AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH
December 29, 2013 Ecclesiastes Ch. 3 and 7
Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
TIMELY TIMES AND TIME FOR ETERNITY
Ecclesiastes Ch. 3 declares this (bold added).
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
"A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which 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 get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
"A time to rend, 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 of war, and a time of peace.
"What profit has he who works in that wherein he labours? I have seen the
travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
"He has made every thing beautiful in its time:
also He hath set eternity in their heart,
without which man cannot find out the work
that God makes from the beginning to the end."
Here Solomon is moved to survey regularities, cycles, situations, recurring apt actions within the normal scope of the natural world inhabited by man. In itself it is uninspiring; but he moves out of this regularity series to the setter of these settings, and the settled establishment in the heart of man of what puts these things in place, but is itself given a place far better. God, in Ecclesiastes 3:11, we learn, has set eternity in the heart of man. Hence these things, though having place, are not prodigies and portents, are not of the stature apt for man, but rather, like mists, things through which you drive on the way to something else. You would not consider STAYING in the mist, though it may have a special appeal for some.
Now, says I Corinthians 13, we see through a mirror dimly, then face to face. The grace of that face, which shows the glory of God, namely the face, the countenance, the character display unit in Jesus Christ, speaks of the goal as of the commencement, for all things were created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16, II Corinthians 4:6). Let us hear it: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Our hearts are potentially receptive, since God has "set eternity" in them, and what is beyond the cyclic, what enters into the personal, and with this, into the open domain of eternal life, is set as a vision calling, a natural link to the supernatural, within man. He may divorce from it, harassed by his sins, seek to suppress it, like a prisoner kept in a house for years in some noxious suburb, he may seek to kill it, like a gangster trying to gain real estate by murdering the rightful owner; but it is there.
Without this gratuitous link to the Maker, this inordinate gift enabling discourse with God, even salvation through Him, that eternity might be gained and secured, man would be a mere cypher, tumbled about like clothes in a dryer. Because of his origin in God however, MAN-ufacturer, creator of what longs and seeks, hopes and pleads, thrusts into and beyond the containing complexity of the merely natural, our companions in creation, man roves or rationalises, seeks or slinks, grasps what God gives, or relaxes into spiritual indolence.
Let us then, apply this information from Ecclesiastes 3:11, which is reinforced by Ch. 12:13-14, with which the book ends:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
TIMES FROM THE ONE BEYOND OUR TIMES
The Supernatural Circuits for Man with Eternity in his Heart
Thus in the natural order, there is a time to be born. This is how we individually start. It goes on to death. That is a sentence, and it is useless to deny or defy it. The inordinate wonder of our BEING ALIVE, is countermanded by the extraordinary modes of ensuring we die. The glory arrives, and it departs. That is the theme: there is a reason, and it is this, that without eternity, God Himself present in our little ways amid the timed timelinesses, we are cut off from the understanding of eternity. In fact, being possessed of its qualities hidden in the heart, born divided from God and needing to FIND HIM, man often yearns for the understanding and the realisation; though many try to be immune, for personal convenience, ambition, evil and the like.
In the realm of the Maker of man, the eternal, we may express some of the points in this way:
There is a time to start creation, and to stop it;
for man to realise this fact about himself and about the God of creation;
and a dream-time to foster its non-realisation, lest he believe;
a time to admit that information is not a natural process, but an input option,
a time to start the universe, and to bring death as an output imposition,
a time to face this divine comment, which sin induced, one constantly exhibited day by day.
This has its ultimate come-uppance in regeneration or else its hatred in vocal inflammation.
There is a time to be born again, and NOT to die; which is one bundle;
there is a time to weep now, as our duties from God impinge on life (Luke 6:21),
and a time to laugh then, when the war is over, and heaven resounds;
there is a time to repent, and a time to glow ("For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death" - 2 Corinthians 7:10);
there is a time to believe, and not to bluster;
there is a time to die, and a time to cease dying for ever,
there is a time to gain eternal life, and no time to lose it.
Thus, there have been times in the USA in the 18th and 19th centuries, as in parts of Scotland and England in the era of the Wesleys and Whitefield, of profound irruptive revival, when peoples have been so gripped by the power of God, as eyes are so opened that the blindness preceding is hard to believe.
There are whole histories of these things, including not only those recounted by Edwin J. Orr, but such as that of the era of Jonathan Edwards in the century before. These are but examples. There is sometimes an outpouring of the Spirit of God concerning the exalted place of Jesus Christ, received or not, in the realm of mankind, and His mercy, this as foretold in Isaiah 32:15, and in Joel 2:28 and shown in Acts 2.
This may be constitutional as in first delivering many into the kingdom of Christ, institutional as in Pentecost in its highly intelligible tongues making the Gospel clear to those of many languages, or episodic, as when it comes to a weary land in the midst of its turmoils.
This is just one example of the TIME for ceasing dying and finding eternal life, with its resurrection in due time, for the body of Christ, His Church (Isaiah 26:19, I Cor. 15). This comes when the work of history is done, and the preceding TIME finished for the transformation wrought the Spirit, in as many as are re-introduced to God by the work of Christ. It may come when all others seem black in backing out; or when they seem intent on coming in. There is time for it all, for God MAKES time for it all. It is a work of God, but it has for each one, its time, time to get beyond the limitations of passing time, and into the field of having the guilt of sin covered, past, processed, sent to the depths of the sea, while the spirit of man recovers in redemption (Romans 3:23-27).
There is a time for such transference of power, pardon and pity (Isaiah 55, II Cor. 6), but there is not time suitable for its refusal. Nevertheless such times come, and are may be like a balming breeze to the one won, or a tempest meeting inured sin, when the drug of sin leads the heart to avoid noticing it, just as icebergs were not to the point in the Titanic!
TAKING TIME TO BE HOLY
But let us suppose now, that you are already saved from the guilt and the power of sin; imperfect (Philippians 3:12), yet you are healed.
There is an old song, Take time to be holy!
Fast executive work, construction work (often falling when tremors test), fast ideational sloppiness is not uncommon; but when it comes to holiness, it can take much time. Thus Paul tells us with some emphasis that before he went up to Jerusalem and met apostles, he was for some three years elsewhere. It took time to be fully prepared for what was to come. This could almost sound as if it were comparable to seminary training for the task ahead of him, with God Himself, the tutor, just as He had called him in the first place (cf. Acts 9).
Ponder, says Proverbs, the paths of your feet, and let your all your ways be established (Proverbs 4:26). Jeremiah had a time of outburst when the singularity of his work, its extreme unpopularity, its cost of reputation, as if he were some mere controversialist, not peaceable man, its repudiations and its collisions, took effect. He would be still, and not speak; but God made clear that it was not easy, but would become more onerous. He Himself did not leap down from the cross, when His own time came, in order to demonstrate that their contempt was far from warranted. If they did not care to follow the word of God, as they wrongly professed to do, that would be obvious. What He had to do, to enable their salvation was no less so.
Jeremiah took time. We see such things in Jeremiah 15:15ff., and 20:1-13. He found that the word of God was like a fire in his bones. He got back from psychic upset to personal commitment to the truth, and resolved not to get in the way of this elemental truth, this word of God, this mission. Thus he proceeded with forthright directness and pointed power in his divinely given task. The word of God through Jeremiah continued in such wonders of wisdom and witness, of prediction and power as found in Jeremiah 23, with its Messianic prediction, its false prophecy analysis and the forecasts concerning its proliferation as the Age draws near to its close, as now.
Elijah took time, under his juniper tree where his lament is so beautifully treated in Mendelssohn's Elijah, as also in the cave where the Lord met him, and rehearsed his situation, so that the prophet found the Lord's response and direction in the most practical format (I Kings 19:4ff.), and moreover, he was given and called a young prophet to be, to help him.
Peter took time, praying around noon on the housetop, and going into a trance, equipped with a highly pertinent vision, applying to that very time, interpreting in advance the meaning of the arrival of certain people at his door, since it was of great significance for the kingdom of God (Acts 10). In fact, this was a great break-through altogether, since it initiated specific outreach to the Gentiles, leading in its drama and divine involvement, to a realisation being crystallised for some leaders, that "God has also granted the Gentiles repentance of life," Acts 11:18.
The saints in heaven, as shown in Revelation 6:9ff., have to take time as they await the finale, when remaining souls known to God as His own, are brought into the place of salvation. It can take years to build a ship; one minute to build confidence or lose it, for some, depending on the happening and the occasion (John 20:20,27-28; II Timothy 4:10). Others take time as a task, not a tedium, in the line of visionary duty, desire and outcome, as with Anna and Simeon, personally and confidently awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. It was not just an episode, it was an opening in the wall of salvation, to let in a people, yes many from many peoples, and great was the salvation in which they participated at the very outset.
Time can be sanctified, just as it can be sanctioned for various tasks; and it is well to finish one's race, like a spiritual athlete, and to accomplish the divine purpose committed to one, as in the case of Paul (II Timothy 4:6-8), and as in the Pilgrim's Progress, when they awaited their call, and Christian and Hopeful when the time came, crossed the river into the site of salvation's rest, in the presence of the Lord (Philippians 1:23), helpful being the place of Hopeful even here! They were ready; the time had come. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints; but their lives also! (Galatians 2:20, Psalm 116:15). To magnify the Lord takes time; but it is time well spent, for magnify Him as you will, you can never overtake the reality (Psalm 147:5, 145:3). That is one of the most delightful aspects: His greatness is incomparably great for incomparable reasons, God of all, Saviour of many, offeror to all!