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Ecclesiastes 3:11

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

At the outset of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher, who wrote this work under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reveals one of his life goals—“to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven” (Eccl. 1:13). What he discovered were the limitations of humanity. He found out many true things, but he ultimately faced his own finitude. Today’s passage is one of the clearest illustrations in Ecclesiastes of this twofold discovery.

First we read that the Preacher learned that God “has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11). Here is a statement that points to the purposeful nature of our Creator. Just as there is a proper time for everything under heaven to take place (v. 1)—which is possible only if there is a transcendent Lord who determines times and seasons—there is also a proper time for the beauty of each individual aspect of creation to shine forth. Those who do not recognize this grow impatient and impetuous, often ruining many otherwise “perfect” opportunities. Those who understand that God has an ordained time and season for everything, however, are encouraged to be patient and thoughtful. We are not to act before it is the right time, and when we are content to wait on the Lord, we reap the benefits of the beauty that only He can offer. We are reminded of the refrain in the Song of Solomon not to “stir up or awaken love until it pleases,” that is, until it is time (Song 2:7; 3:5; 8:4). To awaken love at the improper time is to miss its beauty and bring it to a premature end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11b, however, cautions us not to put too much hope in even the beautiful things of this world. Such beauty is fleeting—it goes almost as quickly as it comes. We sense the fleetingness of so much of life because God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” We understand that we were made for eternal things. We were made for the Creator. Even the most beautiful things in creation remain created and finite; therefore, they cannot finally or permanently bring us complete satisfaction. Only the eternal Lord can satisfy (Ps. 17:15).

Despite being made for eternity, we soon find out as well that this fact means we “cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Eccl. 3:11b). Yes, we have been made for eternity, but the key term is made. We are created beings and finite. This entails limitations. We do not know all of God’s plan, and we cannot know all of God’s plan. We are unable to see how absolutely everything He has created fits together as a comprehensive whole. Only the infinite Creator has this capacity.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Those who do not know the Lord are driven to despair by the finitude of humanity because they find no hope for making sense of it all. Believers, however, are driven to humility. We grow ever more content that while we cannot understand comprehensively, we can understand truly and can rejoice in the particulars that the Lord has revealed. We realize that there are some things that only God can know, and we are happy to let Him be God and to let ourselves be creatures.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 37:4
  • Proverbs 19:23; 27:20
  • Jeremiah 50:19
  • Matthew 5:6

The God Who Hears His People

Being Truly Wise

Keep Reading Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture

From the March 2015 Issue
Mar 2015 Issue