Friday, May 7, 2010

A Time for Everything / A Purpose in Everything - Ecclesiastes 3

"There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;
a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace....
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in their heart....
I know that everything God does will remain forever;
there is nothing to add to it
and there is nothing to take from it,
for God has so worked that men should fear Him."
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-14 - selected verses)

The Byrds sang these words from Ecclesiastes well. "To everything - turn, turn turn, there is a season - turn, turn turn, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Things change and shift and swing pendulumatically in this life. We are born, we die. Things are built, things are destroyed. Day becomes night. Summer turns to winter. Turn, turn, turn.

These words are familiar to the redeemed and to the rebel alike. They are poetic and they are poignant. They teach us that there is indeed a time for everything - for everything! However, the broader context teaches us that there is also a purpose for everything.

That purposefulness is what got my attention this morning. Here's what struck me:

First, God is sovereign in this world of changes. "There is an appointed time for everything." (vs 1)

Our times - even our changing times - are in His hands. He is "working all things according to the counsel of His will" and "His sovereignty rules over all." The turnings of life are not random but regulated and they are regulated by the all-wise hand of the holy One who does all things well! "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The answer is a resounding "yes"!

Things in this life are mutable, but the God of this life is immutable. So is His promise to work "all things together for the good of those who love Him and are the called according to His purposes." Let us, therefore, not be shaken by the shifting sands of time but let us be secured by the steadfast Rock of Ages!

Second, God is working wonderfully here in the middle of life's changes. "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (vs 11)

Our God is orchestrating this magnificent symphony of life with absolute perfection and with glorious harmony. It is beautiful even if it appears filled with dissonance and discord.

We need to remind ourselves of where we are in the grand scheme of things. We are not living at the beginning of the masterpiece of creation where the shear awe of the dawning of day causes us to go "Wow!! What an incredible plan!" We are also not living at the end of creation where all of the pieces are nicely tied up and the crowning acts of providence are laid out in valiant victory. No, we are living slap dab in the middle of it all. We know that the ball is rolling because we are rolling with it and we know it is heading to some spot, but as of yet we can't quite tangibly take hold of its ultimate destination. So at times, while living here in "middle earth", we find ourselves wondering if there really is a rhyme or reason to the continual turning of the sphere of existence. Is someone really conducting the concert of life or are we all just doing our own thing and making a mess of the music along the way?

Oh, there is a Conductor and there is an Artist. And He is directing and designing with the utmost of perfection and purpose.

While changes often seem meaningless and their shadowy outlines often appear sketchy they are all part of the perfect plan of the Grand Architect. "While the picture is being drawn we see not the beauty, but when the artist has given it its finishing strokes, then all appears very good" (Matthew Henry).

We are living on the back side of the Persian rug. Here we see the knots - but the knots are that which form the most detailed beauty in the whole tapestry. There we shall step and behold the other side - the finished work - the masterpiece! At that hour we will all stand amazed at the perfect wisdom of our perfect God in every part of His perfect providence. "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

Third, God has so ordered the constant ebb and flow of life under the sun that it should make us long for the constant security of life beyond the sun. "He has also set eternity in their hearts." (vs 11).

I remember years ago reading through C.S. Lewis' book "Mere Christianity" and being grabbed by his idea that the very fact that nothing in this life ever truly satisfies is in and of itself a testimony of the fact that we were made for someplace else - someplace better - someplace other - someplace eternally satisfying. That is exactly what Solomon is talking about. This is not our home. We are "aliens and strangers" who are merely tabernacling on our way to the true land of our habitation - heaven. Aren't you yearning for something more? Is it not because you were made for something more? All of creation is groaning and anxiously longing for the consummation of the ages. (Romans 8:18-25). I know I am!

Finally, God's ordained decrees are perfectly purposed! "I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take away from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him." (vs 14).

This is what blew me away this morning. There is a time for everything. There are changes in everything. There is longing for more in everything. There is a God-ordained purpose in everything!

God is eternal and so are the works He has done. God is perfect and so are the plans He has performed. There is not one single mistake in any of His ways. There is nothing missing nor anything to excess.

Listen to Mr. Henry's words on this very thing:

"We must be satisfied in the disposals of divine providence, both as to personal and public concerns. Let all be as God wills, for no matter how it crosses our designs and interests, God's will is His wisdom and that counsel needs not to be altered. If we could see it all together in one view we should see it so perfect that nothing could be added to it for there is no deficiency in it, nor should anything be taken from it, for there is nothing in it that is unnecessary or that can be spared."

Do you get that? Do I get that? There is nothing - NOTHING in our lives that has happened without Divine purpose. NOTHING that has come our way nor anything that has been removed from our path that has not happened in perfect faithfulness and omniscient wisdom. All has been done with holy purpose!

Are you overwhelmed by the turns of your life? Oh, my friend don't be. God has sovereignly ordained every single step of your life here in "middle earth". He has sovereignly ordained every single step and every single detail that we might not be satisfied here with the temporary but that we might hunger and thirst for the eternal and He has done it all with perfect purpose.

Life changes - God's character, God's promises, God's perfect plan does not. Rest in the immutable. Rest in the Beautiful. Rest in the Eternal. Rest in the reverent fear of God which is the beginning of all true and lasting wisdom under the sun. Rest my friends - rest!

Turning with purpose in the hands of my Potter,

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