen the troubles, trials, and travails God allows to come upon humanity.

God created everything good and beautiful (Ecclesiastes 3:11; Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31) and set a longing for life and eternity in man’s heart. Yet, man’s sin brought the curse of God’s judgment upon all mankind and creation (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:22).

God placed in man’s heart the desire for eternity and longings He alone can satisfy. (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14) 

Though born under the curse of sin and therefore mortal, humanity yearns for immortality (Ecclesiastes 3:12; Romans 6:23a). We want to enjoy the fruits of our labors, which are a testimony of God’s grace and favor (Ecclesiastes 3:13). However, all that we build apart from God (wealth, fame, legacies, buildings, monuments) are temporal and passing. Only what God ordered and blessed will endure.

Solomon concluded, “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” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).


God’s Sovereign Courtroom (Ecclesiastes 3:15-17)

Having introduced himself as the preacher (Ecclesiastes 1:1), Solomon turned to a courtroom for his metaphor. There, he observed God presiding as judge and declared Him the judge of the wicked and the righteous (Ecclesiastes 3:16).

The New Testament reveals there will be two judgments. The righteous, those who put their faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for their sins, will be judged according to their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ(Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Revelation 20:11-15 gives us a prophetic revelation of the Great White Throne, where the lost who rejected Christ’s sacrifice for their sins will be judged. Solomon understood there would be a day when all men and women would be judged by God (Ecclesiastes 3:17).


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

I have been asked by some who were fond of their pets where their spirit goes after death. Pets make great companions; naturally, 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 and the grave eventually befall man and beast, and “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). The curse of sin is death (Romans 6:23a), and “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” because of sin (Romans 8:22).

What about the soul of man and the spirit of the beast?

Solomon wrote, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 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 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 1:26-27; 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 (Ecclesiastes 3:21). However, when a man dies, his spirit “goeth upward” (Ecclesiastes 3:21) and “shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).


Closing thoughts –

God “made every thing beautiful in his time [season]” and put “the world [lit. eternity] in [our] heart [mind; thoughts] (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Therefore, only God can satisfy the soul.

If you have not, I invite you to turn from your sin and the vanity of life and trust the LORD for salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:13)

Romans 10:99That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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