There is no doubt that the Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most poetically ageless of the Bible’s books of wisdom. Beyond the countless verses that are still quoted today, we also have the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” written by Pete Seeger and made popular by the Byrds, quoting from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The book, we see here and again, has much to say about life, death, the joys that work brings to us (as well as its irritations), and reverence for God.
These eight verses contain statements of opposites, all of which are simple mini-proverbs in their own right, but all teaching the same conclusive truth. All that becomes of man while “under the sun” is out of his control. Birth, death, emotions, gain, loss, wealth, poverty, love, hate. We do all that we can do make sure that we get the best possible outcome for our own well-being, but despite all of it, in the end everything depends on God’s will; and it is all out of our hands.
Consider verses 9-11 (which is the source for a beautiful hymn): “what gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” Though God has blessed man immensely, he put a longing for eternity in his heart, and even great wisdom is useless when it comes to matters of life, death, and the hereafter. These are beyond man’s control and even his own real understanding; and that fact frustrates the evil man just as much as it frustrated the incredibly wise Solomon.
Then verses 12-13: “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.” Of all his wisdom, this may be one of the wisest things we get from Solomon. Be joyful and do good all of your life. Eat, drink, and take pleasure in your work. These are God’s gifts to man. Since we cannot really control life “under the sun,” we should make the best of these and all of the other things that we know we must do. Be joyful and take pleasure in them all; and while we do so, do the most important thing – do good to others. For the joy that will give us is from God as well. The righteous will end up dust just like the wicked, and just like the beasts. But doing good for our fellow man, and taking pleasure in our work “under the sun” is God’s gift while we wait for that which we truly long for – eternity.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.