He Has Made Everything Beautiful in its Time
It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without time. From scheduling appointments, events, worship services, school calendars, playdates, business meetings, ceremonies, meals, and the like, our entire lives revolve around time. But have you ever considered that time is a gift from God? He created time when He created day and night on the first day of creation (Gen. 1:5). He is the author of “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night” which He has promised will not cease “while the earth remains” (8:22). He has also “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their [mankind’s] dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). He determines when a woman will have a baby (see Gen. 17:21). And His Son was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” to be “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). Our times are in His hand (Ps. 31:15). And “the time is near” when God will judge the living and the dead (Rev. 22:10-13).
Time was part of the rhythm of Adam and Eve’s life before the fall when there was no weeping, mourning, hatred, war, or death. But after the fall there was fear, shame, blame, hatred, murder, pain, thorns, thistles, and death (Gen. 3:7-19). The poem about time in Ecclesiastes 3 does not turn a blind eye to such things. It describes life in a fallen world. There is “a time to be born, and a time to die” (v. 2). There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (v. 4). There is “a time for war, and a time for peace” (v. 8).
The poem in Ecclesiastes 3 simply states the ups and the downs of life in a broken world, and without verses 9-15 the reader would be left without hope. But the Preacher gives us good news. He answers the question, “What gain has the worker from his toil” (v. 9) in a way that anticipates a fuller answer in the New Testament. God did not abandon His people after the fall. He “has given to the children of man [business] to be busy with” (v. 10). Also, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (v. 11). In addition, although people can’t know “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33), God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecc. 3:11), so that he has the capacity to worship Him, work for His glory, and witness for His name. Therefore, God’s people, even after the fall, can “be joyful” and “take pleasure in all his toil” because it “is God’s gift to man” (vv. 12-13). These things are possible because of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Since “death is swallowed up in victory” that came “through our Lord Jesus Christ” believers can “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:54, 57-58). We can leave “the secret things” that “belong to the LORD our God” for His business, and we can obey “the things that are revealed” through the Holy Scriptures (Deut. 29:29). Such trust and obedience in Jesus Christ is the key to living a life of joy, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). Because “the days are evil” believers are to walk in wisdom, “making the best use of the time” (Eph. 5:15-16). We should “understand what the will of the Lord is,” “be filled with the Spirit,” worship the Lord together, give “thanks always” and submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:17-21).
As we live for God’s glory believers can rest assured “that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it” (Ecc. 3:14). This includes the most significant event in history, “Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” to be “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). And it includes the certainty of the spiritual blessings that believers have in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14). God’s eternal decree and providence are meant to lead the believer to “fear before him” (Ecc. 3:14). Such fear is characterized by walking in His ways, loving Him, serving Him wholeheartedly, obeying Him, submitting to Him, and holding fast to Him (see Deut. 10:12-21).
I don’t know what your days look like right now. You may be rejoicing in the birth of a child or grandchild, or you may be weeping at a graveside. You might be establishing new routines in another city after a tearful relocation or you might be enjoying stability. You might be dancing at a wedding or mourning over a difficult marriage. You might be living with your family in peace and harmony or your home may be a war zone. In the midst of the valleys and mountaintops of life we can cling to the truth that God is with us and He will make “everything beautiful in its time” (3:11). Indeed, we can joyfully proclaim that He is coming again to make “all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.