More than this, we are being told here that what God has done each step of the way in that story is beautiful. I believe this verse is teaching us that we have a longing to be able to see the whole story, we have a deep, profound sense—eternity in our hearts—that there must be some coherence to the parts, a metanarrative of life, the universe, and everything else, to explain the mini-narrative of my individual life. This overarching perspective comes from only one place and one reality: the God outside the changing times who has written the story of the world from the fountain of His eternal fullness.
Consider these amazing words by Francis Turretin on the eternity of God:
True eternity has been defined by the Scholastics to be “the interminable possession of life—complete, perfect, and at once.” Thus, it excludes succession no less than end and ought to be conceived as a standing, not a flowing, now. The reason is because nothing flows away with time from the life of God as from ours. God has every moment at once whatever we have dividedly by succession of time. Hence philosophers have well said that neither the future nor the past (he will be or was), but only the present (he is) can properly be applied to him. For the eternal duration of God embraces indeed all time—the past, the present, and future; but nothing in him can be past or future because his life remains always the same and unchangeable.
We sometimes think God is like us, just a much bigger version of us. But of course, the Bible teaches that God is not like us and that there is no one and nothing to whom we can compare God (Isa. 40:25; 46:5). This helpfully schools us when we read Scripture’s similes and comparisons of God to things in the created order, for the fact is that God’s being is entirely and completely different from ours. Turretin expresses that concept here in the amazing idea that all time is present to God in one “moment” because He is eternal and not contained within time. Our minds cannot comprehend this. Times pass, seasons come and go, we are like morning mists—yet not only does God live forever, but all of forever is a standing moment of perpetual plenitude to God. He is.
I believe this is precisely how the book of Ecclesiastes seeks to comfort us in all the changing scenes of life. We sing, “Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me.” Many slip into despair at the problems of the world, and the decline we see around us—in our churches, our families, or our own bodies—can lead to our feeling distraught. But is it not true that we are so quick to measure what is happening in our world according to the fleeting time-scales of our own passing lives rather than by the eternal goodness of God who is writing a story in which everything will be beautiful in its time? His eternity provides a stunning contrast to our vaporous lives and a bedrock backdrop to all the events of world history.
Indeed, this is why in Ecclesiastes there is profound confidence for the future. It lies in the fact that “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work” (Eccl. 3:17). Mature believers are not blown here and there by world events; rather, we see ourselves as merely temporal world inhabitants who know that every single moment, every act, every injustice, every wickedness, and every act of righteousness too will each have its day in court. How can this be? The answer is found in God’s eternity. This includes what happened to you last year, or twenty years ago, and the brutal events of history that have long since been forgotten and that lie buried in the sands of time are each present to God at once. This is why Ecclesiastes says, “God seeks what has been driven away” (v. 15). Like a shepherd setting out to recover a lost sheep, the fullness of God’s eternity enables Him to recall every moment there has ever been and to call it to account before Him.
This helps us to live in light of eternity. The winds of change hold no fear for the mature believer. We are a mist: “My days pass away like smoke” (Ps. 102:3), but God endures forever:
Of old you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
but you are the same, and your years have no end. (vv. 25–27)