One of the most interesting things about reading the Bible is the vast amount of different styles of writing and different literature in it. When it dawns on us that The Bible isn’t one book, but 66 books written by over 40 different human writers over a period of at least 1500 years it helps us in understanding it. While a large amount of the Bible is narrative there are also many others types of writings such as poetry, prophesy, laws, and love stories. Trying to read the gospel accounts of Jesus life and ministry in the same way one reads Song of Solomon or Ecclesiastes will lead to a world of confusion.
Think of the book of Ecclesiastes for a moment. It was written by Solomon likely when he was older and thinking about his life, his mess ups and his relationship with both God and other people. The theme that runs through the book is “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” Other translations have “meaningless” instead of “vanity”. It could be translated “Empty” or “emptiness.” It tells of Solomon’s search for happiness, fulfillment and purpose in his life. He was given tremendous wisdom by God in answer to his prayer for wisdom. He certainly demonstrated the greatest wisdom in his life when God offered to give him what he asked for and he asked for wisdom. But God threw in things like wealth and power to go with his wisdom.
In his search for meaning and happiness in life, Ecclesiastes tells of different things he tried, such as pleasure, beautiful gardens and amazing buildings. He accumulated things like his life depended on it. But no matter how much he had, he still felt something missing in his life. While most of us don’t have the tremendous wealth to accumulate tons of things in life, the truth is it is easy no matter how little or much we own to try to find meaning and joy in the possessions we have. Think of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus wanting to know what he had to do to attain eternal life. When Jesus told him to keep the commandments, he was sure he had been doing that since he was a child. Mark tells us Jesus looked at him and loved him, but then said, “You lack one thing. Go sell all you have and give it to the poor and come follow me and you will have great treasure in heaven.” It was just exactly what he was longing for. It would be the fulfillment, the meaning and purpose to his life. But he was broken at the command. He walked away in sorrow, going back to his wealth that had left him feeling empty and alone. But he couldn’t bring himself to leave the money, the things to trust completely in Jesus. He left a sad and broken man, but wealthy.
In the midst of Solomon’s efforts to find meaning in life, he says some of the greatest things the everyone needs to learn, along with some of the saddest things one can conceive of in life. Chapter 3 has a powerful section on everything having a season and a time. Think of his list. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war; and a time for peace. If every person could just understand that all these things are part of every life it would make a world of difference for us. We tend to think they are true for others, but surely I don’t have to have the mourning, the weeping or even the hate.
Immediately after that section he said, “What gain has the worker for his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Verses 9-11) It is in connection with the reality that God has given all people work to toil at and be busy with in life that he said God made everything beautiful in its time. If you pulled that single phrase out from that context and simply declared that God has made everything beautiful in its time it would be powerful and one of those phrases from Scripture that we should remember. But when it is seen in the context or background from which it arose it is far more powerful.
Too often people in our time see work as one of the necessities of life that we wish weren’t there. We look for ways to get out of work. It may be the driving force in our life to just get to vacation time or to retirement when I don’t have to go to work every day. Yet, when God placed man in the perfect environment of Eden, he gave him work to do in dressing and keeping the garden. The man and woman were put in charge of the whole creation. In heaven it says that we serve him day and night. If my notion of the blessed and beautiful life is to have nothing to do but sit around and watch TV or old movies, I have a completely different concept of the beautiful life from God. Think about people you know who don’t really have any responsibility, nothing to really do each day but sit around, think of what they can buy or eat or some place to go. How happy are they? I’ve not met the person in that situation that is enjoying life and content with things. Something is missing. The people I know that enjoy life are busy. It may not be a job they are being paid to hold. It may be in ways they serve others around them. But they get up each day with a mission to accomplish.
God made everything beautiful in its time. If we can’t see any of that beauty we are missing God’s view. Go today and everyday on a mad search for the beautiful. It is really all around us. Don’t allow Satan to convince you that all God’s beauty has been lost. Look for it and glory it his beauty each day.