Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 - [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
Even if you've never read the book of Ecclesiastes, you might know it from that song from the sixties, by The Byrds. "Turn, Turn,Turn" is the title of the song. The lyrics come from a poem in chapter three of Ecclesiastes. The point of the poem is well put in the title of that song. Life keeps coming, turning, turning, turning. One activity is replaced by its opposite. There is a rhythm to it, but we don't get to set the playlist.
Chapter three continues to drive this point home. Ecclesiastes says that the music is moving us and God is "testing" us. God is testing us so that we may see that we are like animals (see Ecclesiastes 3:18, NIV). Some people believe that human beings are like gods, that we get to pick our own playlist. Other people believe that we are animals, like rats led by the Pied Piper, or even less—like marionettes, swaying to a symphony of destruction.
So, which is it? Are we gods or animals? For centuries, humanity has been swaying back and forth, like a metronome, oscillating between these two beliefs—that we are gods, that we are animals. The book of Ecclesiastes follows a different playlist. We are neither gods nor animals. We were created by God to become His children, His daughters, His sons (see Ecclesiastes 7:29). But having tried to become like God, we became like beasts, like predators and prey. And now we die like animals (see Ecclesiastes 3:19).
You and I—the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve—we were made for something more. Ecclesiastes and the rest of Bible tell us the truth about our situation. It tells how Jesus, God's Son, came with a different playlist. We pretend we're gods, but Jesus surrendered to God, His Father. We grab for control, but Jesus emptied Himself. We are defiant. Jesus was obedient, even to death, death on the cross (see Philippians 2:5-11). And God raised Him from the dead, and put all things in His hands. So you don't have to play god anymore. Jesus is leading you by a different tune—not like a pied piper leading rats to die in a river. But He is leading you to die, to let your old self die in Baptism, so that by faith Jesus can live in you.
Jesus will return one day. He will raise the dead and restore the harmony of God's good creation.
While we wait, He promises us: "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy" (John 16:20b, NIV). With His promise, we can picture Him in us: God's beloved children, moved by God's music. Maybe you've seen children dancing at a wedding reception. They are dancing, but they didn't pick the playlist. They don't even know the songs. But they know they're loved. And love turns to joy, and joy turns to the music.
WE PRAY: Dear Father, help me see how, through Jesus, You make all things beautiful in their time. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. Write down all the words paired as opposites (e.g., "born/die"). How many pairs are there?
2. Can you picture a distinct memory from your life when you were moved to participate in or observe each of these opposites (e.g., seeking/losing, keeping/casting away, tearing/mending)?
3. Read Philippians 4:4-13. How does Jesus lead you through all these opposites?
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