Mankind lives in the sorry state of rebellion against God. Yes, I’m afraid that is the reality of life under the sun, but that doesn’t mean that God has lost His grip, for He has ordered things in a certain way under the sun; there are seasons that men cannot change, seasons for everything. Within all of this chaos, confusion, rebellion and order, God still has a purpose. Of course, His purpose is significantly clearer in the New Testament than in the Old, but there was Purpose in play even then. In the OT, every person who sprang forth from the seed of Abraham had a choice to make; they could either confine themselves to God’s will (purpose) for them, or they could live in rebellion under the sun. In our day, this choice extends to every single human being.
The Teacher makes this case here in Ecclesiastes 3. In this text, he deals briefly with three aspects of God’s purpose beginning in verses 10-11 where he speaks of our completion of God’s purpose, then in 12-13 he speaks of our enjoyment of God’s blessing and then finally in 14-15, he speaks of our contentment with God’s will. All of this is his answer to the question posed in verse 9:
What do workers gain from their toil?
We are those workers, so what do we get?
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 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. (10-11)
When we come to understand that we are put here for God’s purposes rather than our own, we begin to see that everything is beautiful in its time. To put this into Christian terms, we might ask ourselves what could be more beautiful than to see our labors result in someone coming into relationship with Jesus Christ. We might see that a man or woman who is able to be set free from bondage to addiction or poverty or hopelessness and enter into the fullness of His grace is a beautiful thing indeed, and more rewarding than all of the treasure of this world. Yes, He has put eternity into our hearts, for unlike the animals, we have the ability to plan and to think ahead, but what will our plans and thinking be: to serve God or to serve ourselves? With the former we will find beauty that others may miss, while with the latter, the only beauty we will find is that which will perish with us.
The Teacher continues:
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (12-13)
Those of us who do our toil for God’s purpose have a gift that others do not; real happiness and satisfaction. The Teacher has made great pains, and will continue in this book to take great pains, to document the utter futility of the pursuit of mere human endeavors, but the gift of God for those who labor in His service is a most excellent gift, for it is a gift that will endure and that will satisfy the craving within every man and woman to seek after the eternal things of God.
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.
Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account. (14-15)
The Teacher winds up this thought in these verses in an interesting way as he gives us a contrast of sorts. God’s purposes and accomplishments last forever, we can neither add nor detract from God’s purpose, but where is the contrast? The contrast is the works of men that are “meaningless” under the sun. Verse 15 makes this clear as the Teacher quotes himself (Ecc. 1:9) where he wailed about the futility of our accomplishments. God is n charge, not us; we can do whatever we want, but if we want our accomplishments to count for something, then we must accomplish things that are within God’s will and purpose for us, not our own flights of fancy. God has ordained this so that we might take notice, for everyone will be called to account.
The rest of this chapter, as you might guess, speaks of the justice of God; His most excellent justice. Before we dive headlong into God’s judgment, let’s pause and get our bearings. I’ve never actually come out and said this before, so lucky you; you get to read it first: God’s judgment is really something of a paradox: God is entirely and completely in control of it, but you decide the outcome.
Oh, I can hear the theologians screaming! Hey, not so fast; think about it. You decide whether your life will be used to advance His purpose or yours, and that decision will result in what becomes of you in judgment. Will you pursue all of those meaningless things as you chase the wind in this life under the sun, or will you labor for His purposes and enjoy His gifts of happiness and satisfaction?
OK, now I can’t wait to see what the Teacher has to say next time!