Daily Update #255

9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That every one may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men (and women) will revere him.

Ecclesiastes 3:9 -14

Yesterday, Rosemary shared her helpful insights into the poetically expressed opposites set out in the first 8 verses of Ecclesiastes 3. On 4th December 1965 those exact 8 verses (with one extra line plus song title), reached number one in the US Billboard chart! They were the heart of the Byrds’ classic version of Pete Seeger’s 1950s song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn.’ Today’s 6 verses are less poetic and melodic. However, they reinforce the Teacher’s earlier reminders that we have little or no control over how the world rolls on from day to day. Now he tells us that whilst we tend to hurry, scurry and worry, God is calmly in control of His created universe. The writer once again shows great empathy for men and women as they go about their earthly activities and face life’s unavoidable hardships, confusions and burdens (v10). He knows how hard life can be – as, of course, did Jesus (see Hebrews 4:14-16).

We are shown beautifully in verses 11 to 14 (see above) where true meaning comes from. The answer does not lie in the daily grind of human life or in our flawed attempts to acquire real understanding and wisdom. No, the answer lies in God Himself who, as the sustainer of His beautiful creation, has ordered things perfectly. Our difficulty in appreciating and fitting in with all this perfection is also explained in verse 11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of menyet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Our discomforts and discontents lie in the fact that we will never truly be ‘at home’ until we reach heaven. It was Jesus who first taught the great truths of God’s eternal plan – for us to be with Him in heaven for ever, as forgiven sinners. Only then will everything we have experienced on earth find its full and ultimate meaning!

Some have misrepresented Ecclesiastes as giving us divine permission to ‘eat, drink and be merry’ without thought for the consequences – like a post-lockdown letting off of steam! We see here that God actually wants us to work hard and to enjoy life but to do so responsibly. His expectation of the kind of lives we should lead is clear – “there is nothing better for men [and women] than to be happy and do good while they live” (v12). There is something of God’s eternal purposes in these simple words, as there most certainly is in our striking final verse today. Verse 14 provides resounding reassurance that our unchanging God is in control – “I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men [and women] will revere Him.” All of God’s actions have eternity in mind. Since we were made for eternity, and to love God for who He is, the fleeting things of this earth can’t fully satisfy us. We will find meaning and purpose in this life only when we trust in and revere God. So let’s walk closely to Jesus, the only person who has ever got all of this right. There is no “chasing after the wind” with Him! (1:14).

Prayer:  Thank you Father that your loving purposes for us include eternity. Thank you too that Jesus walks alongside us in this life and has prepared a place for us in heaven. Give us the grace to revere you as we should and to turn to you when we find life tough. Help us to know daily the joy of our salvation and to do good by serving others. Amen. Tomorrow’s passage:  Ecclesiastes 3:15-22