The Same Old Routine
The first eight verses of Ecclesiastes 3 give us a description of the cycle of life, and it has been said, rather cynically, that these verses contain 28 statements—14 pluses and 14 minuses—that add up to nothing at all. Such a perspective represents the struggle that many have in trying to make sense of the cyclical nature of life in this world without giving in to pessimism.
We know that there is a time to be born and a time to die. We weren’t in control of our arrival, and we’re not in control of our departure—and that’s part of the problem, because we like to be in control. Between these two fixed points, we can sow, we can gather, and we can rake leaves, but even in these activities we have no complete control over when we do them. Plants grow in springtime, the summer sustains them, and in autumn we gather the sheaves and watch the leaves fall. There is a cycle that’s out of our hands.
And so the ultimate problem for us is that we live in an unending cycle that continues throughout our lives and will continue long after we are gone. When this reality dawns on us, we are confronted with our finitude, and we become aware that our lives are tremendously insignificant in the grand scheme of things. How do we respond? One way is to fill our days with noise and activity. We don’t want to face the tyranny of the cycle of life or to confront its end. We want distraction.
Here is the godly, and much more fulfilling, response: to live knowing that the God who made you knows exactly where you are, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, and how you are trying to make sense of life as it is presented to you. Your life is an open book to God, and it’s His grace alone that yields in you the realization that you are not in charge, but also that you do not need to be, for He is.
Your significance and security do not come from your ability to control your life: whatever you do, the seasons will pass, and one day so will you. Rather, whatever season you are in, you find true peace by knowing and loving Him who rules over all of history. In whatever remains of today, allow yourself to enjoy all that God in His sovereignty brings into your life, seek to obey Him in those things, and rest easy in Him who orders every season for your good and His glory.
From Everlasting to Everlasting
A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
1Lord, you have been our dwelling place1
in all generations.
2Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”2
4For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
7For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span3 is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17Let the favor4 of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
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