“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
These verses are more than part of the popular song “Turn, Turn, Turn” performed by The Byrds. These words were written by King Solomon centuries before as he was pursuing man’s purpose in living (Ecclesiastes 1:13). As he contemplates on the vanity of one’s trying to live life apart from God pursuing labor, wealth, and power, he considers that there must be more to life than this.
He mentions that God made man unique from the animals. He mentions that both men and animals die: “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20). Although his initial perception is that both men and animals die, he is aware that there spirits head in different directions following death: “Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21).
Furthermore, God has placed something within the heart of man that He has not placed within the hearts of animals: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Did you catch that? God has put “eternity” in the hearts of men. Instead of simply living for the here and now like an animal does as it pursues its daily food and mating desires, man should pursue something much greater. Man should be pursuing those things which are of eternal consequence!
Moreover that same verse (Ecclesiastes 3:11) mentions that no one can find out everything about the work which God does. We simply cannot comprehend it all no matter how hard we pursue it: “I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15). Why does God not allow man to understand everything God does? So that men should “fear” Him! As men live with “eternity” in their hearts, they should do so understanding their relationship to God as their creator and walk humbly before Him. They also need to realize the day is coming when God is going to require of them “an account of what is past” (i.e. how they lived their lives on this earth).
Solomon sees that sometimes men do not execute: “Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there” (Ecclesiastes 3:16). However, in this Solomon did not despair because he knew that just as there was a time for everything else under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8), there was coming a time when God would execute true justice on the Day of Judgment: “I said in my heart, ‘God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work’” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).
Today, as I consider this chapter from Ecclesiastes, I marvel at how God created me different than the animals. Because He has given me “eternity” in my heart, I will pursue those things of eternal consequence so that I will be prepared to inherit the wonderful place He has prepared for me in Heaven when I face Him and give an account of my past life here on this earth!
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).