3:16 – The Rest of the Story – The Human Condition 1: Ecclesiastes

A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate

  • the Human Condition (Current location of study)
  • God’s Revelation of His Plan
  • God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
  • Our Response

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. (Ecclesiastes 3:16 – ESV)

We begin our study here in Ecclesiastes – a book that is lamenting the purposelessness of a life lived outside of a relationship with God. It was written by King Solomon later in his life. Let me briefly review Solomon’s story.

Solomon was a son of King David, the king of Israel who replaced the original king Saul when Saul chose to disobey God. God sent the prophet Samuel to find David, the youngest son of Jesse, and anoint him as Saul’s successor because he had a heart that God honored as being pliable and willing to submit to God’s authority. David was not perfect, of course. He famously sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband in an attempt to hide her ensuing pregnancy. God confronted his sin and David repented, but the baby died. However, David and Bathsheba had another child later whose name was Solomon.

Solomon became heir to David’s throne and sought God with all his heart, asking God for the wisdom necessary to properly lead God’s people. God granted that request and promised to make Solomon the wisest man ever to live (1 Kings 3:12). He was a wise leader and led Israel for forty years. However, later in his reign, he turned from his total devotion to God and began following other gods (1 Kings 11:4). It is during this time that he wrote Ecclesiastes, albeit, still under the leadership of God’s Spirit. In fact Solomon acknowledges that while he was seeking all the worldly experiences that he did, God still enabled him to keep his wisdom (Ecclesiastes 2:9).

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon essentially follows the theme of the whole Bible – that man was initially created good but chose to disobey God and fell into sin (Eccl. 7:20,29). Moreover, Solomon’s theme is similar to Paul’s assertion in Romans 8:20-21 that because of man’s sin, all of creation has been “subjected to futility” and “bondage to corruption”. Solomon opens the book by saying “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” In other words, life (without God) is pretty useless.

It is in this context that Ecclesiastes 3:16 sits. “Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness.” Solomon, the wisest man of all, recognized that wickedness (evil) is pervasive throughout the earth.

This is the first and foremost observation necessary in understanding the overarching theme of the Bible. God created mankind as good, but we chose to disobey Him. Ever since that original sin, each and every person has disobeyed and abandoned their creator. Solomon said in 7:20 that “there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” This theme is consistent with the message of the rest of scripture.

  • Genesis 6:5The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
  • Psalm 14:1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.
  • Proverbs 20:9Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?
  • Isaiah 53:6aAll we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way;
  • Romans 3:23For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Sadly, this is the human condition. But the story does not stop there. You’ll see as this study unfolds over the next year, God’s plan was not thwarted when Adam and Eve chose disobedience. SPOILER ALERT: The end of the story is that God’s plan all along was to provide a means whereby we can be saved from sin’s penalty of death – JESUS!

The verse from Isaiah quoted above continues with this statement – “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” God laid all of our sin on Jesus so we don’t have to bear its penalty. We only have to believe that and accept this free gift from Him.

Solomon recognized this as well. In Eccl. 7:16-18 he poses the question, “Why should you destroy yourself?” and then answers it with “for the one who fears God shall come out…“. He then concludes this book with the statement, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” To fear God doesn’t necessarily mean that we should quake in terror before Him. However, He has very clearly provided us with the command to obey Him and also trust Him. Ultimately, we will all stand before God and give account for whether or not we sought to obey Him and trust His provision for our salvation through His son Jesus.

We’ll continue next week exploring the human condition. As the year unfolds, we’ll move into examining how God revealed His plan to us through Scripture and how that plan unfolded and was (and is still being) fulfilled. Finally, we’ll examine how we collectively and as individuals fit into that plan and how we are to respond to it.

See you next week. We’ll be looking at another 3:16 from the Old Testament in the book of Habakkuk. Pass this blog on to others who might be interested!

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