Summary: The biblical teacher in Ecclesiastes has one great advantage over us. In everything he says he is counting on God.
For a long time, the biblical wisdom: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity...“, used to seem very general to me. It is a beautiful poem – that´s true – but the idea itself appeared so obvious that there was no need to pay any special attention to it. Every child knows that in life nothing lasts forever. – But later I realized that it is not enough just to know something. It is more important to know how to apply that truth in life. – In everyday life it is extremely important to know that every activity under the heavens has its own specific time. Let’s think about how to apply this wisdom today – the last day of the year.
It seems that most of us have a tendency to understand what we currently experience as something permanent. We quickly get used to most things in life and we think that they will last forever. When we are doing fine we understand it as a natural thing which will not change, and when things are not going well we are unhappy and afraid to think that it will never change. – We simply cannot imagine that it will change and, in time, it will pass and disappear. We are fixed on our concerns, tasks and responsibilities so deeply that we cannot break away from them and see them in broader and deeper perspectives. – Yet this is what the biblical Ecclesiastes is teaching us. The writer says: “everything in the world is only temporary. Nothing will last forever. Everything is limited by time.”
This may scare us, though. If everything passes away, then there is no value to life. It is not worth doing anything. The house we have built will be demolished after some time. The tree we’ve planted will wither. A forest will be cut down. We are afraid of this fleeting character of being and that is why we prefer living absorbed in the present as if it would last forever.
The biblical teacher in Ecclesiastes has one great advantage over us. In everything he says he is counting on God. Even though he does not mention His name, God is hidden in all of the sentences. Unfortunately, we don´t speak and think like that anymore. When we say: “Everything passes away”, we literally mean “everything” and this idea scares us. The teacher in Ecclesiastes means “everything” except God who remains forever. He is not subordinate to time. He is unchanging. It means the only ultimate certainty of our life can be shaped exclusively by God. – As soon as we realize it, we will stop being afraid of these changes in our lives. – When people do not think about God, they subconsciously cling to the world. But as soon as they lose something – job, family happiness or a beloved person – their world collapses and they feel there is no reason to live anymore. Yet, when we anchor our lives in God we can easily admit that everything has its own temporary time and we will still have a solid foundation under our feet.
The teacher in Ecclesiastes has actually borrowed a foreign word for “time”, coming from the Persian language, to emphasize this idea. The first sentence of our text could be translated like: Each event has its date and term, its opportunity which is limited. There is a time to sow, to grow, to harvest and to give thanks. – The date is not meant as anything fateful here rather the opposite: If there is a time for everything under the heavens, all things around us are thus rid of their power and immobility. Everything – even the most important things are here just for a while. And everything, even the worst, will end one day. Nothing, except God, lasts forever. – This knowledge is the source of our freedom, patience, strength and hope, because all evil will, in time, come to an end: wars, diseases, enmity, humiliation, prison, pain and anxiety. – That is why it’s worth persisting, staying faithful, working hard, and making sacrifice. In the end every evil will disappear like a cloud that comes across the sky.
The second very important piece of wisdom is that nothing good and pleasant will remain forever. – That is why we should appreciate all good things and enjoy them. And this is where we so often fail. When we feel good we think that will last forever. We do not appreciate and cherish our health, love, home, parents, children, work... Once we have these things, we behave as if we do not know about them. When we wake up in the morning we don’t even think about giving thanks for it. Only when we lose something important we regret not having appreciated it. That is why we should enjoy all the good things that happen in our lives. – We should love life; enjoy a good meal, take a deep breath of fresh air, cherish our good health, love our families, or take joy in starting work – because at some point in life we will have to give up all of that. If we still have most of these things let’s enjoy them and be thankful to God for them every day.