Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ecclesiastes 3: A Time for Everything

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

As we have seen, the Bible teaches that time is linear and that history is moving toward a goal in terms of the plan of God. The fact that history is real for God, since He made it, was scandalous to the ancient Greeks and other pagans. For the ancient pagans an eternal god could have nothing to do with a world of change.

According to the pagan view, history was a place of flux, that is, of constant change. Thus, history was the opposite of eternity. For the pagan, salvation meant escaping from the world of “change and decay” into a world of timelessness. For instance, the Stoics argued that people should seek to be changeless, “imperturbable,” in the midst of the changing scenes of life. The Platonists argued that people should fix their minds on timeless ideals, and seek to ignore the flux of change around them.

The New Testament assaulted this mentality by saying that God Incarnate entered the flux of history. This was scandalous to the Greeks. The idea that history and change are good, under the providential control of God, was monstrous to them. The notion that the eternal God would be willing to enter time was an absurdity.

Ecclesiastes 3 presents the biblical view of time, which is the opposite of the Greek. In the Bible time is not a burden but an opportunity. Change is not evil, but rather an opportunity to grow and develop and for sinners the opportunity to repent. Since we cannot do everything at once, the Bible says that there are appropriate times for everything in life (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).

How do we as finite creatures illustrate the infinity and eternity of God? By being diverse. The fact that time involves flux, difference, and change means that we have the opportunity to be images of God in different ways at different times: planting and uprooting, killing and healing, weeping and laughing. For the Christian, history is not the opposite of eternity, but rather is the way God’s eternal realities become manifest and visible in the creation.

Many Christians are under the impression that they should feel the same way all the time. This is not biblical thinking. The Psalms show people experiencing great diversities of emotion in response to the changing scenes of life. Each one presents us with a new and fresh opportunity to model the love of Christ. Be prepared today with this attitude about your changing circumstances.