From the third lecture in the audio seminar Abounding Emptiness, Abundant Living
There is a time in which it is appropriate to kill, as well as there is a time to heal. There is a time to tear down and there’s a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, to mourn, to dance, to scatter stones and to gather them which, if you’ve been to Israel, is appropriate because there are stones everywhere. Many of them are gathered and many of them are scattered. There’s a time to embrace and a time to refrain, to search, a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend. Chapter 3, verse 7 is interesting terminology because in Solomon’s day, when you receive bad news, you would rip your garments as an act of grief. And when that grief had passed, then it was appropriate to mend or to sew the garments back together. So here he is saying, there is a time for ripping of garments, for tearing of garments, for grief, but there is also a time for mending and for healing. There is 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. Now in the whole section of Koheleth’s argument, he is building on this idea that enjoyment and happiness is a gift from God. A gift from God to men of faith, to women of faith. But he is trying to show that in the timing of God and scheme of God, every action of man can be related in some way back to its ultimate source, which is God’s providence, God’s administration of life. Some of you, by the way, might have trouble with this eighth verse, which I passed over, a time to love and a time to hate. Did anybody trip on that? Is there a time to hate? Well, I think that it is always the order of the day that we hate unrighteous, for example, that we hate sin. Also in God’s mysterious sovereignty, he actually uses hate to accomplish his purposes. How about, for example, when it says in Psalm 105:25 that he turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people Israel and he used that as part of the plan for the Exodus, the Passover, the redemption of the people of Israel. The whole point is that all of life unfolds under divine appointment. All of life. And when we see this, then we notice, for example here, beginning with verse 11, that God 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. Everything is beautiful in its time and because we are created in the very image of God, there is within us -- to use Jewish terminology -- a divine spark. There is that divine element within us. That very breath of the creator God. And that sense of eternity within us is always yearning for some sense of comprehension about what is life. What is the meaning of life? We really, all of us, have a desire to know in some sense what the divine plan is, what the purpose is. We are on a quest to discern our purpose in life, our destiny.
But from the underneath side, under the sun, life can sometimes appear like a tapestry. All you see is madness. There are strings going everywhere. There is no pattern. It’s ugly, yet from the top side, the tapestry is a beautiful mosaic showing a divine pattern at work. If your perspective is from underneath the sun, and you are looking at the bottom of the mosaic or of the tapestry or of the quilt or whatever image you want to use. All you see are the rough edges, you see the knots, you see the cuts, you see the apparently meaningless convergence of colors and threads and designs. But from above, it is beautiful. God is sovereign.
Notice what he says in chapter 3, verse 12, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and to do good while they live, that every man may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil. This is a gift from God." In other words, despite all of this, our commission is to enjoy life. Because we can have confidence that from above, God has some kind of plan working. God is working for the good, for the beautiful in all things. It gives us the capacity in the midst of all this seemingly meaninglessness and vanity of life, to rejoice, to enjoy. Even in our eating, our drinking, our work. Enjoy it as a gift from the sovereign God who is ultimately in control. This awareness, this trust, this fear, this commitment to God gives us the possibility of true joy in living.
Have you ever been around young children, or have you ever had young children? When they are quite young and they are playing with their friends, their parents are nearby and they glance over and make sure that their parent is there, it gives them an enormous sense of security. Their play can be far more creative and vital than if they are constantly wondering where mama is, where papa is. Am I alone? Am I in danger? And so it is, by simple analogy, the same with God, our heavenly Father. If we have confidence that he is on the scene, that despite appearances to the contrary, life can have meaning and purpose. We have that capacity to freely enter into it and enjoy it, always recognizing that our very ability to do so is a gift from him, not something in the natural, but in the supernatural. True abundance comes from God.
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.