Read Ecclesiastes 3
A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.
16 And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
17 I said to myself,
“God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time to judge every deed.”
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?
Depending on your age, you may experience some flashbacks reading Ecclesiastes 3 as the voice of Kevin Bacon may echo from the movie Footloose, the movie poster of A Time to Kill may flash in our heads, or “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” sung by The Byrds, may begin playing in the background of our minds. The first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3 are very well-known. The last several verses of the chapter are not as popular, depicting a grim view of humanity ending in death. Tucked away, hidden between these two sections, are words of comfort and perspective in which we can take joy and find hope: “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (v. 11)
First, let’s ask the question, “Does God really make everything beautiful for its own time?” The Hebrew word translated as “everything” is kol. This is the same word used in Genesis 1-3 when God created every tree, every bird, every animal,every thing, and declared it all good. So, yes, God really made everything beautiful for its own time.
Our struggle is that we often interpret this to be in our own time. We see all the pain, injustice, and ugliness in our world and scream, “How is everything beautiful?!” It’s not; God has made everything beautiful for its own time, not ours. We must shake off the temporal confines of our current circumstances and set our minds on God’s grander scheme, which He planted in our hearts.
God created humans to live forever with Him, so we are designed to have an eternal perspective. Genesis 2 describes how God planted the Tree of Life, which allowed those who ate from it to live forever, in the Garden of Eden and placed the man and woman there. Once they chose sin, humans were removed from the garden and access to the Tree of Life was barred. Why was God so concerned about humans having an eternal perspective once they knew good and evil? God wanted to protect us. When sin entered our hearts, we no longer focused on God’s good but believed the lie that the things around us (like a yummy-looking fruit tree) are what matter most. We still believe this lie today.
But Jesus came as our path back to the Tree of Life. Jesus stands in the gap between the activities of our time–the laughing, the grief, the death, the births–and the pain and injustices of our time. This is where God intentionally positions His hope: Jesus. In the middle of the activities and injustice, God wants us to experience the joy and comfort of resting in His plan for our good and His glory through Jesus.
- Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life? Do the heartaches and hatred of this world weigh on your spirit?
- What assurances from Ecclesiastes 3:11 give you comfort?
- How can we live for His purpose with an eternal perspective?
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