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Ecclesiastes 3:1, 1014; 4:912; 5:17comment (0)

July 25, 2013

By Douglas K. Wilson Jr.

Related Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1, 1014; 4:912; 5:17

Explore the Bible 
Dean, School of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile


Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10–14; 4:9–12; 5:1–7
Do you remember as a kid learning what a round (or a canon) was in music class? Remember the song? For me, it was “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Once we got the idea of layered repetition, we sang it over and over (and over). We had fun. Then we grew up, went to college and heard a philosophy professor ask: “What is reality? Is life just a dream?”

In this lesson, we are going to look at the elusive aspects of life, what we know and what we don’t know. We can continue with a self-centered worldview, listen to the counsel of trusted friends or adjust our perspective by surrendering to the reality of a world created, sustained and preserved by God for His good pleasure. Life is more than a dream.

Time Is a Threat (3:1, 10–14)
Science teachers instructed us about cycles within creation, from the simple water cycle to the complex astronomical cycles. “The Lion King” taught us about the “circle of life.” One could read the opening passage of Ecclesiastes 3 as another illustration of the monotony of cycles and the emptiness of life. Birth and death, planting and harvesting, mourning and dancing may represent never-ending cycles. Or they may point to something else altogether.

Our focal verses lead us to a different perspective. Rather than finding life empty as one season rolls into another, the reader finds that God displays beauty in His perfect timing. We can research when it is best to plant, but we cannot guarantee a bumper crop. We can plan to speak, but then discover it will be better to remain silent. The Almighty makes everything beautiful in His time. 

As He works, He reveals Himself, yet we cannot comprehend how He orchestrates His glorious composition. “He cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3:11).

True Friends Can Help (4:9–12)
When you walk alone, there is no one to help you up when you stumble and fall. If you hike with friends, you have someone to help you. Solomon recognized the need for reliable friends and counselors (Prov. 17:17; 18:24; 27:6, 9, 10). I often wonder if Solomon had the story of his dad and Jonathan in mind (1 Sam. 18:1–4) when writing Proverbs 18:24.

Jesus demonstrated the value of friends. He hand-picked 12 men whom He characterized as friends throughout His ministry (John 15:15; 21:5), including Judas (Matt. 26:50). Three men — Peter, James and John — formed His inner circle. John was Jesus’ closest friend, to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His mother (John 19:26–27).

Dear brothers and sisters, you need an honest friend. Although others often let us down, you and I need to have human friends to whom we can be accountable, honest and broken. True friends can help.

God Alone Is Worthy (5:1–7)
You must approach God humbly as you worship Him. In verse one, we find two like-sounding verbs in the original Hebrew: shamar (to watch over, guard, keep) and shama’ (to listen, hear, heed). “Guard your steps” conveys being careful where you walk, being mindful of your footing. Because God is worthy of honor and praise, believers must approach Him with reverence and reflection. “To draw near to listen” is of greater benefit than foolish sacrifices, since “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22).

The song begins: “You are God in heaven/and here am I on earth/so I’ll let my words be few/Jesus I am so in love with You” (Redman 2005). These words convey the instruction of Ecclesiastes 5:2 to listen to God’s words and utter few words of our own in worship. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19) echoes our brother James. We should worship taking heed to this timely counsel from our wise friend: “Let your words be few.”

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