ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 3.
Of Earthly Care and Happiness.
THE DEPENDENCE OF MAN UPON THE COURSE OF NATURE. — V. 1. To everything, all that men undertake or do on earth, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, under the government and providence of God: v. 2. a time to be born, literally, “to bear,” and a time to die, as the Lord has arranged; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted, these seasons being beyond the control of men; v. 3. a time to kill, by inflicting mortal wounds, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; v. 4. a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, on account of some grief or bereavement, and a time to dance, to leap for joy; v. 5. a time to cast away stones, where they encumber the ground, and a time to gather stones together, as for building purposes; a time to embrace, to show one’s love and affection, and a time to refrain from embracing, for to show affection to excess is surfeiting; v. 6. a time to get, to obtain possession of, and a time to lose, deliberately to dispose of some object for some special reason, or cheerfully to give it up as the will of God indicates; a time to keep, and a time to cast away, without any care for the future; v. 7. a time to rend, as when garments were torn under the influence of great grief, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, not only in the silence of mourning, but on general principles, and a time to speak, for its omission may amount to a denial of the truth; v. 8. a time to love, this being the summary of the Law, and a time to hate; a time of war, when men think it necessary to shed blood in such a manner, and a time of peace. All these activities are carried out by men in the course of their lives, they occupy a certain period of time; not as though the Lord looked upon them all with approbation, but that He knows of them and uses all events for the furtherance of His will. It is not blind chance which rules the world, but “there’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,” and we Christians gladly submit to His guidance. V. 9. What profit hath he that worketh, being engaged in the one or the other of the activities enumerated above, in that wherein he laboreth? There is no lasting happiness and satisfaction to be found on this earth. V. 10. I have seen the travail which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it, the misery which is the lot of all human beings. V. 11. He hath made everything beautiful In his time, for the enjoyment of men during the short period of their lives, in the proper season; also He hath set the world In their heart, so that they might understand it as reflecting the wisdom and goodness of God, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end, this being the restriction which is placed upon man’s knowledge, the inability to gain a correct and adequate insight into the divine plan of the world and the unsearchable essence of God.
THE NATURE OF HUMAN HAPPINESS. — V. 12. I know that there is no good in them, in the works of God given to men, but for a man to rejoice, in a cheerful use of the blessings of the Lord, and to do good In his life, to himself and to others in the proper use of God’s gifts, for this is one essential part of true human happiness. V. 13. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God, and should be acknowledged as such with the proper thanksgiving. V. 14. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever, for His works are established and upheld by His almighty power; nothing can be put to it, by the weak attempts of frail human beings, nor anything taken from it, they cannot interfere with His government; and God doeth it that men should fear before Him, for the contemplation of God’s works brings about a feeling of awe and reverence, together with the knowledge that the omniscience of God is familiar with even those things which men often believe hidden from His eyes. V. 15. That which bath been is now, it was established by God’s creative act; and that which is to I, hath already been, in agreement with God’s plans before the creation of the world; and God requireth that which is past, literally, “God seeketh that which was driven away,” restoring that which seemed changed and crowded out by the cycle of events in the history of the world. V. 16. And, moreover, I saw under the sun the place of judgment, where the judges and rulers of men should dispense justice only, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there, perversion of justice by persons in authority being all too common. V. 17. I said in mine heart, in meditating upon a possible change in the unfortunate conditions obtaining, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, if not on this side of the grave, then in the last great Judgment; for there is a time there, in heaven above, for every purpose and for every work, for God is still supreme Sovereign in the universe. V. 18. I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, fallen mankind in general, that God might manifest them, that is, sift, test, prove them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts, so far as their physical life and its end is concerned, they are on a level with brutes, that being the curse of vanity, the result of sin. V. 19. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one, according to their bodily, physical nature only, dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath, their physical life is of the same kind; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast, so far as his outward, physical life comes into consideration; for all is vanity. V. 20. All go unto one place, to the realm of death; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again, Gen. 3, 19. V. 21. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? How can we expect the ordinary person, without the illumination of the Word, to distinguish between the death of a human being and an animal? For it certainly seems as though there is no difference, death ensuing as soon as the breath stops. V. 22. Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, take pleasure and delight in the labor which falls to his lot in life; for that is his portion, so much is allotted to him in this life; for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him? The lesson for the believers is this, that they do not chase after shadows, thereby losing the reality, but that they enjoy the blessings of God with a carefree heart, leaving the future in the hands of their heavenly Father.