A TIME FOR EVERYTHING
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. . . . He hath made everything beautiful in his time” (Eccl. 3:1, 11).
If the whole of these eleven verses be read consecutively it will be seen that they furnish a full outline of the many and different experiences of human life in this world, each aspect of man’s varied career and his reactions thereto being stated. That which is emphasized in connection with all the mutations and vicissitudes of life is that they are all ordained and regulated by God, according to His unerring wisdom.
Not only has He appointed a time to every purpose under heaven, but “everything is beautiful in His time.” Nothing is too early, nothing too late. Everything is perfectly coordinated, and as we learn from the New Testament made to “work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
There is a predestined time when each creature and each event shall come forth, how long it shall continue, and in what circumstances it shall be: all being determined by the Lord. This is true of the world as a whole, for God “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will’ (Eph. 3:11). This earth has not always existed. God was the One who decided when it should spring into being, and He created it by a mere flat: “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:9). Nor will it last forever, for the hour is coming when its very elements “shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). How far distant, or how near, that solemn hour is, no creature has any means of knowing; yet the precise day for it is unchangeably fixed in the Divine decree.
The same grand truth which pertains to the whole of creation applies with equal force to all the workings of Divine Providence. The beginning and the end, and the whole intervening career, of each person has been determined by his Maker. So too the rise, the progress, the height attained, and the entire history of each nation has been foreordained of God. “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
A nation is but the aggregate of individuals comprising it; and though its corporate life be much longer than of any one generation of its members, yet it is subject to the same Divine laws. Each kingdom, each empire, has its birth and development, its maturity and zenith, its decline and death. The Egyptian had.; so bad the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman.
What is stated in Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 holds good of things in the spiritual realm, equally so with those in the material sphere, though we are more apt to forget this in connection with the former than with the latter. It is a act that in the Christian life “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” How can it be otherwise seeing that the God of creation, the God of providence and the God of all grace is one.
It is true there is much in the Divine operations both in Providence and in Grace which is profoundly mysterious, for “great things doeth he which we cannot comprehend” (Job 37:5). Yet not a little light is cast upon those higher mysteries if we seek to observe the ways and workings of God in Nature. How often the Lord Jesus made use of that principle, directing the attention of His hearers to the most familiar objects in the physical realm.
Again and again we find the Divine Teacher using the things growing in the field to illustrate and adumbrate the things which are invisible and to inculcate lessons of spiritual value. “Consider the lilies.” Not only look upon and admire them, but receive instruction therefrom. “Learn a parable of the fig tree” (Matthew 24:32). Yes, learn from it: ponder it, let it inform you about spiritual matters. When Christ insisted on the inseparable connection there is between character and conduct, He employed the similitude of a tree being known by its fruit. When He urged the necessity of new hearts for the reception of new covenant blessings, He spoke of new bottles for new wine, When He revealed the essential conditions of spiritual fruitfulness, He mentioned the vine and its branches. Yes, there is much in the material world from which we may learn valuable lessons on the spiritual life.
Take the seasons which God has appointed for the year and how each brings forth accordingly. The coldness and barrenness of the winter gives place to the warmth and fertility of the spring, while the vegetables and fruit which sprout in the spring and grow through the summer are matured in the autumn. Each season has its own peculiar features and characteristic products.
The same principle is seen operating in a human being. The life of man is divided into distinct seasons or stages: childhood, youth, maturity and old age; and each of those stages is marked by characteristic features: the innocence and shyness of (normal) children, the zeal and vigor of youth, the stability and endurance of maturity, the experience and wisdom of old age; and each of these distinctive features is “beautiful in its time.”
Not only has God appointed the particular seasons when each of His creatures shall come forth and flourish, but we are obliged to wait His set time for the same. If we sow seeds in the winter they will not germinate. Plants which sprout in the spring cannot be forced, but have to wait for the summer’s sun. So it is in the human realm. “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” We cannot put old heads on young shoulders, and such efforts will not only prove unsuccessful but issue in disastrous consequences. As everything is “beautiful in his time” they are incongruous and unseemly out of season. “When I was a child, I spake as a child I reasoned as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).
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