Men have described the book of Ecclesiastes, authored by the wise man Solomon, in many different ways. Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, said it is the truest of all books. Others have applied Winston Churchill’s description of Russia, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, to this great book. This sometimes puzzling book shows that the things of the world offer no lasting happiness, and that this life, with all of its labors, is valueless, if there is no future. The book is the story of a man (Solomon), who deliberately tasted every worldly delight, including the forbidden, only to discover that all that the world offers is vanity of vanities (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
Chapter three begins with the familiar words, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted… A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 8). The general theme of this chapter is the unchanging regularity of the world created by God.
The words of verse 15, as with so many others in the book, seem very cryptic at first reading. “That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Remember that the general theme of the chapter is the unchanging regularity of life. Solomon expressed the same idea earlier in the book. “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The verse closes with the statement, “there is no new thing under the sun”, meaning there is nothing new in the temporal life. He then asked, “Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:10). As we look at our world, we see that there are technological advancements, and advancements in other fields, but so far as man’s concern for his fellowman, and the basic things of life, there is no change, no new thing under the sun. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Since we live in a regular universe, with God in control, it is up to us to recognize God’s control, and bend our wills to be in conformity to His will. After all, this is what God requires. As Solomon looked at the world under the sun, living as if there were no God, his vision of an unchanging world changed to a conclusion that God truly is in control. The end of Ecclesiastes 3:15 states, “for God seeks what has passed by.” These words parallel the last words of verse 14, which also talks of God’s purpose, and says, “…for God has so worked that men should fear Him.” This points to the fact that God designed our regular universe to draw men to Him.
Solomon ends the saga of his search for happiness with the words, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Literally, the whole of man is to obey God.