Advice and Instruction

Eccl. 4:1-3.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

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Solomon turned back to his earlier observations: The tears of the oppressed; the power of the oppressors; neither had a comforter; it is better to be dead; better yet to never have been born.

Clearly, he is still looking at everything “under the sun,” or through the eyes of man and not the eyes of God. Because his vision was through human eyes, he came to rather dismal conclusions:

Because of the oppression and travail of the oppressed, and because there was no comfort for the oppressed or the oppressor, Solomon concluded that the dead are better off than the living, and that not to have been born would be even better than being dead.

At the end of Chapter 3, he actually seemed to be finding his way; but Chapter 4 took him right back down to the dismals. But don’t lose hope; he does get it right, and in this chapter you will see that his thinking is finally coming to a better perspective.

Man and Beast

Eccl. 3: 18-19.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

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Men (humankind) and animals are the same in one respect. They all die, and their bodies return to dust. It is also true that man can become bestial in lusts and conduct, sharing a lack of spiritual understanding with animals.

Man, under the curse, has no preeminence over the beasts as far as physical death is concerned, because he is under the penalty for sin; this is eternal death, which naturally brings physical death. Man is appointed once to die and after this the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Animals are not under the death penalty for sin; still, they die and always will, for they were made subject to death like the flowers, trees, and vegetation. Until God removes the penalty of sin and death, man and all other life will continue to die. The removal of the curse will happen only after God creates a new heaven and a new earth, and sin will no longer have power over us because Satan will be banned forever in the Lake of Fire, and will have no more access to the hearts and minds of mankind.

Even during the Millennial Reign of Jesus, when Satan is bound for 1000 years, there will be sin and death. That is because not all who enter the Millennium will be born again believers, and there is the possibility of crime that can lead to instant penalty, including execution. Also, children will be born during the Millennium, and they still carry the blot of the sin nature passed on from Adam and Eve. Their parents will do well to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ very early in their lives, just as Christian parents should do now.

Man’s Wickedness and Judgment

Eccl. 3:16-17.

16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

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Solomon saw injustices in the place of judgment and had to acknowledge that sin was there. He concluded that it would take God, the righteous judge, to give absolute justice (Matt. 16:27).

This judgment of both the righteous and the wicked is most fair and just. Why would the righteous not be judged? How could God give them reward or loss of reward and if they were never judged for the good and bad things done in life? The popular theory that God will judge the righteous for their good deeds only, for the purpose of giving them reward, is false. Everybody, saints and sinners, are to be judged for the bad deeds committed in the body during a lifetime, as well as for the good things (Matt. 10:40-42; 16:27; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:9-10).

A verse that has long spoken to me is Matthew 12:36. ”  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. ” So what is an idle word? Idle comes from the Greek argos, and it means a. free from labor, at leisure (ἀργὸν εἶναι,  Matthew 20:361 Timothy 5:13.
b. lazy, shunning the labor which one ought to perform.
(Blue Letter Bible)

When do we get into the most trouble with what we say? When we are idle, lazy, not occupied with that which we ought to be doing. It also carries the meaning of emptiness, which is certainly applicable to our study in Ecclesiastes.

God’s Work is Forever

Eccl. 3:14-15.

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.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

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if you are living in fear that the world will be destroyed by climate change in 12 years, please don’t. The world as we know it will be destroyed only when God says so. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be good stewards of what God has given us. It is a shame to pollute our water, and to deplete our soil with chemical insecticides. It is a shame to pollute the air we breathe. But, while we do need to take steps to improve, the earth is not going to be destroyed in the way the environmentalists fear.

What God does endures, (lasts, continues), forever. Nothing we add or subtract can change that reality. I use this verse often as a reassurance to people who fear they will lose their salvation. If you are a true believer, hold on to the fact that God did that for you. Salvation is of the Lord. No one can take it from you. John 10: 27-30 is another reassurance about eternal security for the believer. We are kept in His hand, and nothing, no man, can remove us from His hand.

I was curious about the last clause in verse 15, so I did a little searching. The word requires carries the sense of desires, seeks for, yearns for. When I went to the commentaries on my favorite online Bible study tool, Blue Letter Bible, I found this explanation from an old and reliable commentator, Matthew Henry:

” that is, God repeats what He has formerly done and deals with us no otherwise than as He has used to deal with good men.”

As Solomon says so often, there is nothing new under the sun, including the manner in which God deals with His creation and His people.

Blessings and Opportunities

Eccl. 3:12-13.

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.

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“I know there is that there is no good thing in them”——-the them refers to the good works of God in v. 11. Instead of worrying, complaining, wishing for more and better, we need to be content, satisfied, to enjoy what God has given us. We need to learn to do good ourselves.

And yes, we should eat and drink (within moral limits!) and enjoy the life that God has provided. Every moment is a gift of God.

Have you ever considered how dissatisfied the Israelites grew with God’s provision of manna for their food? It is described as being delicious, and at first the people were delighted. But then they grew bored with it, and asked for meat. Also, God put a limit on how much they could gather each day, so that they would not become selfish and begin to hoard the manna.

It does seem at times that no matter how God provides for us, we always want more, different, better.

We need to learn to be satisfied.

Man’s Labor and Ignorance

Eccl. 3: 10-11.

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in His time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

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Solomon recognized that God has provided work (travail) with which we are to be exercised (be occupied, busy with). Sometimes that work will seem to afflict, oppress, humble us; sometimes it seems we labor in vain.

But the next verse is such an encouragement to me. God has certainly made all things beautiful, and in the beginning, before sin poisoned everything, I believe the beauty of the earth then is incomprehensible to us now.

But what does it mean that He has “set the world in their heart”? There is so much meaning here, but parsing it down to the simplest ideas, I believe it means that God has put a desire in our hearts from eternity past to know and understand all that He has given us; and that no one can completely understand, from beginning to end, what God has established. But we have a need, a desire, a craving to know Him; to know His creation, and to understand all that we can. And I also believe that what we love now, by way of our occupations, hobbies, talents and gifts, we will pursue with endless joy in all of eternity future. No limits. No sin, no bad backs, no illness, no death. Just the fullness of the knowledge of God and His amazing creation.

And I long for heaven.

What Profit?

Eccl. 3:9. “What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” 

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What’s the use? I mean, really, we’re born, we work, we die. So what? And especially for the man (or woman) who has to work for every scrap of food, every bit of clothing, a roof over his head, even a place to sleep; where is the joy? What is the point?

There have been days, even months, when I have diligently done the work set before me, only to get up the next day and do it all over again, and wondered why in the world it was worth continuing.

I wish someone would make a law against house dust. Dirty dishes. Cooking grease spatters. Yucky bathrooms. Muddy boot prints. Carpets that harbor unknown life forms. The necessity of eating, which requires shopping, cooking, and clearing up. Dirty diapers, spills, crumbs and questionable things under beds, stoves, refrigerators. Lost buttons, broken zippers, torn hems. My mom actually enjoyed cleaning house. Not me. It just has to be done again about five minutes after you finish.

Doesn’t it just seem futile?

Well, there are answers. We’re not there yet, so be patient. And maybe do some thinking about your own attitude toward some of the things that you find wearisome.