Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ecclesiastes 3: From Time to Eternity

Eccl 3:1-14 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 
a time to be born and a time to die, 
a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
a time to kill and a time to heal, 
a time to tear down and a time to build, 
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain, 
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
a time to tear and a time to mend,
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. 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 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. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil — this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

As the old saying goes, "Time and tide waits for no man." There is something inexorable about Time. It moves on whether we like it or not. No one can put up his hand and tell Time to stop, except, of course, in sci-fi novels and movies. We cannot stop time, neither can we save time--we can only spend it. And how we spend our time today will determine where we will spend our eternity when time is over for us. Some people talk about "killing time" when it is time that ultimately kills them! For prisoners "doing time", time is a terrible Taskmaster -- it cannot be hastened or shortened, only endured, until their "time" is over.

God has allotted to everyone of us a specific duration here on earth. We have no choice about when we were born and when we will die: it is totally in God's hand, though we do have a responsibility to use our allotted portion purposely. So the Preacher says, "(God) has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live." In other words, all humans are conscious that time here on earth is not all there is because God has "set eternity in the hearts of men." Without eternity, life in this time is meaningless because death ends it all.

God has no beginning and no end because he initiated Time and will bring it to a close one day: "yet  they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Only God knows the beginning and the end of Time, but we can only live and work within our allotted segment. Time is like a train that has started from the Eternity Past station and will terminate at the Eternity Future station. Every human person gets on board this Time-Train at his or her Birth Station for a short trip and will have to disembark at his or her Death Station. While we have no choice about how or when we get on board the train, we have a choice as to which station we will finally get off--whether it will be Heaven-gate or Hell-gate Station. What we do while we are on board the Time-Train will determine our Destiny because the Train Driver is God. 

The Preacher's advice is: "there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live." And that is what salvation is for--that we might do good works while we are travelling in the Time Train. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." While we are not saved by good works (but by grace acting through faith), we are saved for good works which God has already prepared in advance for us to do. Paul also exhorts believers to "walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time [NIV: make the most of every opportunity]" (Col 4:5, NKJV). How can we redeem our time here on earth? By doing the good works that God has already prepared for us to do.

So, have you started doing the "good works" that God has prepared for you to do? Or are you still doing your own thing? What you do will decide which station you will get off at your next stop.

Father, You have created Time and Time goes on inexorably. You have called us to redeem the Time, to make use of every opportunity to do good. May Your Holy Spirit show us what are the good works You have prepared for us to do, so that we would not waste time on meaningless pursuits but invest our time for eternity. Amen.

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