The book of Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s spiritual autobiography. As an old man, Solomon looked back at all he had achieved, all he had acquired, and all he had accomplished, and he said, “Without God, life is vanity, meaningless!” (see Ecclesiastes 1:12-17). Solomon had tried to find meaning in wisdom, pleasure, entertainment, romance, work — and when he added up what he had gained from all that, the sum was zero. All his efforts to find meaning in life apart from God came to nothing. Finally, Solomon reached this conclusion: the only kind of life worth living is a life lived for God’s glory and by God’s guidelines.
Chapter 3 begins with the most familiar passage in Ecclesiastes. Solomon had learned that God is in control of the season of our lives (v.1). Verses 2-8 list 14 pairs of opposites that drive home the point of God’s sovereignty in every season:
There is a time to be born, and a time to die (v.2). Things like abortion, euthanasia, and cloning make it look as though man is in control of these seasons, but the Bible says birth and death are divine appointments, for God is in control. There is a time for weeping and mourning, but there is also a time to laugh and dance (v.4). There is a time to tear, and a time to sew (v.7). In Bible times, a person might tear their clothing to express their grief. There is a time when grieving is appropriate and necessary. But God heals and gives us hope, and then He brings about a time to get out the needle and thread and start sewing up the rags of grief. There is a time to be quiet, and a time to speak up (v.7). God help us to learn the difference.
No one can find out what God has done from beginning to end (v.11). God does everything just right and on time, but sometimes we just don’t understand. Sometimes we can look back and in hindsight we understand God’s purpose and plan, but at the time we’re just perplexed. Life is not a series of random events that have no order or purpose. God has a plan, and in His plan He wastes nothing. All that happens — even the bitter things, the hard things, and the hurtful things — are part of God’s plan for your good and His glory.
Therefore, we should accept life as a gift from God (v.13). Verse 11 says, “God has put eternity into man’s heart”; verses 12-13 say, “Be joyful…everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure.” In other words, enjoy today, but plan for eternity. One day your life on earth will be over (v.20), and you will spend eternity somewhere (up in heaven or down in hell, v.21).
Once your spirit leaves your body, there will be a time of accounting. For some it will bring rejoicing; for others it will bring regretting. For some it will bring rewards; for others it will bring remorse. One of these days you’re going to answer to God for what you did with the time He gave you. The clock is ticking! Life is terminal and judgment is unavoidable. Let’s make today count!