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Ecclesiastes 3:4  (King James Version)
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<< Ecclesiastes 3:3   Ecclesiastes 3:5 >>


Ecclesiastes 3:1-10

Because God is sovereign over time all the time, He will be overseeing and working to make the most and best of every situation for us. Time is important to us, but with God, it is not an overriding issue. There is time because He is involved and wants the most and best for us.

In listing the merisms (pairs of contrasting words used to express totality or completeness) in verses 2-8, Solomon is not saying everybody has to go through each of the fourteen pairs, though that would do us no harm. They do, however, give us an overview of major events of virtually every life. Once they are listed, verse 9 asks, “What is to be gained by experiencing these events?” The question is rhetorical at this point. Answers are to be gathered from what Solomon teaches within the larger context of the book.

By way of contrast, understanding verse 10 is quite important to our well-being. Solomon assures us that God is deeply involved in these issues and events of life. In fact, he writes that they are God-given, implying that God has assigned them as disciplines for our development as His children. The dominant fact here is not whether God personally put us in them, since we may have gotten ourselves into them through our choices. The important factor is that we are indeed in them, and God is involved in them with us because at the very least He allowed us to fall into them.

We must not allow ourselves to forget that He is our Creator (II Corinthians 5:17); we are not creating ourselves. Thus, we can be encouraged that He has most assuredly not abandoned us (Hebrews 13:5). Are we accepting and patiently rising to meet these challenges, or are we resisting them in despair and frustration?

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



Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Ecclesiastes 3 ties directly to the end of the preceding chapter. In Ecclesiastes 2:24, Solomon's approach in writing the book takes a turn. There, he begins to lead the reader toward the more specific details about the repetition of events that everybody experiences. It does not mean everything he mentions occurs to everybody. He is speaking in general terms: There is a time to be born, and a time to die. There is a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted. There is a time to kill, and a time to heal. All these things occur in most people's lives.

The chapter's overall tone is neutral. However, we can take positive value from what Solomon writes. He describes a series of opposites or contrasts. He is leading us to realize that there is a perplexing aspect to this reality: that most of the events he mentions are out of a person's control.

We have no control over when we are born and little or no control over when we die. We have little or no control over when we have to plant things; we must do it according to the seasons that God has arranged. We are also forced to pick what we have planted unless we want to lose it. All these events have aspects beyond our control.

Solomon wants the godly to understand that much of life is beyond human control. We just have to deal with it. If our lives are to mean something worthwhile, we have to deal with this fact: that completely controlling our lives is an act of futility. We can do very little about it. If we fail to deal with this properly, we will live in frustration.

He wants us to understand that human beings are not the masters of their destiny as many would like to think they are. Everyone wants to control his destiny, but Solomon is saying that is vanity. It is frustrating. We can exercise a bit of control, but far more of the events of life will be well beyond our control.

So, what is the positive aspect of Solomon's teaching for us? It is part of what preceded it—Ecclesiastes 2:24: "I saw this was from the hand of God." He also writes in verse 26, "For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight." In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon is saying that that they are not haphazard, but for the godly, God is involved in these events! He is exercising a measure of providential control in the cycle of these occurrences. In other words, He is in control.

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



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 3:1-22

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 3:1-8

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon lists a series of activities, showing that there are times when one should be done and another not done. However, is there ever a time when we should not be holy? Can we at times throw "caution to the wind" and behave any way we desire? Are we allowed to "let our hair down" for short periods in terms of our conduct and witness? Is it allowable to forget for a time our duties to God and man or our goal of being in the Kingdom of God? Can we occasionally take a vacation from our labors to become holy and evermore in Christ's image?

These questions touch all of us regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, position, or years in the church. Holiness must concern us whether we are rich or poor, learned or uneducated, young or old. There is not only no time when one should be unconcerned about holiness, but there is no person, no matter who he or she is, who should be unconcerned about it.

David, in Psalm 10:4, observes a difference between the righteous and wicked: "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts." We live in a busy and alluring world. Admittedly, there are numerous distractions, each with its attendant pressures, assaulting us from every angle. We must make choices to control the use of our time, and we must never allow God and holiness to slip from the overall highest priority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 
<< Ecclesiastes 3:3   Ecclesiastes 3:5 >>



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