Summary: Ecclesiastes 3


Two weeks ago, eight days after my wife’s passing away, I went by myself to Repulse Bay to recapture or reshoot the same picture of my wife sitting on a railing. It did not work out as the background is not the same; neither is the railing, the tree, the building, the V fingers raised and time of day.

Ecc 1 Ecc 2 Ecc 3

The Profit The Pride The Purpose

Biological Man

Historical Man

Philosophical Man His Greatness

His Giftedness

His Goodness

What Was Done What Man Did What God Will Do

What is your purpose in life? What path do you plan to take? What progress have you made? What priorities are foremost to you?

Determine Your Purpose

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. 9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.

William Arthur Ward says, “The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of life is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give. The joy of life is to love.”

The first verse determines the message of chapter three. The Hebrew rendition is “To all (there is) a season and a time to all purpose under heaven.” To all does not limit the scope and subject to all things. It could be people or events. Season (v 1) or “zeman” is different from time (eth). Season (zeman) is still used in many countries such as Indonesia, Turkey and the Middle East. It refers to a past era, an age in history, or a certain period of time. Time, however, is not necessarily present time, but “seasons” (Ex 18:22) or “due season” (Deut 11:14). The contrast could be past and present, former versus future, older and ongoing.

The noun “purpose” is translated outside of Ecclesiastes as delight

(1 Sam 15:22), desire (1 Sam 18:25) and pleasure (Job 21:21). There is order, objective, and outlook to all things. Hence it is a good thing. Not only is it purposeful, but positive and pleasing. The translation of “purpose” is only in this book and not the other 32 instances outside the book. In the book it is translated as purpose (Eccl 3:1), pleasure (Eccl 5:4) and acceptable (Eccl 12:10). It is antithesis and contrast to chance, coincidence and chaos. It’s been said, “Everything happens for a purpose.” Time is the occasion, but purpose is the opportunity.

Reason Purpos

Past Future

Cause Course

Means Meaning

What Why

Facts Faith

There is a difference between reason and purpose. Reason refers to the past, whereas points to the future. The reason is the cause, the purpose is the course. One is the means and the other is the meaning. One is the “what” and the other is the “why.” The former are from facts, the latter is by faith. For example, what causes breast cancer? That’s the purpose.

What does purpose mean? What does purpose mean? It helps to think of the three Gs: His glory, His goodness and His grace. For His glory, from His goodness and by His grace.

2 a time to be born and a time to die, Reproduction vs Rest

a time to plant and a time to uproot, Ready vs Reaping

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, Ruin vs Reconcile

a time to tear down and a time to build, Rage vs Raise

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, Regret vs Rejoice

a time to mourn and a time to dance, Respect vs Revelry

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, Remove vs Recover

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, Respond vs Refrain

6 a time to search and a time to give up, Rescue vs Resign

a time to keep and a time to throw away, Reuse vs Release

7 a time to tear (rend) and a time to mend, Rend vs Rebuild

a time to be silent and a time to speak, Reticent vs Report

8 a time to love and a time to hate, Receive vs Reject

a time for war and a time for peace. Ravage vs Resolve

What is most interesting is what purpose is not counted for purpose: wealth, intelligence, religion. Religious, rich and refined people are not exempted, excluded or excused.

The verb “laid” (v 10) can be translated negatively as afflict (Gen 15:13), dealt hardly (Gen 16:6), submit (Gen 16:9), defile (Gen 34:2) and positively as humble (Ex 10:3), force (2 Sam 13:12), weakened (Ps 102:23), hurt (Ps 105:18) and abase (Isa 31:4), ravish (Lam 5:11). We are restricted, restrained and reserved. No one is exempt.

Direct Your Praise

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. 15 Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.

The word “beautiful” (v 11) is not concise or complete. It is commonly used for the fair ladies such as Sarah (Gen 12:11), Rachel (Gen 29:17) and Joseph (Gen 39:6) in the Bible, also translated as fair (Gen 12:11), well (Gen 29:17) and pleasant (Ezek 33:32), as in pleasing. The problem with this is that it is suited for appearance only.

Eccl 3:11 11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. (NASB, Holman)

Eccl 3:11 He has made everything suitable for its time (NRSV)

Eccl 3:11 He has set the right time for everything (Good News Translation)

Eccl 3:11 He does everything just right and on time (New Century Version).

God had put eternity or perpetuity in the hearts of men except or without the beginning to end. The paradox with man is that he has eternity in his heart but not “find” the process. There is a path but the process in unknown. This path is to travel by faith. There are two “I know” in verses 12 and 14. The twofold reason (ki) is for us to rejoice and do good (v 12).

On Monday I cried when I prepared this message thinking of my dear departed wife. My wife did not know her sudden departure, so she went to the air-conditioned club house with her sister and slept there half day, then came home before dinner. At night I massaged her leg till she said she was ready for bed, took a shower sitting down, and there had a stroke.

A brother asked me if I played the scene in my mind again, I replied no. Then I replayed the scene. Before the massage she asked if she should be admitted to the hospital, her sister said there might not be doctors around on Sunday, which shocked her. Later I checked with her if she wants to be hospitalized that night, she answered “no.” When I massaged her legs, I told her that her legs were cold, she was taken aback, but her sister, not wanting to scare her, quickly changed the subject and said, “The air-conditioning unit is on.” That night her sister asked her for the first time, “Do you want me to stay overnight,” and she replied “yes” for the first time. If we did not say yes to the shower, did it mean she could die peacefully in her sleep, which was what she wanted? Another sister said, That might be worse; nobody would know till morning.

God shows man the destiny but not the details, the duration, the date or development.

Chapter one tells of what was done and all that was done, chapter two Solomon based what he has done, chapter three tells what God has done.

So far “I seen” five times (Eccl 1:14, 2:3, 2:13, 2:24, 3:10), the most “I” statements.

Two “I Know”:

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. (KJV)

Man’s responsibility is twofold: To rejoice and to do (v 12) good are two infinitives of purpose. To put and to take (v 14) are two parallel infinitives of purpose. The result is to fear before Him or His face, in contrast to just do good before Him, in His sight or before His face in last verse of chapter two (2:26). The clauses “fear God” (5:7, 8:12, 12:13) and “fear before Him” (3:14, 8:12) occurs more times in Ecclesiastes than any book in the Bible.

Do Your Part

16 And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice— wickedness was there. 17 I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.” 18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” 22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

Alexander MacLaren, in a sermon entitled “Faith Tested and Crowned,” distinguished between being tempted and being tested or tried. He said that, “the former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says, 'Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.' Trial or proving says, 'Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.' The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a peeling trumpet-call to high achievements.”

If a barber makes a mistake, it's a new style.

If a driver makes a mistake, it's a new path.

If an engineer makes a mistake, it's a new venture.

If parents makes a mistake, it's a new generation.

If a politician makes a mistake, it's a new law.

If a scientist makes a mistake, it's a new invention.

If a tailor makes a mistake, it's a new fashion.

If a teacher makes a mistake, it's a new theory.

If our boss makes a mistake, it's a new idea.

If an employee makes a mistake, it's a mistake only.

The verb “test” (v 18) is purpose of God. “Test” is also translated as pure (2 Sam 22:27), choice (1 Chron 7:40), chosen (1 Chron 9:22), clearly (Job 33:3), manifest (Eccl 3:18), polish (Isa 49:2), clean (Isa 52:11), cleanse (Jer 4:11), purge out (Ezek 20:38) and purified (Dan 12:10). The word “barar” comes from the noun “Barak” meaning “to shine.” It is meant to be positive, not negative.

There are two reasons (ki) in verse 19, one stated in the negative and one in the positive. Not like animals (v 18), but are beasts. They all have breath. Without breath, they all die, no advantage over another. The word advantage is translated as profit (Prov 14:23), plenteousness (Prov 21:5) and preeminence (Eccl 3:19). One is contrasted with advantage or plenty. Our bodies, build and behavior are not the same, but we all have one break, one birth and one breath.

Past Present “All” vv 1-13 Present Permanent “All” vv 17-20

Eccl 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose

Eccl 3:11 every thing beautiful in his time

Eccl 3:13 every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour,

Eccl 3:17 for every purpose and for every work.

Eccl 3:19 they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

Eccl 3:20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

God’s direct and determined role is three things: (1) God requireth that which is past (v 15) - past, (2) God shall judge the righteous and the wicked (v 17) - people, and (3) God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts (v 18)

Verses 12 and 22 rejoice is preceded by the phrase “no good/no better.” It is best, excellent, not perfect.

Lot/portion (v 22) is not profit. It is your part. Allotment, translated as inheritance (Ps 16:5), partaker (Ps 50:18) or flattery (Job 17:5). Enjoy is serious work. The thrre good is to do good (v 12), see/enjoy good (v 13), and celebrate good (22).

Conclusion: Life is not measured by our age, assets or abilities, but by our attitude, our aim, our aspiration for God, our acknowledgment of Him, and our availability to Him.