For the time being it seems my country has lost its collective mind. To help maintain my composure, I am reading an excellent commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes, 31 Days to Happiness: Searching for Heaven on Earth by Dr. David Jeremiah. When I realized 31 Days to Happiness: Searching for Heaven on Earth was about the Book of Ecclesiastes, I chuckled. King Solomon definitely helps provide the right perspective on life under the sun, but the joy in it is subdued. Because Solomon had learned life’s lessons late, his regrets haunted him. Nonetheless, because of what he wrote in Ecclesiastes, I believe Solomon made his peace with God before he died.
Although it is a puzzle to read, Ecclesiastes is my favorite book, but I must admit that at first it fooled me. In fact, men we would expect to know better have read the book and come away with the opposite conclusion that Solomon intended. Google “Ecclesiastes” and “pessimism” and you will find a debate. Is Ecclesiastes a book about philosophical pessimism or how to find happiness?
In Ecclesiastes Solomon tells us of his search for happiness “under the sun.” That phrase “under the sun” is one of the keys to understanding Ecclesiastes. When Solomon searches for happiness “under the sun,” he searches for happiness that is of this world. Eventually, Solomon discovered that without God we can not be happy. Yet discerning the key phrases in Ecclesiastes requires considerable study. Therefore, Ecclesiastes has puzzled many a reader.
How does the confusion begin? That happens when we think we have found what we wanted to find in the Bible. We take a few verses out of context and jump to a conclusion; I know because I have done as much myself. When I first read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, I thought it beautiful — if grim, but I had pulled it out of context, and I entirely missed the point.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Amplified Bible (AMP)
3 To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up 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 together, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 A time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away,
7 A time to rend 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 for war and a time for peace.
J. Veron McGee corrected me in a radio broadcast: Ecclesiastes 3:1–4:9 (When McGee starts this broadcast, he is reading letters from listeners. Enjoy, be patient, or jump ahead.). When Solomon wrote these verses, he was not fatalistic, but he had tried fatalism — he had been fatalistic, but learned there is no joy in fatalism.
Fortunately, I have continued to study Ecclesiastes, fascinated by it, and it has helped lead me to Christ. Hopefully, I now understand these verses correctly.
Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 Amplified Bible (AMP)
14 I know that whatever God does, it endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor anything taken from it. And God does it so that men will [reverently] fear Him [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is].
15 That which is now already has been, and that which is to be already has been; and God seeks that which has passed by [so that history repeats itself].
We can do our best to do what God expects from us, but, ultimately, it is His universe. When we fear our Creator, acknowledge our dependence upon Him, and worship Him; we are wise. As wise we can be? God only knows. :-)