by William J. Stewart
Did you know Solomon had a #1 hit? In 1965, The Byrds, an American rock band, released the song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The lyrics have been attributed to Peter Seeger, however, all but the title and the first two lines of the song come from Ecclesiastes 3, which was written by Solomon. The words were popularized by The Byrds, but it was God’s Spirit that inspired the wise king of Israel to write it. We will focus on this simple yet profound text over the next several weeks.
To Everything There Is A Season
Life is a cycle. Things come and things go. The rain and fresh breeze of spring is here for a short time, but give way to the long sizzling days of summer. Summer then yields to the crisp fall, which in turn surrenders to the frigid north wind of winter. We experience it year after year as weather patterns come and go, but there is so much more involved in the cycle of life.
Things come and go, and come again. “One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the river comes, there they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:4-7).
Given the knowledge that this circuit governs life, and that we fit into but a single generation of it, there are some observations which are noteworthy.
Earthly pursuits are not the primary purpose for which man should strive (3:9). Time and again, the writer alludes to the vanity associated with earthly endeavours (1:3; 2:11, 22-23; 5:16; etc.). And yet these have been supplied by God (3:10). As Adam was given work to do in the garden (Genesis 2:15), so it is God’s will that men today be given to work (Genesis 3:19; Proverbs 21:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). God has given work that man might be “exercised” (KJV) or “humbled” (YLT); the labours of this life assist to prepare us for eternity. The man who will not work remains without the training which God intends for all men. He is undisciplined, and unfit to be of any good for society, and certainly of no value to the kingdom of God.
The various cycles which are visible on the earth, both those which control the elements and those which encompass man are in God’s control. The flowers of spring, the glistening white field in winter, the stunning sunset colours dancing across the summer sky—all declare God’s involvement. Truly, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11). The apostle Paul proclaimed, “…since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). They who reject the existence of God have no solid foundation to stand upon. Their sorry position is indefensible, for God has autographed all of creation.
The writer continues, “…He has put eternity in their hearts…” (3:11). From creation, man was made to be an eternal being. Hints of this eternal nature and hope of man could be found scattered through the Old Testament, “…but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel…” (2 Timothy 1:10). Though this great unveiling has occurred, Paul still marvelled, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). Though eternity lies within our hearts, still “…no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (3:11).
A Time For Every Purpose Under Heaven
The word “purpose” here is translated from the Hebrew chephets, used elsewhere to denote a pleasure, desire or delight (Strong’s). Solomon remarks, “I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God” (3:12-13). It is God’s design and intent that man should rejoice in the gifts which the LORD has given (Matthew 7:11; James 1:17), and use them for good (Acts 20:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:15).
“God does not condemn, but approves of, the use of earthly blessings (Ecclesiastes 3:12); it is the abuse that He condemns, the making them the chief end (1 Corinthians 7:31). The earth, without human desires, love, taste, joy, sorrow, would be a dreary waste, without water; but, on the other hand, the misplacing and excess of them, as of a flood, need control. Reason and revelation are given to control them” (JFB Commentary).
In verse 14, God’s dominion and judgment are disclosed. As has formerly been said, the LORD exercises control, “…whatever God does, it shall be forever.” It is imperative that we comprehend the mastery which the LORD holds over all things. His way is such that “…nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken away from it.” we are able to exercise our own purposes within the sphere of His purposes. The boundaries of all creation are his possession, even as He has established them. The workings of His will are a demonstration of His sovereign authority, to the end “…that all men should fear before Him.”
Friend, let us conduct ourselves uprightly and justly within the wheels of God’s creation. We are a small part of the whole, a generation among generations, but as individuals, though smaller still, we are of great importance to the LORD. When Moses spoke with Israel of God’s dealings with them, he affirmed, “…the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24). Of His new covenant and His new people, the prophet Jeremiah spoke, “…I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:39). Enjoy the fruit of your labours, but always live aware of the bigger picture—for He has put eternity in our hearts.