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Beauty and Eternity

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 (NLT)
What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

Two of the most beautiful scriptures addressing the sovereignty of God are included in this passage from Ecclesiastes; "God has made everything beautiful for its own time" (emphasis added) and, "He has planted eternity in the human heart" (NKJV - "...in the hearts of men"). They also form a unique juxtaposition. These two concepts, God's purpose and God's plan, are often points of theological conflict. We know that not everything that happens in life is beautiful. In fact, life is often ugly and painful - that's why the "teacher" comes to the conclusion he does in v12. This is the world's philosophy on life - "eat, drink,and be merry, for tomorrow you may die." What we fail to understand is the sense of God's timing. The key phrase in this concept is not "God has made everything beautiful" (for his essence is goodness and beauty, so what else could he create?), but "for its own time." Since we have not yet experienced eternity (and consequently have no concept of eternity), we project outcomes to situations/circumstances that impose our limited experience (for an interesting scientific look at this I recommend Stumbling On Happiness by Daniel Gilbert) . Since we are not God, we're not able to see God's beauty in them or understand the purpose of them. This is why the apostle Paul later says, "And we know that in all things God is working for the good..." (Romans 8:28 - NIV) (To read the whole context. click here). The beauty that is inherent in all of creation, and therefore in all of our life's circumstances is that God is working in them and will reveal His glory through them.

This brings us to the next concept, the fact that having been created in his image, mankind is an eternal being. This is in contrast with our temporal physical existence. This physical existence encompasses our subsistence, yet it does not define our existence. The pleasure we derive from living and experiencing life is a gift from God says Solomon in v13. But, this is only temporal compared to the eternal. As eternal beings, there's more to living than just working, eating, dying...There's meaning to these things that is sought to be known by men. That's why every person comes to the conclusion at some point in their lives, "there must be more than this." That's because there is.

God's plan is that all things would point men to Himself ("beauty"). God's purpose in these things is to reveal himself to men; to be known ("eternity"). These concepts can appear to contradict each other, but they don't. Instead the contrast between them compliment each other and display that God in His sovereignty is good and right. Although we may not be ale to "see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end" (v11), what I know of His beauty, and what I hope for of eternity will be realized.

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