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Ecclesiastes 3:12  (King James Version)
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<< Ecclesiastes 3:11   Ecclesiastes 3:13 >>


Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

Chapter 3 seemingly deviates from the theme of the previous chapters, but the deviation is purposeful. He is planting a seed for further, wider, and greater understanding, a true foundation to build on. He shows that God, though unseen, is actively guiding and deeply involved in working in His creation, effectively moving both time and events to fulfill His purposes for individuals and nations. God has already given us a priceless gift: He has put eternity into our hearts to remind us that His work involves us in an eternal, spiritual—not a material—purpose. Our lives have direction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Seven): Contentment



Ecclesiastes 3:10-14

Some commentators describe Ecclesiastes 3:12 as negative because they understand the phrase, “there is nothing better,” as implying something “second-best.” They almost seem insulted that God has “tossed them a crumb.” But look again at what God has counseled that we should do! In verse 12, He advises us to rejoice and do good in our lives, and in verse 13, to eat, drink, and enjoy the good of our labor because these things—the food, the drink, and the ability to labor—are gifts of God.

If we reword these verses into the first-person voice, it reads, “There is nothing better than that I should be joyful and do good as long as I live, and to eat and drink and take pleasure in all my work—this is God's gift to me.” How much good can be accomplished in a life lived with the attitude that He counsels us to live with? What does God more specifically mean by “do good”? What He means should be taken in a moral and ethical sense. To do good is to do good works, and that is our assignment all the time! God is most certainly not tossing us a crumb.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that doing good is the very reason for our calling! “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Regardless of a trial God may have specifically assigned us, doing good works is always our assignment, whether within that specific trial or free from whatever particular discipline the trial might normally impose.

Thus, in Ecclesiastes 3:10-14, God is telling us to take joy in His employment of us before the world in doing good at home for those we live with, doing good work on the job, doing good in serving the brethren, and doing good within our community as we have occasion, using our spiritual gifts to the best of our abilities.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Four): Other Gifts



Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

God keeps the "natural" cycles recurring (in the weather, for instance, as well as other cyclical events mentioned in chapter 1). There is security in knowing that a steady Hand rests on the helm—one that can be absolutely relied upon. It is likely that Paul derived the major part of the principle in Romans 8:28—that all things work together for good—in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Life, then, is not out of control. Do we believe this? We have a desire to know the future but cannot know it—not completely. God has not given anyone that much insight into what is happening. Thus, Solomon's conclusion is that we should make the most we can of our life right now. (He is not talking about being imbalanced or hedonistic. He means doing things properly, successfully, with dedication.) We can give it our all knowing that there is a steady Hand at the helm and things are not out of control. Our part in this is to trust God. Are we willing to do that?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)



Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

Chapter 3 is among the better-known chapters in the entire Bible, and it is likely the best-known chapter of Ecclesiastes. It holds these distinctions partly because of the poem that begins it. Its subject is of great consequence to us.

A major lesson for us in this chapter is that we live our lives within time, and therefore, we make our choices in life within time. However, to make the best of life, we must recognize that God is sovereign over time—all the time. His rulership, His dominance, His sovereignty, over time is never relaxed. He oversees what happens within time all the time. His relationship with His children is very personal, making His calling personal and individual.

As Creator, He has goals that He set before the foundation of the world. They will be accomplished within an already set time. His goals also include what He desires to accomplish in and through us. A reality we must face is that time is always moving; time is running out for all of us. This fact is not intended to make us feel a sense of desperation, for God is so perfect and dominant over His creation and labors that He always has enough time. We, though, do not—a fact that God always takes into consideration. We can deal with this truth in our relationship with Him. This is where the issue of contentment can be quite helpful.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time



Ecclesiastes 3:10-15

Among the mysteries that everybody must face is “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Another version of those questions is “Why was I born?” A partial but probably unsatisfying answer is that, unless God calls and reveals Himself to a person, he will never find the clear, detailed answer. Thus, Solomon states in verse 11, “No one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” So that the called, those to whom God has revealed Himself, are thoroughly convinced of the great gift God has given them, a fuller version of this declaration appears in Ecclesiastes 8:17:

Then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.

God undoubtedly planned much of this blindness. This does not mean that people will never hear the answer to “Why was I born?” in their lifetimes. But unless God is directly involved in calling them for His purposes, their hearing the simple and plain truth of it will not have the life-changing impact needed to change the direction of their lives. A person must be gifted by His calling (Matthew 13:10-17).

God has given everyone a spirit and a sense of eternity, enabling people to think both backward and forward in time. Men innately know that there is more to life than what they experience physically. However, they do not grasp the precise connection between their awareness of eternity and their present physical lives. They do, however, vaguely grasp that somehow the immortality they envision has some connection with what they are experiencing in the present. However, this is greatly botched, and misunderstanding is universal. The most common assumption is that we already possess it. But, if linked with revealed truth as God intended, it greatly aids people in thinking about the past concerning God's creative powers, His purpose, His sovereignty over all things, and how the individual fits into the present and future.

God has given gifts to all humanity, but only those called by Him are given more detailed and true explanations that will build their faith, enabling them to live by it. Unless God gives the details, we are all much like terribly near-sighted people who more or less feel their way along. Until they are called, the grand design that God is working out escapes their fuller comprehension, making the answer about who we are elusive.

The instruction in Ecclesiastes 3:10-15 encourages us to be content and patient. It is a reflection on and a reminder of the importance of what He already said about gifts in Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. We should be thankful and rejoice in what we already have because what we have is wonderful. Without directly stating a clear “why,” Solomon gently implies that God will add understanding as we are able to make good use of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Four): Other Gifts



Ecclesiastes 3:12-14

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” But is the timing right or wrong, bad or good, suitable or unsuitable, ugly or beautiful?

It depends on who chooses the timing. Paul writes in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” God set the time for this to occur. It was not happenstance; the timing was fitting. Mark 1:15 shows the same principle: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus means that the time God set to preach the gospel had been reached. Matthew 26:18, 27-29 contain similar thoughts: The timing of His crucifixion and even the timing of when Jesus will drink wine again was set. Mark 8:31 reveals that God set the length of time Jesus spent in the grave too.

Acts 1:6-7 adds an important fact:

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

God has sovereignly set the times, including appointing the times for our trials too. Are not times set by men for school tests? The proctor says, “You have 40 minutes, then the test is over.”

Understanding this principle helps us to grasp Solomon's conclusions in Ecclesiastes 3:12-14. Some translations contend that the last phrase is best read as “that men should stand in awe before Him.” When will that take place? It will not truly occur until after the resurrection. Of what will we stand in awe? We will truly admire many things about His glory, but after going through these experiences with Him so closely involved in our lives, what will really strike us with mind-numbing awe is what He has been able to create of us.

God's timing is always good, right, and appropriate. It is up to us to use our faith in Him to remain in a good attitude, using the time that He has set for us to grow, overcome, and meet the responsibilities our trials impose. We deal with nothing as continuously as time. Every day, from the moment we wake up until we go back to sleep, we are watching time, setting times, meeting schedules, calculating how much time we have, etc. This highlights that everything matters because we have only so much time.

While our time is limited, we can live in faith and hope because of the overall message of this magnificent chapter: God is in control of time all the time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Ecclesiastes 3:12:

Ecclesiastes 3:10-15
Ecclesiastes 3:10-14
Ecclesiastes 3:12-14

 

<< Ecclesiastes 3:11   Ecclesiastes 3:13 >>



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