In His Time
25 JULY 2021 | TRADITIONAL SERVICE
Rev David Ho
Scripture Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (NIV)
WATCH | SERMON (VIDEO)
READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary | Being mere mortals who are time-bound, we have no control over the ever-changing seasons of life. As such, there is a sense of tyranny in our experience of time [The Tyranny of Time]. Despite the messiness of life in time, the Teacher discerns that there is a Sovereign God who is weaving the different strands of life, both good and bad, into a beautiful tapestry [The Tapestry of Time]. The right posture to take, amidst our fragility and the uncertainties of time, is to receive God’s good gifts with gratitude and to revere God, who is the grand weaver of time [The Telos (Purpose) of Time].
Tyranny of Time (vs. 1-10) – There is futility in human striving. The opening poem portrays a tapestry of human experience. It shows in 14 pairs of opposites that indeed there is a time for everything. In summarising life’s experiences like a clock that is independent of our wishes, the Preacher is not making a statement on ethics or morality. We are not given license to kill, hate or start a war. Rather, the intent is to show that the seasons of life are beyond our control. There will be times of pain and sorrow. As such, there is a sense of being entrapped or imprisoned in our experience of time on this side of eternity. Those who continue a relentless pursuit for self-gain or strive for control will find it futile.
Tapestry of Time (vs. 11, 15) – He makes everything beautiful in His time. Only when God is put into the equation of life do we realise that nothing is random or meaningless. God has sovereignly woven our tapestry of life, though events may not necessarily be pleasant or good. God sees from the perspective of eternity while we are bound within time and space. God has set eternity in the human heart. Unlike the rest of creation, humans recognise a Divine Weaver. Arising from that sense of divine destiny, believers in times past and present have given their lives to share the Good News, serve the needy and seek justice. However, we do not have the full blueprint of our times. There are messy and painful issues that only God can see as a complete picture from the lenses of eternity. Corrie Ten Boom’s poem describes life as a cross-stitch. On one side are the ugly knots and hanging threads. On the other side, there is beautiful embroidery. We only see one side at the moment, but God knows what He is weaving. Our response is to cling on to Him in trust and faith, as we wait for Him to reveal the beautiful side in His time.
Telos (purpose) of Time (vs. 12-14) – live rightly in time by receiving His gifts gratefully and through reverence. As we recognise the fragility of life, allow God to apprentice us to:
- Receive His gifts. Many look for something more in life, in order to be happy or satisfied. We are to live in the present without hankering for the past or pining for the future. Receive each day as a gift from God. In a recent America's Got Talent episode, Jane (her stage name is Nightbirde) shared about her poor prognosis as her cancer recurred. She shared of her relationship with God and that “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Jane has received satisfaction and peace in the Giver of life. She could sing in spite of her ill health and disappointments. Let us not strive but receive each day with gratitude.
- Revere God. As we recall the tyranny and tapestry of time, we realise our helplessness and our need to depend on God. Then we stand in awe of Him and worship Him. Joni Eareckson Tada has lived with paralysis from the neck down since she was a teen. She shares that “these hardships are God’s way of helping me to get my mind on the hereafter… the true reality.” She discovered the truth in Isaiah 40:31 where hope in God renewed her strength daily.
Set God as the Master of our lives, for He gives contentment and hope amidst uncertain times. Trust in our Sovereign God who laid aside His sovereignty to enter into our tapestry of life to die for us. “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom.5:6). God is always on time!
(Sermon Notes by Angela Goh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1a. Read verses 1–8. What observations can you make about the poem? What do you think the Teacher is trying to tell us through the poem?
1b. What might be the reason(s) for the Teacher’s question (that immediately follows the poem): “What do workers gain from their toil?” (3:9)
2a. How do you understand the phrase, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11a)?
2b. The Teacher discerns that, although God has “set eternity” in our hearts, “yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (3:11b). What does it mean to have “eternity” set in our hearts? What does verse 11 tell us about how God has created us?
3a. What is the Teacher encouraging us to think, do, and feel in 3:12-13 (considering the preceding verses)?
3b. While we can find some satisfaction in the simple pleasures that God allows in our present lives, our deepest satisfaction is found in God. How do we do that?
4a. In 3:14a, the Teacher expresses the enduring nature of God’s work. What does this verse tell us about the acts of God?
4b. In 3:14b, the Teacher also says, “God does it so that people will fear him.” What does “fear of God” mean and how it is intended to affect the way we view life?
5a. Take time to reflect on the implications of Ecclesiastes 3:1–15 for your own life today. Consider and share what might lead you to praise God, repent of sin, and trust in his gracious promises.
5b. What is a specific situation in your life right now in which you need to trust God in the face of fear or uncertainty? Pray for one another after sharing.