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Ecclesiastes 3:9–15

“I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart” (vv. 10–11a).

Continuing our study of Ecclesiastes 3 today, let us recall that one of the emphases of the book is the fleeting nature of so many things in life and how we are to live in light of that reality. In sum, we are to avoid the extreme of despair over the transience we regularly experience as well as the extreme of finding all of our joy in the good things we have. It is not that we are to blindly accept the maxim “Nothing lasts forever.” After all, the Lord has put eternity in the hearts of men and women (v. 11), and we know that death does not represent the end of human existence. Eternal life in the blessed presence of God or eternal death in the lake of fire awaits every human being (Rev. 20:11–21:27). Nevertheless, it is true that pleasure on this side of glory is fleeting. What is here today may be gone tomorrow. Today we might be in great health, but tomorrow we could be diagnosed with terminal cancer. Today might be a day of feasting, but tomorrow we might lose our jobs and know what it means to suffer lack. We cannot hold on to anything—except the Lord—too tightly.

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 presents this reality through a serious of couplets that show us that there is both a time for one thing and a time for its opposite. Birth and death—each has its day that passes (v. 2). Though we laugh today, a tragedy can soon turn laughter into mourning (v. 4). There is even a proper time for love and a proper time for hate (v. 8a). Today one’s country may be at war, but the fighting will not endure. Eventually there will be peace, the cessation of armed conflict between two powers (v. 8b). Such realities make life finally pointless if there is no God, for there is nothing anyone can do to break this cycle. But for those who know their duty to “fear God and keep his commandments” (12:13), these realities point us to the one who does give meaning to life. We can enjoy the good and be comforted in the bad because we know that the Lord is in control and not impersonal fate. He will sustain us, bringing every secret thing under judgment, rewarding His people in Christ and condemning those who reject the Savior (v. 14; 1 Thess. 1:9–10).

Matthew Henry comments, “Those things which to us seem most casual and contingent are, in the counsel and foreknowledge of God, punctually determined, and the very hour of them is fixed, and can neither be anticipated nor adjourned a moment.” The Lord has appointed times and seasons for all things. He can therefore be trusted to guide us through them unto final glory.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

It has been noted that you “never see a u-Haul following a hearse.” Moving trucks do not follow people to the grave, for there is nothing that we own in this life that we can take with us when we die. That is why we must hold onto our things loosely. There will come a time when we have to give them up. If we are not in a right relationship with the Lord and do not share His eternal perspective, we will be unprepared to let go when we need to let go.

For Further Study
  • Ecclesiastes 1:14
  • Philippians 4:11–13

A Time for Everything

Outside the Camp

Keep Reading Labor and Rest

From the February 2015 Issue
Feb 2015 Issue