Thank you my dear friend for your interest in this portion of the Scripture. First of all, I believe that in order to understand Ecclesiastes, we must begin with the fact that this book truly is the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” But, if the book is inspired by God, why then does there appear to be some inconsistencies with New Testament teachings? Well, this book is indeed inspired by God, but it must be understood in its proper context. The writer here is speaking of the apparent futility of life without God, in other words, life “under the sun”. You’ll notice that each of the verses 2-8 seem to be polar opposites: “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal, and so forth. Now, verse 8 is one that you might particularly be wondering about: “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”  Again, these phrases all form opposites, signifying, I believe, the whole range of experience in this world, at least from the perspective of being “under the sun”. William MacDonald in his Bible Commentary on verse 8 reads: “We must not try to force these words into a Christian context. Solomon was not speaking as a Christian but as a man of the world. It seemed to him that human behavior fluctuated between periods of love and periods of hate.”

Thus, verse 8 should certainly not be interpreted as telling us to hate or to make war; the Lord Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be at peace with all men, or so much as is possible. But again, what we are seeing here is the full range of experiences, bad and good, that man is subject to “under the sun,” or in other words, when the focus of a person is not on God’s marvelous Grace, but rather only on what can be realized from a world that has attempted to shut God out. Now, all of these verses might go together to paint a picture of life on the earth as a hopeless, futile expenditure of effort, with no real progress toward peace of mind or happiness. And so it is for the many unbelievers in the world today! I do believe that many on the earth today, at least those who do not have Christ, are sadly coming to the same conclusion that Solomon did–under the sun, life would appear to be vanity and vexation of spirit.

Now, let me expand on all of this a bit. In an effort to prove whether there was anything in this world that could truly bring happiness and fulfillment, Solomon immersed himself in every pleasure that wealth could purchase,  and also in the gaining of very much knowledge. But, at the end of the day, he found that nothing below the sun lasts, nothing satisfies.  Life is but a series of gains and losses, of pleasure and pain, and in the end, was a vain pursuit.

So, why would the Holy Spirit include such a book in our Bible? Well, look around you today at the countless millions in this world who do not know or care for God.  There may be some who use some of the phrases in this book to deny that there is any life at all after death. How terrible to live one’s life on this earth, thinking that this life with all of its painful experiences, is all there is!  How do people without faith make sense of this life? I imagine we all know some folks who seem to be serving mammon in this world, spending all their time building, gaining wealth, seeking pleasure and security, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed to pieces by some calamity, or to find all life’s baubles to be empty. Nothing in life lasts, and none of it truly satisfies or makes one truly happy in the end. In Mark 8: 36 we read:  “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?…” (See also Luke 12:19-21).

But now, my dear friend, if the author of this book concludes that life is futile “under the sun,” then we must look above the sun for meaning and purpose, to a gracious and loving God who does indeed have a perfect plan for our lives (see Psalms 139)!  We know from God’s Word that this world is ruined by sin, and that all in this world are sinners (Romans 3:23).  Moreover, there is a judgment for sinners after death (Hebrews 9:27).  The good news “above the sun” is that God loves us (John 3:16), and He sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).  Happily, this life is not all there is.  The Bible tells us of wonderful riches beyond all imagination for those who believe on Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3-12; John 14:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).  We will never find lasting happiness or security in this fallen world, but there is life for a look at the Savior, and eternal blessing through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). (SF)  (556.5)