A Study in the Word – Ecclesiastes 3:1-15


The question of singular importance for the Preacher concerns what brings lasting value to one’s life and activities. No one “controls” the times of life; God retains control of that dimension. A person can only make use of the time given to him or her. Where can someone find confidence in anything in life?

God determines the times of life (3:1-8). “Under heaven” is all-encompassing (3:1). Contrasts help us see the control God exercises over events of life (3:2-8). The two extremes of each pair are like mile markers from Point A to Point B that include everything in between. Life is lived between the contrasts, and therein lies the point of his question in verse 9: “What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?” If God retains control of the Alpha and the Omega of every person’s life, then what is worthwhile in human effort in between? The contrasts in verses 2 through 8 are not exhaustive, but certainly provide much food for thought. Reflection on mountaintop experiences must occur if something other than vanity is to mark one’s life, as wonderfully observed in the reflections of Jesus on life.

For the Preacher, life’s value arises from serious deliberation on what God set in place and its purpose (3:10; Genesis 1:31). His creation has consistent accuracy (3:11a). Desire to understand the past and the future should prompt us to value life in light of a boundless eternity (3:11b). Yet, God also shows us to value Him for the unsearchable mysteries of His created and creative design (3:11c).

How does reflecting on the natural and human world produce a worthwhile and valued life? The Preacher discovered a virtuous life comes when we enjoy the life God gives us. Virtue increases as we take opportunities to do good for ourselves and others (3:12). James Oliver correctly noted, “To benefit yourself you must benefit humanity.” Enduring value then comes through enjoying the simple pleasures and labor of everyday life (3:13).

The Preacher’s summary: Lasting value comes when we value the permanent quality of God’s design for us. It will endure “forever,” is complete, and shows its Creator worthy of deep reverence (3:14). God’s “timing” helps us appreciate His design (3:2-8). There is a consistency infused into His design that calls us to have confidence in Him, “for God calls each event back in its turn” (3:15, NLT).

Dr. David Moore is a university online Bible and theology instructor. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com