“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven__” (3:1). This chapter doesn’t feel as gloomy as the first two but he considers the issue of “time”. What is time in this context? According to the Preacher, time is a successive series of events which begin and end (e.g., a time to give birth, a time to die 3:2). There are several aspects I want to consider.
First, there once was a “time” I did not exist, then came the time of my birth, and a day awaits when I will finally die. One day, life as we experience it and know it will no longer be. But will “I” or “we” cease to exist? There are some who would concur that eventually we go out of existence. However, according to the Scriptures and especially in the Gospel accounts (i.e., Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) you and I will either live forever in the blessed presence of Christ or in the eternal wrathful presence of God called hell.
Second, the Preacher acknowledges that God has made all things appropriate in their time (v.11) and He has also set eternity in the hearts of men (v.11b). What’s interesting to me is that God, “in” time, which will never end, has placed eternity into men’s hearts. I’m not altogether certain why that is but the purpose seems, “so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (v.11c).
This beginning and end seems to refer to “everything under heaven or the creation”. Eternity here can very well be the state in time where man will forever gaze into the works of God, eternally beholding the Master’s handiwork in order to marvel at the immensity and the intricacies of His glory.
Third, the preacher knows that rejoicing and, doing good in one’s lifetime is the ultimate goal for existence (v.12). This after all is in the contexts of eating, drinking, and laboring. The one who recognizes that these activities are good must then acknowledge that they come from God. This is not luck, fate, karma, nor destiny. Instead, it’s the kindness of the Creator toward the creature who too often does not give honor nor give thanks to Him.
It’s been my experience even as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, that I have not found any delight in work but rather loathed it. I often have not been thankful nor appreciated the skills for earning wealth I possess. Perhaps you can relate friend to this kind of experience. We need to pray that these three activities are seen for what they are—good.
This is important because too often, we tend to miss the splendor of the mundane by longing for the splendor filled day. According to the Preacher, (v.22) “…nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities because that is man’s lot….For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?” The three activities (of eating, drinking, and laboring,) apportioned to us (by God) are our lot. Enjoying them now is all that we are assured. For when we die these activities, like our lives will cease.
What a challenge to be in the moment and maximize our joy in these activities, rather than squander the opportunity “in the time” allotted to us. These are all gifts from God. Today LORD God, give us your people the wisdom to live in light of eternity in this present fleeting life. Teach us LORD to be happy in the lot you have determined for us to experience by keeping us from forfeiting said delight through actions and thoughts that dishonor your name.