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Sabbath School Lessons on Ecclesiastes
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 39 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: Of Being and Time *
Introduction: My wife and the Holy Spirit sometimes seem to be
partners! For example, when I drive to church to teach this lesson,
I will be anxious to take as little time as possible. I leave my home
on time, but I want to move right along. If two drivers slow me down
by (for example) driving beside each other so no one can pass, this
irritates me and I will have something important to say to improve
their driving manners. If the traffic lights are not timed, I'll
talk about that too. As my wife points out, only she gets to hear the
lecture on driving manners, timed lights and the relative
intelligence of other drivers - and she has heard the same lecture
too many times to count! Why do I do this? As my wife points out, it
makes no sense. What my wife and the Holy Spirit are working on is
my misguided sense about time. Hurry up with everything! Our lesson
this week is about time, so let's clock in!
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:1. Do you like having seasons or
would you just as soon cancel some seasons? (My wife loves
the fall and early winter. She likes cooler temperatures,
likes the beauty of fall, and loves the Thanksgiving-Christmas time of year. I like summer and dislike
- If you agree with me about cancelling winter, what
would you do about some of the winter activities that
you like? (Solomon is making that point. Certain
seasons of our life allow us to do different things.)
- Would it be fair to compare your life to the seasons
of the year? (We often see this, spring is when we
are young, summer when we are 20-40 years of age.
Fall is 40-60. Winter is 60-80.)
- Like the seasons of the year, are certain
activities more appropriate to certain seasons
of our life?
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:2-3. Do we really have any control
over our time? (When I was talking about driving and time
in the introduction, one major reason for my frustration
is that I really have little control over my driving time.
I cannot control other drivers or traffic lights. This
text refers to other matters over which we have little
control of the timing.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:4. Last week we studied laughter and
whether it was good or bad. What does this text suggest
about laughter? (Solomon reaches the conclusion we did -
that laughter has its time and place. It is not a goal, it
is the result of a life well lived.)
- The "activities" mentioned in this verse are
emotions. How much control do we have over our
emotions and the timing of them?
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:5-8. Some of these activities make me
wonder. When is the correct time for scattering stones, or
tearing or hating? (At least some of these words may be
symbolic. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary says that "casting
stones" is a Hebrew metaphor for the marriage act.
"Tearing" is a reference to tearing your cloths because
you are sad. Mending refers to the time when your grief
- What control do we have over the time for these
activities in our life?
- What about hating? Is there really a proper time for
- Read Proverbs 6:16-19. If God hates something,
is it okay for us to hate it too? (Read
Revelation 2:6. The answer seems to be yes.)
- Above the Sun
- Our criticism of Solomon so far deals with his focus on
things here on earth, while rarely making any note of
heavenly considerations. Read Ecclesiastes 3:9-11. What is
man's burden, according to Solomon? (That a desire to live
eternally, to know about matters beyond this world, exists
in the human heart - but we cannot understand eternity.)
- How much do we need to understand eternity? How much
do we "need to know?" (Solomon has been consistently
arguing that everything here is meaningless. If that
is your view, then eternity would be incredibly
important to you.)
- Is there some other way you could interpret Solomon's
statement that we are burdened by our inability to
understand "what God has done from beginning to end?"
(Some things in life simply do not make sense. I
remember visiting a church where a lady invited me to
her home to explain to an older couple why their
parents and children were all killed in the same
automobile accident. Needless to say, such an
explanation was beyond me. It would be nice to
understand God's workings from beginning to end, but
we need to accept the "burden" of trusting God while
we still live in a sinful world.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:12-14. Many people do not find
satisfaction in their job. How important is job
satisfaction? (Since Solomon says this is a gift from God,
we should look for those gifts, pursue those gifts. This
is where Luke 12:31 comes in, seek the kingdom of God
first and these other gifts will come your way.)
- When Solomon says that "nothing can be added" to
God's work or "taken from it," is he including the
work of humans? We cannot add or detract from God's
- If you say, "no," tell me what we can add to the
work of God? (Read Ecclesiastes 3:15. I think
this gives the sense of Solomon's statement:
that in the big scheme of things, humans do not
change what God has done. In the details of
life, however, I think we are God's partners to
do His will.)
- The commentary, "Be Satisfied," notes that
the last phrase of Ecclesiastes 3:15 ("and
God will call the past to account") is
literally translated "God seeks what
hurries along." Is God part of the details
of our life? (Yes. We may not be changing
the "big picture," but God is part of our
every day life.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:16. What is wrong with our world?
(That justice and judgment are displaced by wickedness.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:17. What is the cure for that problem?
(That God will execute judgment and justice.)
- This gets us back to an old issue: would a loving God
execute judgment on humans? What would be Solomon's
answer to this question? (Yes! The implication is
that judgment shows a loving God. It is not the
opposite of love, it is part of love. A life without
justice is simply unfair. Part of God's promise to
humans is that He is fair - more than fair in fact.)
- If you agree that judgment is good (except, of
course, when it is executed on you), what practical
lesson can we learn from Solomon saying there is a
"time" for judgment? (In Ecclesiastes 3:16 Solomon
says that he finds wickedness in place of justice and
judgment. Even though we may find that things are
unfair right now, there will be a time for judgment.
God will put things right.)
- A member of my class sent me a note commenting on the
"time" issue and saying that Jesus came to earth in God's
time. If you were Adam and Eve, would you have understood
- Are we better able to anticipate the time of God's
Second Coming and final execution of judgment? (This
is part of the "burden" of Ecclesiastes 3:10 - Jesus'
life, death and resurrection give us certainty of His
Second Coming, but we do not know when. We do not
understand the entire plan in any detail. (If you
think I'm wrong, consider how badly God's people
misunderstood Jesus' first arrival.))
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:18-19. My dear dog (of 12 years) died
a few months ago. Is this an object lesson for me?
- Solomon calls my "dog destination" a test. What am I
being tested on? ( Ecclesiastes 3:12 tells us to do
good and be happy while we live. In one sense it is a
test to know that your happy life will come to a not
so happy conclusion. My dog had a miserable end. On
the other hand, without God giving us eternal life,
we have the exact same end as a dog. (By the way,
since the Bible says there are animals in heaven, I'm
hoping that my old dog has the same destination as me
- Read Ecclesiastes 3:19-21. I wanted you to look again at
verse 19. Solomon says man has no advantage over the
animal. Is that consistent with the rest of the Bible?
- Put verse 21 together with verse 19. What is Solomon
saying? (He first says there is no life after death,
and then he softens that by saying, "Who knows?")
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:5. A lot of people who believe
that death is an unconscious sleep until the
resurrection, base their belief on this text. Is
Solomon a reliable guide for truth about the
afterlife? (If you rely on Solomon for your views
about life after death, you need to find a new
source. Solomon teaches in this same text that there
is "no further reward" after death. "Soul sleep"
people do not believe that!)
- Friend, read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22. What is our glorious
hope? (Paul agrees with Solomon that without the hope of
eternal life our faith is useless. Worse than useless,
because it gives us the false hope that there is life
after death. Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
friend, you have the promise of eternal life if you
determine to be "in Christ." Will you make that decision
- Next week: More Life Under the Sun.
* Copr. 2007, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.