What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. – Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 (ESV)
James Bollhagen writes:
In the context of Ecclesiastes, God governs the seasons and times listed in the poem at the beginning of the chapter. In the proper theological context, there are many important ramifications to God’s unilateral activity. As God calls the shots, he knows what he is doing. He has everything figured out. Since he is omniscient, he knows everything from eternity past to the eternal future. He understands what is best, even when a person’s own pain and anguish may suggest otherwise to his finite mind. Furthermore, God is not absent and uncaring. He is not an unthinking, unfeeling robot. He is involved in the affairs of this world and even the events of daily personal life. His gifts (3:13) demonstrate his involvement, and they show something else: that despite the lingering effects of human sin, God also wants the best for his creatures. After all, God did give us the book of Ecclesiastes to help us, not to pour salt on our wounds.
Herein is found the heart of the Gospel: the omnipotent LORD, who can do anything He pleases, unilaterally decided to love the people He created. His theophanies in human form prefigured His incarnation as a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He assumed human flesh and blood in order to suffer, die, rise again, and thereby redeem all humanity. Just why He decide to love us, despite the pain that He would endure, is a total mystery – but that He so loves us has been clearly revealed. He loves us for some reason known only to Him, and this is a key point in Ecclesiastes. This same mysterious love lies behind the genuine joy found in eating, drinking, and working (Eccl 3:13), because only a God who cares is wholly approving of the believer’s merry heart. God is not divided: the same inexplicable love that puts food on the table will carry His mortal people through all suffering and death and into the glories of eternity.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 105
Q. 105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.