The Lord reigns! The Preacher, the Son of David who writes Ecclesiastes, presents the doctrine of God’s complete sovereignty not to ask us what we think about it, but simply as a matter of honesty about the ways of life. The truth is that God’s overwhelming authority is very good news. In fact the prophet Isaiah connects the gospel or “good news” that God’s ambassadors proclaim today with this doctrine of God’s almighty power and authority. He writes in Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”
God rules in heaven over all that happens under the sun. He determines the time and place for various events and activities, both those that we receive as positive blessings and those that we consider negative disasters. Remember that the Preacher ended Chapter Two by talking about God’s gifts. He will speak of God at length after the completion of this series of couplets about the times of our lives. There can be no doubt that He understands that heaven’s God ordains and orders every matter mentioned in this poem.
There is a time to be born and a time to die. The number of days that God has ordained for us were written in His book before we experienced even one of them. He is the One who planted us; He is the first Cause, and our human parents were second causes operating according to His purposes. He is also the One who gathers up what He has planted, harvesting us for His eternal purpose. Rulers may order their people into battle, and physicians may perform necessary surgeries, but the God of heaven long ago set the time for healing, and even for killing. Who can fathom all His great designs? A man works diligently on a project, deciding that it is his life’s work. He dismantles some structure from an earlier generation that once occupied what is now his land. But it is God who first determined that something new would be built in the place of something old whose time had come and gone.
In our lives we experience weeping and laughter, mourning and dancing. We wake up, intending to do one thing, and we lay our heads on our pillows that night doing the other. Are you sure you will be weeping tonight? You may be laughing. God knows. He has ordained it from of old. It is part of a larger purpose that He is accomplishing, that purpose that the Apostle writes of in Ephesians 1:10, “… to unite all things in Him (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.” God is gathering living stones for His holy temple. He embraces His people, for He is a Husband to a bride who will one day be flawless. No one can stop this eternal purpose. The times that God has determined all fit into His decree.
We seek someone and we find him. We may lose him one day, and we both may be forgotten by everyone. But God will not forget. We do what we want within the limits of what we can accomplish; keeping this, and casting away that, tearing one garment, and sewing a patch on another. We speak and we listen, we love and we hate, and even in those emotions and actions that we consider ours alone, God has chosen the time for these feelings and pursuits. Somehow all of the details of existence must fit into a larger fabric of God’s design.
Sin came into the world as a declaration of war, but before the world was created, the way that God would work out peace with His people through Christ was already known to the Almighty. He had even determined when the fullness of time would come, and what that would mean for His beloved Son.
It is within this sovereign fabric of existence that every worker’s toil comes and goes. The Lord makes us busy in something that He has given to us. We do not see the final glory of heaven at present, but the Preacher tells us something we need to believe as we increasingly feel the movement of time: that God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has left each of us with an internal testimony of a life beyond this earth. He has put eternity into man’s heart. Not that we understand eternity; even today, after the cross and the resurrection, we still struggle to imagine what heaven is like and what our existence will precisely be when the Lord returns. Nonetheless, we know this: that we will be like Jesus, for we will see Him as He is.
Until then, it is ours to enjoy the daily gifts God gives to us, and even to enjoy Him, knowing that whatever He does endures forever, and that His eternal purpose must have something to do with our fleeting lives and our endeavors that will soon be forgotten by a coming generation. And surely God will judge. We are dust, and to dust we will return; we cannot know today what will happen to our work after we die. But the God who reigns knows. His Son has gathered us, He will embrace us, and we will see Him.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of Hosts, You are sovereign over all things. You have given a time for ever purpose under heaven. You are gathering us as living stones for Your eternal temple. You are embracing Your bride in a love that will never end. Thank You for placing eternity in our hearts. Thank You especially for providing the very best answer to our longings. Your Son Jesus Christ is our provision, and we rejoice in Him. Help us to enjoy the many blessings of this life, yet with some measure of restraint, as there is a time for every matter and every work. Like the beasts of the earth, we will face the end of our lives one day. We too have the grave ahead of us. Yet You are the most satisfying answer to the question that You have placed within our souls.