Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ecclesiastes 3: The Inscrutability of History

"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" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Because we as human beings exist in time, the meaning of our lives is intimately connected to historical events and realities. When the Teacher looked at life from the secular perspective, he saw only a meaningless treadmill of futility. Now, however, he shifts perspective. In Ecclesiastes 3:1 he says that there is an appointed time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.

God has appointed a diversity of experiences for us. The New Testament provides us two different words for time. The first word, chronos, refers to the mere passage of time. The other word, kairos, refers to time as events or special times. Ecclesiastes 3 is speaking of God’s appointed times for us: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from so doing. For the Christian, every event in his life comes from the loving providential hand of God. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 puts it, God has made everything beautiful in its time.

Because we are made in God’s image, we have a built-in desire to understand the world and history. We want to grasp the big picture. We want to know the end from the beginning. As we grow and mature throughout all eternity in heaven, we will increasingly understand that big picture. In this world, however, we are still mere babes in understanding, and we only know a few things.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 points to this limitation of human knowledge. It says that though God has put eternity into our hearts so that we desire to know all things, we cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. We must be satisfied to know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9), confident that as we grow and mature God will gradually reveal all things to us throughout eternity.

The claim to know all things right now is sinful and arrogant. When men claim to understand the whole picture, they have inevitably reduced the world to the dimensions of their own minds. This is the origin of secular ideology and the wellspring of much cruelty as men seek to impose their distorted worldviews on others.

The world of knowledge multiplies at an alarming rate, causing us to despair of ever really knowing much at all. God, however, encourages us to explore His world; the first vocation given to man was a scientific one as Adam classified the animal kingdom. God delights in our exploration of creation and history, but mandates that we pursue knowledge “according to truth.” Outside of your vocation, how are you pursuing such knowledge?