I don’t recall why, but I had a sudden desire to reread Ecclesiastes 3, a chapter made famous when by Pete Seeger’s music in the 1960s (wow, I’ve dated myself!). I was using a new translation, which I do every now and then to help me come back to the text with a fresh mind… and here is what I read:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Moreover, He has set eternity in their heart—yet without the possibility that humankind can ever discover the work that God has done from the beginning to the end.”Ecclesiastes 3:11 Tree of Life Version
When did God put that there?
This reading caused me to do a double-take. I began reading the verse in different versions and, of course, ended up in the Hebrew. Somehow, there was something in this familiar verse that I’d never noticed before, and it was this: that there is no way we humans will ever fully understand God and His works or His ways. Our ignorance of Him is from Him!
As I pondered this, Deuteronomy 29:29 came to mind:
The hidden things belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.
Now, as I write this, other verses came to mind as well, of how God, through the prophets, promised to reveal hidden things that we were totally unaware of! (Isaiah 48:6; Jeremiah 33:3).
Putting these verses together
I have always loved the first part of Eccl. 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” To me this is a verse of great and hope and encouragement. But as I read the rest of this verse, I realized I’d never really thought about it before – at least not deeply.
Eternity in our hearts combined with an inability to fully comprehend God? And the revealed things that do belong to us? Why? So that we can follow all the words of His law. Yet even that revelation to the Israelites was limited. God had unrevealed things yet to disclose to His people, things that they were completely unaware of.
How amazing to me, that God was already wooing His people to Messiah, before they ever really understood their need for Him. I wonder if Solomon wrote those words purely from inspiration, or if he truly understood what He wrote.
Here he was the wisest of men who ever lived up to his time. He had been gifted with wisdom from above. Yet he used that wisdom to taste the world around him. I wonder if he too hungered for eternity and to see God in all His glory, but knew that to do so in this life was impossible. He could never “see” God and live. Despite all the wisdom he’d received, he must have realized that there was no way he would ever understand or fully comprehend what God had done or would do.
What is revealed
I so often feel like that, until I reread John 14:8-9. Jesus is basically saying good bye to His disciples. Soon He will die on a cross and the relationship He has with them will be forever changed. Philip turns to Jesus, and I can hear the consternation in his voice, “Jesus, just show us the Father, and it will be enough for us.”
There is love shining in the look Jesus gives Philip. He is silent for a moment before answering. He wants to be sure all the disciples hear His reply. He answers so gently. “Philip, have I been with you for so long a time, and you don’t know Me?”
Jesus had said the same thing in John 10:31, “I and the Father are One.” Philip was there then, but he clearly hadn’t understood. Now, Jesus reveals something new for Philip and us to understand, when I see Jesus I see the Father – and suddenly, the secret of God is revealed, a mystery hidden all the way back in the beginning.
The unknowable one in Ecclesiastes becomes knowable in part, for can any of us ever fully comprehend God from beginning to end? Of course not. But one thing He has done. He has set eternity in our hearts. Deep down inside, every one of us knows that there is more to this life than meets the eye. Yet even Adam and Eve, before they sinned, could not comprehend fully everything there was to know about God. Tragically, they did not understand that this inability was part of what it meant to be the created and not the creator.
And that is the problem we see around us today. A world gone mad, longing for immortality but denying the God who alone can make our lives last and have eternal meaning. Into the chaos steps Jesus, revealed so that we can keep God’s law. When I think of what that means, I think of the first and greatest commandment, and the one second that is like it: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
No, I will never understand all that there is to know about who God is, why He does what He does, and what He will do. I am strangely comforted by this. I do not have to have all the answers. To be honest, I don’t want all the answers.
But HE has set eternity in my heart, and the revealed things do belong to me. He has opened my eyes to see Jesus, and in seeing Jesus, I discover the Father, a Father so kind, so patient, so merciful, so loving. He is also a strong Father. He disciplines, He punishes, but He also trains, and guides. I see all this in Jesus and more – my wonderful savior, my God, my Father, and, of the wonder of it – my friend!
For further encouragement
I hope you enjoy this song. Although the testimony is different, the message is the same, we don’t need to know or understand, we just need to see God in what we do understand… it is enough.