we finish off chapter 3: Ecclesiastes 3:16-22
v16: In the place of judgment (justice)…wickedness…in the place of righteousness, iniquity: In this world things are not as they are meant to be. In both these places, where we would expect to find goodness, we find wickedness and iniquity. It is not wise to invest in this world – destruction is coming to it. We need to be investing in the Kingdom (Matt 6:20-21).
v17: G-d shall judge the righteous and the wicked: No one escapes judgment (2 Cor 5:10). If no one is going to escape it, then we need to be prepared for it. Today, people don’t want to talk about judgment. They want to only focus on what they think are the ‘positive things’, the ‘good things’, the ‘pleasing things’. This mindset shows that these people do not have the mind of Messiah, as when G-d’s judgments are poured out, they are a cause for praise (eg Rev 16:7, Ps 119:164, Ps 119:175 etc). We need to understand G-d as Judge.
Note: The only thing we can do, in order to be able to stand before G-d in judgment, is find and rely on His grace (His forgiveness) – the very righteousness of His Son, Messiah Yeshua, imputed to us (2 Cor 5:21).
- A time THERE: Where is there? This judgment is not ultimately realised here on earth but will be realised there – before His throne (Rev 20:11-13).
v18: Estate: Affairs.
- Like beasts: From Solomon’s perspective, men and animals seem to come from, and return, to the same place – from the dust of the earth.
v19: As one dies, so dies the other: Another similarity between humans and animals is the fact that we both die.
- All have one breath (Spirit): If we do not find redemption, if we do not find G-d’s forgiveness, then we are no better than the animals – in fact we will be worse off than them.
v20: All return to dust: Without a Kingdom perspective, or hope, all is vanity. Without redemption, the hope that Messiah offers, everything leads to the same place – destruction, no contentment, no satisfaction, nothing of any substance and significance in this world.
v21: This is a question. Solomon is wanting to know how we know (what we base this distinction on) that the spirit of man goes upward (to G-d, to the heavens) and the spirit of beasts (animals) go downwards.
Note 1: Although at times Solomon plants seed of Scriptural truth within this book, it is a book that is mainly written from a very humanistic viewpoint – based upon what can be seen, what can be known, what Solomon experiences etc. So many people live in this way. Solomon wants to communicate to them what a hopeless existence they’re living and, if they don’t repent and change, it’s only going to get worse.
Note 2: We don’t know for sure what is going to happen to the animals when they die. What we do know Scripturally is that animals are going to have a place in the Kingdom of G-d. Although they have been created with a measure of accountability (Gen 9:5) it is not to the same degree as for humans. According to the story of Noah’s Ark there is a measure of hope of salvation, of preservation, from G-d (a remnant of the animals were saved along with Noah and his family)
v22: Heritage: Portion.
- For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?: This is one of the most important questions that we should really struggle with. Although from a human perspective it would seem that a human just returns to the dust, we need to remember G-d in the whole equation. Solomon forgets G-d in this question. It is IN Messiah Yeshua that we can enter into the Kingdom of G-d, that we can see what the real substance of our life is. Revelation tells us what is going to happen – the Great White Throne judgment is going to happen to everybody (either for reward or for punishment). It is impossible for those who don’t know G-d to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. Even the greatest intentions will be underpinned with wrong intent or motivation. Only those who have experienced redemption are able to “redeem the time” that we have on this earth (Eph 5:15-17). To “redeem the time” means to take this world that is outside of G-d’s will, that’s in darkness, and do things which reflect the Kingdom, contrary to the nature of this world.