If today’s passage seems a little familiar to you, there’s a good reason for it. It’s one of the few examples of Scripture being set to mainstream music. Of course I’m talking about “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (made famous by the Byrds) which was sung all over the country during the 1960’s. I could wish that John 3:16 was made into a hit song played all over the radio, but what can you do?
What’s Solomon’s point in the first eight verses? I mean, obviously the immediate purpose is stated in the first verse: There’s a proper time for everything under heaven. Just about every human activity could be lumped into one of the categories listed. But why is he saying this? What does he want us to see? Perhaps he wants us to see that if we make God the center of our lives, everything will fall into its proper place. Perhaps, given the verses which immediately follow, he wants us to see that God is sovereign over all human activity. It might just be giving us a piece of wisdom concerning life, reminding us that there’s a proper time for everything, and we shouldn’t try an activity outside of its proper time (for example, don’t be silent when it’s time to speak up). All of these are possible interpretations, and they’re all good reminders.
What I’d like to focus on for a moment, however, are the remaining verses. There’s a lot of intriguing mystery about vss. 9-14. After regaling us with another deep but depressing question (Vs. 9 could be paraphrased as “So what’s the point of it all? Why keep wasting your time?), he goes into a discussion on what the Lord's done to us and for us.
Vss. 1-8 remind us that the world is a large place. At any moment, there are countless people being born and dying, planting and uprooting, killing and healing, etc. And God has made a beautiful world. Yes, it’s fallen, but much of its original beauty still remains. But at the same time that it’s too large for us to comprehend, in another sense the world is too small. No matter what we do, no matter how we fill our hours and days, we end up feeling empty. Why? Because God has “set eternity in human heart.” That’s a reflection of the fact that we’re created in his image, and it’s also caused by the fact that we live in a fallen world. We’re not animals. Yes, we need to eat, sleep, breed, etc. We have instincts in common with the beasts. But we’re made for more than that. We were made for more than just gratifying our physical desires.
But we’re not angels either. We yearn for more than what this world has to offer, but we keep getting tripped up by our worst desires. That’s the quandary we’re in. We’re caught between two worlds. Maybe that’s why I’ve always hated to see birds in cages. Not just because of my last name, but because I can empathize with them. We were all made to fly, and we’ve all got clipped wings.
So what’s Solomon’s (and God’s) solution to this? Well, it’s actually quite simple. Step one is to enjoy the simple things in life. Instead of seeking the latest thrill (which Solomon could tell you is a dead end), find pleasure in simple things. Eat, drink, and find satisfaction in what you do. Enjoy life! Enjoy God’s blessings!
And that leads us to the second part of the solution to our misery, the really essential part. Recognize that God has given you all of this. Gratitude will go a long way towards improving your attitude. You won’t be able to really enjoy the gifts of God apart from the God who gives the gifts. Also you need to revere him, which means you give him what he’s due: worship, honor, and obedience.
And trust is implied in that. Solomon only hinted at it, but the rest of God’s word tells us this: We won’t be locked in the cage forever. He's placed eternity in our hearts for a reason. What’s wrong now will one day be made right. We’ll finally be everything that we were created to be. Sweet. . .
Lord Jesus, I know that I’m trapped between two worlds, and that really stinks sometimes. Thank you for being here with me. Please get me ready for the big move.