31 dustIn the “under the sun” perspective Solomon observes the confusing state of affairs. He says that in the place where one would expect to find righteousness he finds wickedness. The poor are abused while the wicked prosper. It makes life meaningless! But then in Ecclesiastes 3:17 he writes, “I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.” We’ve read that there is a “time for every purpose under heaven” along with 28 different exemplary times; live, die, laugh, cry. I say exemplary because these 28 “times” are only examples, there are many other times as well. There is a time for judgment of the wicked and justice for the righteous. Later on in the book he’ll suggest that the apparent lack of justice in this life leads people to think there will be no accountability, but a day is coming, Solomon asserts, when the scales will be balanced.

God has made some truths readily apparent to all humanity. I took a class at the University of Texas entitled, “Work and Ethics.” It was part of the curriculum for the Philosophy Department. I was taught that this area of interest is rift with so-called “gray areas.” Right and wrong is dependent upon the individuals in each and every circumstance. It seemed to me that almost all situations were thought to be gray areas in some way; sex, lying, stealing, etc. From our perspective “under the sun” that might seem true, but honestly, there are some things that are clearly black and white. Isaiah 5:20 tells us this and expresses God’s opinion regarding it. He says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

Then in the following verses Solomon explains how death is the great equalizer of all. Ecclesiastes 3:20 tells us what God told Adam and Eve after their sin, “All are from dust and to dust all will return.” But I hope you see that he’s not talking about the soul. He’s talking about the body! Just like the animals, He argues, we will all decompose and be eaten by worms. Jeremiah explains it this way, “There is a difference in man and animals, however. The spirit of man goes upward (“to God who gave it;” Ecclesiastes 12:7) and the spirit of the animal goes down to the earth. Man is not just a higher form of animal, Solomon says. Though death is the constant for all, man returns to the God who made him.” Woody Guthrie wrote a song with the title, “Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust.” Here are some lyrics: Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, show me a woman that a man can trust. Snakes on the desert and fish in the sea, a rattlesnake mama made a sucker out of me.” But in his “Song of Life” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote, “TELL me not, in mournful numbers, life is but an empty dream ! — For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul.”