Ecclesiastes 3-4: Time, the eternal and the finite.

November 5, 2015.

Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 3-4.

Background: Ecclesiastes 1-2.

Concepts and Connections.

Chapter 3

1. A time for everything: The first eight verses of this chapter comprise what is perhaps one of the most well known passages in the book. In beautiful poetry, the preacher makes the point that there is a time for everything under heaven. It should be noted here that not all of the things listed here are seen in a positive light by us, such as death, killing, weeping, losing, war, ect. This indicates that these things are amoral, neither inherently right or wrong, but rather have a time when they are right and a time when they are wrong. This is not to say that morality is relative, but rather to say that the morality of these things should be judged by the standard above, and in that standard there is a time and a place for each of these. Murder would be wrong, but there is a time to kill, such as in a just war or for the protection of your family (though there are debates over situational ethics such as these). Later he says that God has made everything beautiful in its time. Let us keep in mind that there is a time and a place for everything, and judge wisely when we handle different situations.

2. Eternal and finite: After discussing everything having its time, the preacher moves into deeper thoughts about time, thoughts about the eternal and the finite. He speaks first of the God given task, the business of toil. God has set eternity in our hearts, that though we seek to learn about what God has done, we will never find it all out. It seems that this verse indicates that there is a desire set in the heart of man that can only be satisfied by the eternal. We long for something that nothing on this earth will adequately satisfy, which is shown in the previous chapter. But we are given good wisdom here, that we should eat, drink and enjoy our toil, for this is God’s gift to us. We should enjoy what we do here on earth, not only ever looking towards the end. Often, the most satisfaction comes from our labor as opposed to the reward we receive for it.

The preacher then goes on to discuss the eternal, noting that anything that God does endures forever, whereas man will return to the dust. God is eternal, and that which is under the sun is finite, and there is nothing new. Then end of this chapter seems to be from a man who is in deep desperation as he contemplates life, for he sees that all men die just like animals. He says that no one here knows what happens after death, for we have not experienced it. We cannot see it. It seems to be in despair that he makes this statement, forgetting to trust in the Lord. This is the ultimate realization one must come to if God is not brought into the picture. There is no point, no meaning to this life if there is not eternal life beyond it.

Chapter 4

Vanity under the sun: Continuing on from the last idea proposed in the previous chapter, the preacher turns to the world, all that is done under the sun, and is distressed at all the evil he sees. He looks out at oppression, envy and meaninglessness. He hears the cry of the oppressed and sees that they have no comforter. In the first few verses of this chapter he concluded that it is better to be dead than alive, and better still to have never been born. Note the hopelessness that is found under the sun. Again, without God, all is meaningless, all is hopeless, all is despair in the end. The preacher points out the vanity of envy and toil, for the eyes of man are never satisfied with riches, and the work to get more is never ending. Despite the hopelessness that is laid out in this chapter, the preacher does offer some wisdom throughout, especially towards the end of the chapter. He points out the wisdom in quietness (a cessation of constant toil to gain what is worthless in the big picture). Then he teaches us the value in numbers, that we work together and help each other out, which is beneficial to all parties involved- two are better than one, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Then he looks at the throne and sees that a poor yet wise youth is better than a old but foolish king who no longer listens to counsel. Ultimately, however, the preacher sees that even the wise will not be remembered, a concept that he will expound upon later. Let us recognize the vanity that is under the sun, and set our hearts on the things above for ultimate satisfaction.

Tomorrow’s Reading: Micah 1-7.

God has made everything beautiful in its time.


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