Many philosophers have puzzled over this question their entire lives only to die, unsatisfied. Solomon, the wise king of Israel, mused on the purpose of human activity this way:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
There is a quiet resignation to this poem. Solomon recognizes that there are circumstances in life beyond even the control of a king. No man can choose the time of his birth, nor, usually, the time of his death. For every purpose, interest, or activity of man, there is an appropriate time and a season during which they will occur.
Solomon's poem is a series of fourteen opposites. "The fact that Solomon utilized polar opposites in a multiple of seven and began his list with birth and death is highly significant. The number seven suggests the idea of completeness and the use of polar opposites ... suggests totality." ( Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament ) Solomon is summing up all the activities of life, all human desires, all human victories and defeats. Every activity of life, he says, is bound to occur in its appropriate time, for its appropriate season, in every life, regardless of our desires to have it otherwise.
Despite the seeming pessimism of the poem, we must acknowledge that Solomon's observations are generally true. The 168 people who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing all had dreams, plans, desires, activities, loved ones, yet their time came without any opportunity for them to control their destiny. Every one of us is affected by the time to plant and the time to harvest. We would be a hungry crowd if the farmers of the world decided to plant in the fall instead of the spring. As we go through the list of Solomon's opposites, we see that each category has its appropriate time and season in our lives. We do not control our destiny, our destiny waits for us.
When Solomon came to the end of his list, he asked this question:
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?(Ecc.3.9)
If we all are subject to forces outside our control and we all end up with the same end, what, Solomon asks, is the point of it all? You might feel the same way, but wise Solomon does not leave us hanging, for he answers his own question:
"I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning, even to the end." (Ecclesiastes 3.10-11 [NASB])
The reason that we get up every morning and involve ourselves with the tasks, responsibilities and activities God has set before us is that we might know and experience God. God made everything appropriate in its time. You are born, you grow up, you work, you marry, you have children, you pursue life, joy, and peace. The drive within you is God's creation. It expresses itself in the appropriate times for each activity. God "set eternity" in your heart, so that in all your activities you might pursue the real meaning of life and find the purpose He intended for you. Yes, it is true that you cannot know everything about God, certainly in this lifetime. You will not find out every work which God has done from the beginning. Yet you can pursue Him and you can know Him, the Bible tells us.
How can we know Him? The Bible says "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." The only way to know God is to come to know His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth and lived a perfect life. Yet his life ended by capital punishment under the judgment of the Roman Empire and the Jewish Council. Why did the time of death come to this perfect man, who did no wrong, in such a horrible way? The Bible says that Jesus died that men might live. He rose again the third day to offer eternal life to any man or woman who would acknowledge their sin and call on Him to save them from their sins.
How then, do we find meaning and purpose in life? We find it by entering a right relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is He who has put eternity in our hearts. It is He who will give us all eternity to pursue and know Him, if we will trust Him.
How is it with you today? Is your life what you would like it to be? Do you sense a lack of meaning and purpose? Why don't you find out more about Jesus and see how He can instill purpose in every activity, no matter how bound in time and circumstances those activities might be. Call or write for more assistance. We would love to serve you in your pursuit of God.
2. What is it that frustrates all men, even kings, as they reflect on the events and activities of their own lives?
3. Solomon's observations on the events of life is given to us in 14 couplets of opposites. What does Solomon mean by using fourteen couplets (a multiple of seven) and by beginning with birth and death?
4. As we reflect on circumstances around us, what do we have to conclude about our control over our own destiny?
5. What is the drive within man that moves us to initiate and perform the many activities of life?
6. Who gave this drive to man?
7. Why did God give this drive for personal achievement and growth to man?
8. What is necessary for individuals to come to know God?
9. How does man find meaning and purpose in life?
10. Have you come to the place in your life where you know for certain that you know God and will have a relationship with Him forever?
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