Men and Animals

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Men and Animals

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:16-22




As Solomon continues his observations about the true meaning of life, we come to a text where we are again reminded of the eventual fate of fleshly man. Having addressed how there is a time for everything (3:1-8), and the fact that God’s will shall accomplish its purpose and stand forever, he again addresses the vanity of the ways of men.

  1.   Perverted justice (16-17)
    1. In the place of judgment (courts, government) – wickedness.
      In the place of righteousness (could be repetitive, or could be religious leaders – where God ought to be worshipped and exalted) – iniquity (wickedness – same word as previous)
    2. It truly is a grief when those in positions of leadership are corrupt and let down those over whom they have been entrusted.   This is true both in society and spiritually.   Is this descriptive of the times we are now living in?   I fear it is true in so many different areas – politically, judicially, our education system, in many corporations where profits are place ahead of integrity, and even in the religious world.
      Leaders are expected to be caring – one of the downfalls of Israel and Judah political, economical and religious corruptions. Leaders in all areas were selfish. (Isaiah 1:25, 3:14-15, Jeremiah 2:7-9, etc.)
      Under the Law of Moses, leaders were expected to care for the people.
      Ecclesiastes 4:1 speaks of the oppressed having no comforter;
      Jesus gave illustrations of rulers and corrupt judges – Luke 18:2, etc.
      Such is true today – consider instructions given to masters (e.g. Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 4:1) and what rulers are supposed to do and be (Romans 13:3).
      The qualities of spiritual leaders are such.   God wants His spiritual leaders to lead with integrity.
      James 3:1 warns of not many being teachers for they will receive a stricter judgment.
      Consider elders in the church – 1 Peter 5:2-3, Hebrews 13:17 – they watch out for your soul. Even the qualifications imply this – 1 Timothy 3:3-5 – not greedy for money, not covetous, etc.
      Preachers – 1 Timothy 4:12, 16; 2 Timothy 2:24 – the servant of the Lord (which would include all of the above and others).
    3. God will judge the righteous and the wicked – ALL will stand before God in judgment.
      This Solomon was aware of (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
      We know God has appointed a day when He will judge the world in righteousness – Acts 17:30-31, Hebrews 9:27.
      Further, we know this judgment will be to ALL – the godly and ungodly – John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:12-15, etc.
      Consider the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30 – in this, the wicked and righteous live together (perhaps even among “the kingdom of God” while on earth), but on that day, God will separate and judge accordingly. TRUE judgement and justice will come.
      James 5:1-5 – a warning to the rich (often rulers) that have exploited others. Recall, Jesus to the religious leaders of Israel – Matthew 23:14 – they devoured widows houses…
  2.   Death – the great equalizer (18-21)
    1. God tests
      1. In context, having noted the wickedness of rulers, both secular and religious, we see the temporal nature of their efforts.   It doesn’t matter what a wicked man accomplishes in this life – it will be judged. And one’s work is temporary. When ungodly rulers die – there is rejoicing and often relief.   We have seen this in recent history with many corrupt rulers.   Sometimes, there have even been celebrations.
        Proverbs 11:7, When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, And the hope of the unjust perishes.
        2 Chronicles 21:19-20 speaks of Jehoram, a wicked king in Judah.   AT his death, we read “his people made no burning for him…” and “He reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and to no one’s sorrow, departed.”   Jeremiah 22:18 prophecies concerning Jehoikim that there would be no mourning when he was carried away.
      2. We are tested to see how we will respond. There is debate over how God tests us.   When we consider this remember James 1:13 – God does not tempt (test) us to do evil.
        We know He allows the wickedness around us and that tests our character – which is what seems to be the point of our text.
        Often, leaders are an influence – for good or bad.   But ultimately, it is up to each of us individually to determine our fate and how we will respond.   Be reminded that in the judgment, each one will give account of himself (2 Cor. 5:10, Romans 14:12).
    2. He will die, just like animals (18:18b-19)– all living things die (if the Lord does not return first).   Hebrews 9:27 – it is appointed to die; James 4:14 – your life is a vapor.   Always remember – our purpose here is to prepare to meet God and face our eternity.
      Psalm 90:12, Moses wrote, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

      1. All go to one place – the grave. Their physical flesh returns to the dust from which it came.     Genesis 3:19 – our physical bodies return to the earth and decay.
        This is NOT saying that man does not have a soul that will live on.   The context makes the point – LIFE is uncertain.
      2. BUT, the spirit of man goes upward – Some translations write this as if it is uncertain.   IOW, “Who knows IF (or where) the spirit of man goes upward, as opposed to that of animals?”)
        I lean toward this being an observation that Solomon KNEW when this life is over, while the body will decay, the soul will live on.   That’s his conclusion that we keep addressing (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, but also Eccl. 12:7 which notes that the spirit will return to God who gave it).
        Recall the warning of Jesus, “Do not fear him who destroys the body, but cannot destroy the soul” (Matthew 10:28)
      3. So what is the point?   Jesus summarized it in Matthew 6:19-21 – where is your treasure.
    3. The spirit of the animal goes down to the earth – when an animal dies, that’s it.   There are some who think their pets will greet them in heaven.   That is nowhere taught in scripture.
  1. Therefore, rejoice in your own works
    1. So I perceived – Solomon’s conclusion about this observation.
    2. Make the best of your circumstances – it is all you can do. You cannot control what others do, and in this life you may have sorrows.   But YOU control your eternal destiny.   Therefore, make the best of your circumstances.   Philippians 4:4 – rejoice in the Lord always.
    3. That is your heritage – this is simply saying, this is the hand you have been dealt.
      NOTE: We all face circumstances in life that we cannot control.   But NEVER forget that much of what do and become, and HOW we deal with it – we CAN control!
    4. Who will bring him to see what will happen after him?
      You don’t know what the future holds, especially AFTER this life. Whether this deals with what God does in the future, or what will happen when you are gone – in either case, we live knowing something greater than I is in control – James 4:13-15, etc.

Sometimes life is unfair. That is the world we live in and I believe it is so because of sin, the sin of Adam which has cursed this world in many ways.   Just know this, whatever man does in this life, when he dies it is NOT going to do him any good physically.   The world will go on (Solomon’s point in chapter 1) without you, UNTIL the Lord returns. Let us use this knowledge to prepare for what really matters – our eternal destiny. Think about it.