The Secret of Life
April 23, 2012, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

Ecclesiastes 3 Notes

In Ecclesiastes 3, we are immediately confronted with the reality of opposites experiences in life.  We read that God has appointed an appropriate time for all of the events in our lives.  But there is also a wrong time of doing things.   Have you ever laughed at the wrong time? I have. Solomon, as guided by the Holy Spirit, tells us there is an appropriate time for everything, whether it is unpleasant or pleasant. Have you ever heard, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” In a sense, that is what Solomon is doing.  He is talking about our relationship with God and he is telling us that God’s plan for our lives include both good and bad experiences, which all work together for His purpose of making us Christ-like.  God’s message in Ecclesiastes is not that life stinks, but that life, lived the way God intends, will produce joy and Christ-likeness.

Taking a careful look at the first 8 verses, you will discover they describe 14 opposite events which can be divided into 3 major divisions, which correspond to our body, soul, and spirit.  This shows that God is concerned with all aspects of mankind.  The first four pairs deal with the body.

This list is not what we wanted to happen, it is a list of what God wants to happen.  Birth and death are the boundaries of life, “under the sun.  The next pair deal with how God supplies food.  There is a time that planting crops would  not result in crops being harvested.  A part of our struggle is that we are constantly trying to run ahead of God’s schedule although God has already planned the schedule of your life. The next set of opposites,  “a time to kill, and a time to heal” speak of the process that our bodies go through.  Doctors tell us that every 7 years all the cells in our bodies die and are replaced by new cells.  Each cell passes on memory and our bodies continue to function although we’ve changed.  Finally, there is “a time to break down, and a time to build up.” In our youth, we grow or build up.  In our senior years, we fall apart.  We fight aging, but we still grow older and older until we die.  It is a gift from God.

Then Solomon the Seeker, moves to the “soul”.  It is with the soul that we think, feel, and make choices.  Our social life and relationships flow from our soul.  Solomon tells us there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing ”.  We will never escape the hurts and sorrows of life, even Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  In our fallen world, there will be times of hurt, of crying, of disappointments and loss.  There is a time that life isn’t fair.  But there are also times of laughter and joy.  There are times of celebration and parties.  Finally, there are times when things break down and need to be built up again.  There are times to be supportive and embrace others, but there are also times not to embrace and support because that would be considered agreeing to something evil or wrong.

The final 6 opposites deal with the spirit.  The spirit is where we make inner decisions and real commitments.  “A time to get (seek) , and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”  There are times when we need to start and a time to end things.  We will change friends or jobs.  That sometimes happens and we lose what we had in the past.  It is right that these times happen because they are appointed by God.  There are times we need to keep things, values and standards, politeness, gratitude and there are times we need to throw stuff away- clean sweep.  Included in things to get rid of are habits, attitudes, resentments, grudges, and long-held hurts.  We need to forgive and forget, or get rid of  and sweep away our attachment.  There are also times to keep our opinions, knowledge, and rumors to ourselves but there are also times that we need to speak truth to deliver someone.  There are times we need to hate, times when we experience or see injustice.  We also need to demonstrate love at times. We need to affirm others.  As the church we are to edify or build up our family in Christ.  Far too often we tear them down.   Finally there is a time to fight and there are times not to fight.  We need to fight about major issues and leave the small stuff alone.

All of this is the plan that God has for our lives.  Our problem is that we don’t want all of this in our lives.  We fall apart or away from God when bad things happen because we follow Christ, so nothing ever bad should happen to us.  Think about someone who has been given everything and protected from bad.  Does that make them a better person?  Often it doesn’t.  So in God’s plan for our lives, He will allow these things to teach us.  It is all apart of His plan for our betterment.

The next verse (v9) asks the question, “what is left over from going through the experiences of opposites?”  Keep in mind that we often miss the big picture.  Sometimes we focus on the bad and don’t understand what God has been doing.  We find the purpose by careful examination and reviewing.  We often miss the forest for the trees.  Solomon tells us that 3 positives come from the times of life.  First, everything is appropriate and helpful; the negatives as well as the positives are God’s blessings.  Think about what we learn from our “enemies”.  They expose our self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and arrogance like no one else.  They hurt us personally, and God commands us to love them personally.  This command takes our spiritual temperature.  At what point do we ignore and reject God’s command and live our way?  This may illustrate the difference between playing church and being the church.  We are to love our enemies because they are valuable to us.  They deepen the roots of our commitment to Christ.

The second thing the Searcher learned in his search is that we all have been created with an inner search for something more than this life.  We have a longing for the face of God.  C.S. Lewis said, “Our Heavenly Father has provided many delightful inns for us along our journey, but he takes great care to see that we do not mistake any of them for home.”

The third thing which the Seeker learned is that the more we know the more we know that we don’t know.    We know more than we use to, but now realize how much we don’t know.  We don’t have all the answers to life’s problems therefore Scripture tells us to trust God.  We need to be like a little child, trusting his parents to handle life’s problems and resting in peace, in their arms.

In Verses 12-15 we learn the purpose of God in this remarkable plan. Three things are found here. First, enjoy living life.  Second, find joy in your labor (activity).  True enjoyment is the gift of God.  We think that the secret to enjoying life is found in something.  But the true secret is that having a living, growing, personal relationship with the sovereign Lord God produces true joy.  God wants us to have it.  God isn’t a Great Cosmic Killjoy.  He wants us to enjoy the life He has given us.  Third, God is in charge and He will not change His plan for anyone.  We then should “fear before Him”.   This fear involves a recognition that God is ultimately in charge of everyone and deserves our respect and honor.  We humble submit to Him and seek His presence.  The secret of a life that means something is a life lived in the presence of God Himself.  Our struggles come when we want to be in charge of what happens to us.  God won’t play along, and we become depressed and disgruntled and live “under the sun”.  Life then stinks.  The secret of living in the presence of God is taught through many repetitions.  (Eccl. 3:15)  “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.”  The last part of that verse means, “God brings back what already has passed away”.  We don’t learn the lessons of life, so God repeats them for us.  We will finally learn what it is to be like Christ, who put His trust in His heavenly Father.

Verse 16 of Chapter 3 begins a section which runs through Chapter 5, in which a series of objections to this thesis are examined by the Searcher. Let’s look at those in chapter 3.

First, if God is in charge and wants us to live an enjoyable life, what is life not fair?  Go to a courtroom and see injustice.  How many people have used loopholes and legal maneuvers to circumvent justice?  “Do we accept that as the hand of God?”

Solomon tells us that God wants us to know three things about injustice.  First, though there is injustice, that is not the end of the story.  God may correct it “in time.  Second, injustice gives us the insight that man has a beast-like quality that causes us to act with viciousness.  Third, God alone understands what happens next, beyond the grave.

Study Questions on Ecclesiastes 3:1-11a

  1. Read through Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Use your own words to describe what Solomon is saying through this poetical section. It might be more than one thing.
  1. Go through each pair of terms and share whether you have seen it before. If so, where?
  1. Use four words to describe your own circumstances in this past year.
    Finish the phrase “A time to …….”
  1. List 5 trivial things you did this week. Does God want them to be part of your life? Why or why not? (For example, eating a banana.)
  1. What parts of life are God concerned with? Do some parts please Him while others don’t? Is He more impressed with a person making $1,000,000 under thirty than a mother washing some dishes? What is God pleased with?

Study Questions on Ecclesiastes 3:11b-15

  1. What might he mean in verse 11, “He has also set eternity in their heart?”
  1. What other New Testament scriptures address this inner awareness of something greater than our own earthly affairs? (Check out Romans 1).
  1. How does the first set of verses in 1-9 contrast with this thought “eternity in their heart?”
  1. After looking at all that man involves himself in, daily living and exploration of the greater world and what is beyond, what is Solomon’s recommendation (12)?
  1. God looks at time (3:14-15) much differently from man (3:1-9). What is the difference between the way God and man looks at time?

Bible Study Questions on Ecclesiastes 3:16-17

  1. What is the author’s surprising discovering in verse 16? Have you seen this? Where?
  1. How does God respond to such things (17)?
  1. Why does God allow the wicked to live?

Bible Study Questions on Ecclesiastes 3:18-22

  1. In what ways is man like animals (19-22)?
  1. In what way is he different?
  1. What kind of test does God bring upon man (see 18)?
  1. How did you do in the past week? Are there times when you acted as if God was not there and you responded merely by your passions and lusts? You did not think but just acted?
  1. How is man to act differently?

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