To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1
3 1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, 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.
“A time for everything” (3:1-8). This brief and beautiful poem has been celebrated and even set to music in our time. On the one hand, it speaks of order and security: God has created a stable universe marked by reliable patterns. But James Barr rightly points out that the Teacher senses “the frustrating effect of time on human life and labor.” The invariable calendar of the seasons and the flow of time imposes its own order on our lives. Time, not man, is the master. Time ridicules our innate sense of importance and shows life to be meaningless.
9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
3:11 Our hearts yearn for something that nothing in this life can satisfy.
Man’s “burden” (3:10-11). The “burden” the lost carry is awareness that something more exists in this world – and the inability to grasp what it is. Human beings were created with a capacity for eternal things and a realization that this life cannot be all there is. Yet, sin has cut us off from eternity and darkened our understanding and will. What a burden to bear: to yearn for eternity and yet not know God.
12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor–it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. 15 That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.
Life’s cycle do not reveal meaning: 3:1-15. Life is organized in a pattern of repeated cycles. Yet observation of the cycles does not lead to an understanding of beginnings or endings. Only a grasp of origins or destiny might reveal life meaning.
“Nothing can be added to it” (3:13-14). This recognition of God has been seen by some as a new factor, making a transition from pessimism to optimism. Not at all, instead it is an expression of Solomon’s continuing frustration. God has already done all that can be done to pattern His universe. Whatever a man may do, he can add nothing lasting to the design of universe, nor take anything from it. Man is ineffectual, and thus whatever he does is meaningless.
The Injustice of Life
16 Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, Wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, Iniquity was there. 17 I said in my heart, “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” 18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” 19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
“Man’s fate” (3:18-19). This is one of those passages we must understand within the framework the Teacher has established. As far as a person can tell by observation, death is the same for man and animals. The body ceases to breathe and move, the form corrupts. The body of a man, like that of an animal, decays. “Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of an animal goes down into the earth?” (v. 21) There is no proof. By consciously choosing to ignore revelation, Solomon has condemned himself to live without hope. Reason cannot prove the human personality is eternal. Without divine revelation, life seem empty and meaningless indeed.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. 21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth? 22 So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
Injustice demonstrates meaninglessness: 3:16-22 The existence of injustice is a demonstrable fact of life. There may be judgment after death. But all that man can observe, a human being dies just like an animal. There is no evidence that the spirit of one rises up to God, and the other dissipates into dust.
** Life’s meaning can be found only through divine revelation. Then we can spend our time and efforts accordingly. Otherwise, we work hard without knowing why.
“Now” is also the time allocated by God even when we see present darkness and tremble, Knowing that it is the season and time intended by God gives us peace. He put eternity in our hearts. So, no need to mourn over passing time. When we acknowledge God as God, we can enjoy all sorts gifts from Him including our time and work without having to worry about them running out. No need to get drunk to forget what’s waiting for us. God put eternity in our hearts.