It’s All Meaningless 4? God Has Set Eternity In Our Hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14)
Ecclesiastes 3:9-14:What do workers gain from their toil?
10I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.
11He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart;
yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
12 I know that there is nothing better for people than
to be happy and to do good while they live.
13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—
this is the gift of God.
14 I know that everything God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.
God does it so that people will fear him.
Of all that we could focus on on this passage, let’s dig into verse 11:
God has set eternity in the hearts of humans.
What does this mean?
Though our sinful hearts were once—in Adam & Eve—
filled with deeply knowing the LORD personally,
our hollow cave-hearts still have the echo of eternity,
still have the echo that God is real and
that we relate to Him
either in submission, faith & joy or
rebellion, unbelief and sin.
There is an intuitive sense deep within us that knows that this is true…
Romans 1:18-25: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven
against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them,
because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen,
being understood from what has been made,
so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God,
they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23
and exchanged the glory of the immortal God
for images made to look like a mortal human being
and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts
to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie,
and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—
who is forever praised. Amen.
My dear friends, our issue/problem isn’t a lack of information,
it’s not as simple as, “I would believe if only God would do x, y, or z.”
Our issue is rebellion against Him…
we suppress the Truth about Him,
we hide it, cover it up, pretend it isn’t there,
like a child intentionally avoiding the list of chores
that the parents left for the child over the weekend…
We see the proof of God’s existence,
the proof of Ecclesiastes 3:12,
we hear this echo of eternity daily, in us & around us…
- The deification of love, how we worship love instead of worshiping the God Who is love. Oh what a difference! Oh how it is easy to love a person’s generosity—we love what they give us!—but not love the actual person who is generous! God has placed eternity in our hearts—since humans refuse to worship Him we choose to worship other things, even so-called good things. Oh what a difference between “God is love” which is true, and “love is God”, which is false.
Just listen to many love songs: so many of them are worship! So many of them, if you put the word “God” in place of the name of the person in the song, in one sense it would fit quite nicely–the song would still make sense!
We worship each other instead of God. We worship different definitions of love instead of the One True God Who is love! It is so common that we don’t even notice it anymore, like trying to describe wetness to a fish—it’s all they know…Dryness is a foreign concept to them…This is just one example of how God has set eternity in our hearts, how we direct to other things the worship that God alone deserves…
- Or consider how we try to live longer & longer, we seek to reverse the ageing process, we try to look younger in our fashion, bodies, & even our attitudes! Deep down we KNOW we were made to live forever, deep down we know that death is offensive, that dying is a result of sin & an assault against the Truth that God made humans to live forever enjoying His presence!
And so we seek the forever aspect of the Truth, but we seek it apart from God. We want to continue existing…we just don’t want it to be in His presence & under submission to Him. Or we seek to live forever through accomplishing things on earth so that people will remember us forever, whether it’s breaking athletic records or being the first to accomplish things. We want forever, but we want it apart from God, on our own terms. This is another example of the fact that eternity is in our hearts, yet we twist it…
- Or consider how we strive for & obsess over shadowy, earthly aspects of that which belongs only to God. Humans seek power & authority, to be in charge, to rule, to exert our will & our desires & plans, not simply because we want those things but because ultimately those things belong only to God! We’re trying to steal His job, His role, to impeach & overthrow Him, whether on a global scale or simply in our family or work or classroom or team. It is a direct assault on God when we clutch after attention & influence to feel important or accomplish our own desires & trample people to get it: the eternity in our hearts knows that attention and power and fame and glory and worship belong only to God (Revelation 7:12), and so we chase those things for ourselves as a way to stick it to God. We know we can’t defeat Him personally, so we try to grab a few items from His Treasure Chest, looting portions of His job description.
Creating & discovering & influencing & leading can be done to the glory of God, but only when it is done as a servant to accomplish HIS will, not ours, using HIS methods, not ours. When it is not done to spread the fame of God, it’s done as a Tower of Babel to make a name for ourselves, to glorify ourselves, to temporarily take what should only belong to Him. We are not neutral, objective people in this world, my friends—this is why the Lord Jesus said, “If you are not with me, you are against me.” This is another example, played out everyday in our lives locally and globally, of the eternity that is in our hearts, whether we believe it or not…
- Or consider how we relentlessly pursue earthly pleasure, physical feelings of happiness—one of the foundational cornerstones of our modern society is the pursuit of happiness, from our constitution to our conscience: “You need to do what makes you happy, you need to be happy,” etc. etc. is how we often counsel others and ourselves. Whether it’s money, drugs, sex, stuff, cars, houses, or even noble causes like good deeds, we want to FEEL ALIVE and we center our lives around getting this feeling, no matter what it takes—being maniacally driven in our careers, being religiously devoted to being a slacker and doing as little as possible, and everything in between: we crave a particular feeling and will do anything to get it and keep it and avoid whatever drains that feeling.
This is eternity in our hearts, my friends—God made us to KNOW HIM, to experience the joy, yes the PLEASURE of being in right relationship to Him: Him high & lifted up, us joyfully & submissively beneath Him. Yet we twist this and seek out the counterfeit of joy through sinful pleasure. We pursue the earth’s happiness—it’s even in our Constitution!—instead of pursing the joy of the LORD.
C.S. Lewis: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
This is yet another daily example of the eternity that is in our hearts
& our rebellion to it.
- Or consider how some of the most militant atheists seem to constantly talk about the God that they passionately don’t believe in! Oh loved ones I say this seriously and with humility: some atheists talk about God more often and with more passion than many church-attenders! They’re talking AGAINST the LORD, but goodness they’re talking ABOUT Him constantly! They just can’t seem to stop thinking about Him, though the constant thoughts are rebellion and disbelief and mockery, yet still He is constantly on their minds as they invest much time and energy to trying to get others to NOT believe in Him!
Though they are zealous reverse-evangelists, they are still a type of preacher, just against God! This is another example of us twisting the eternity that is in our hearts. Oh for us to pray that the LORD would simply redirect their zeal/passion FOR Him, like reversing the flow of a roaring river, just as the LORD made Paul completely new and transformed him from putting Christians in prison to Paul being willing to be put in prison for Christ!
- Or consider many classic stories, myths, fairy tales, etc. Many of these have elements in them that express our subconscious understanding that God is real,
that humanity as a whole is lost & in need of being saved/rescued,
that we once had something but have it no longer,
that we need to find/discover/regain this lost something,
that there is more to reality than what we see with our physical eyes
and can measure with physical instruments,
that evil is real and must be defeated by the opposite of evil.
Oh how our hearts stir at these noble themes,
oh how we spend billions of dollars buying books and seeing movies
that seem to cause something deep within us to stir and flicker,
dying so that someone else can live
lasting peace, etc.
All of these themes, as twisted as we make them,
still quietly echo the Truth of God in His Word.
Counterfeits only exist because
there is something real that they are counterfeiting!
Red Riding Hood: stay on the narrow path, look out for the wolf, needing one who works with wood to save & protect a devoured loved one—all themes in the Bible!
Cinderella: Invited to a ball for which she is under-dressed,
receiving as a gift not only the clothing needed to enter the ball
but also the means of getting to the ball,
the ball itself which centers around marriage
to the true & just prince who rules and
can rescue her from the evil step-mother
who keeps her in a state of slavery and bondage and prison,
the prince seeking out Cinderella when she has no means to seek him out,
the ball itself which is a shadowy reference
to the Biblical description of heaven:
the eternal wedding feast/celebration/party of the Lamb
and His bride, the Church!
And how do many fairy tales end? “They lived happily ever after.”
Not, “They had some good times for a few years until they died
and they were reabsorbed into the meaningless void
of oblivion and nothingness.”
No, the fairy tales don’t end that way!
We know deep down that there is more after our time on earth is done—
there is forever: apart from God, or with Him…
We could go on and on with these examples,
and I’m not saying these stories are Christian
or are consciously meant to be Christian.
I’m just saying that they are the fruit,
bruised/moldy fruit, but fruit nonetheless
of the fact that eternity is in our hearts,
that deep down we instinctively know that God is real…
- My friends, even the fact that we debate the meaning of life
and whether life lasts forever or not is proof that it does,
is proof that God has placed eternity in our hearts.
As fantastic as animals are, they simply don’t contemplate this,
they don’t sit around and contemplate the meaning of their lives,
there are no feline philosophers, no cats that sit around and say,
“Existentially, what is the essence of meow?
Why am I such a sucker for shoelaces and string,
and why do I own the humans and the house?”
Dogs don’t ask, “What drives me to hate the mailman?
Why can’t I be more understanding to them?
What happened to me as a puppy to drive me to such reckless hate?
Isn’t there more than just the next fire hydrant and dog treat?”
But this is what we do,
we contemplate meaning and existence and eternity and origins
and so much more.
That is part of what it means for us to be made in the image of God.
We know we are more than just cells and molecules,
we know that there is more to life than just the here and now.
- Or consider desire itself, the fact that we desire ANYTHING
as a kind of proof that God exists:
de·sire [dih-zahyuhr]: verb, de·sired, de·sir·ing, noun
verb (used with object)
- to wish or long for; crave; want.
- to express a wish to obtain; ask for; request.
- a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment.
- an expressed wish; request.
- something desired.
All humans want. Whether it’s love, attention, popularity, money, fame,
power, peace, a good book and a hot mug of tea on a cold night, all humans want.
We desire. We hope.
We need. We long. We crave. This isn’t always bad.
It’s something we all have in common.
But have you ever thought about why we want?
Whenever we want anything we are trying to meet a need,
we are responding to having a shortage of something.
Our desire is often an inner pushing that catapults us
toward seeking and finding that which will satisfy our desire
(e.g. an itch is the most productive way to get yourself to start scratching)
We want a drink of water because we are thirsty.
We want food because we are hungry..
We want a quadruple quarter pounder with cheese, sometimes, because we feel sad.
We want a cool car, sometimes, because we want people to notice us.
We want an energy drink because we need to stay up late & cram for a test.
We want chocolate because…well…who needs a reason to want chocolate? 🙂
We want a trim/fit/muscular body, sometimes,
because we want to feel better about ourselves…etc. etc.
But what happens when you get everything you want?
It happens to some people. They literally get everything they want.
Now they might not have a submarine or be able to travel to the moon,
but they pretty much have everything.
It isn’t enough.
Look at people who seem to have all of their desires,
and many of them still aren’t happy
—they’re still striving & searching, still thirsty.
Ecclesiastes 1:8: The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.
Ecclesiastes 5:10:Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied w/their income.
We eat…and get hungry again.
We sleep…and get tired again.
We succeed…and then want/need an even better/bigger success later on.
We get plastic surgery to look “more beautiful”…
and then want more surgery later on to “fix” our other cosmetic “flaws.”
We get a huge house…and then want a bigger one down the road.
And yet we still have this desire for…something (or Someone).
Maybe it’s because we were made to know and love and enjoy and obey God,
and that desire can only be satisfied by
knowing, loving, enjoying, and obeying God.
C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself a desire
which no experience in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation
is that I was made for another world.”
Maybe our desires as humans,
and the fact that we are never truly happy
even when we have all of those material desires,
prove that God exists
and that we are really desiring Him.
Maybe we need the “invisible” God to truly live and be happy,
just like our lungs need “invisible” air molecules to make our bodies live.
Who is the One towards Whom desire flows?
For much I’ve drunk and still my thirst exists;
The more I eat the more my hunger grows,
Though who I am of what I feed consists
If you have tasted all that eyes can see
And dreams can dream and even more beyond;
How shocking then: your wants increasing be-
Your fish has now outgrown this tiny pond
And so it seems we seeketh not a “what,”
Not things where shelf (ish) lives be short and terse;
Instead a “Who” our hearts do yearn to glut,
The One Who flows and lasts as God’s Own Verse
My yearning thus to crave, to binge, to stare
Reveals my inner need for Yahweh’s Heir.
Malachi 3:1:“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking
will come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant,
whom you desire,
will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
We rebel or repent, my friends—no other option—
but we cannot escape the Truth that He has placed eternity in our hearts…
the echoes of eternity are here,
but we keep trying to deny it or twist it to get there on our own,
or drown out the echo by creating as much noise as possible…
maybe that is why modern life is so spiritually noisy…
Psalm 2:1-6: Why do the nations conspire [rage] and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
The issue isn’t a lack of information, that we just need to know more…
…the issue is surrender;
we need to drop the flag of our personal autonomy and independence
that we proudly and defiantly wave each day,
our flag of being in charge of our lives,
doing things our way, leaning on our own understanding,
and wave the white flag of surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ,
Who deep down we know is there, is real,
we know we’ve rebelled against,
and cry to Him for mercy.
We must put down the weapons of our own independence—
trying to be in charge of ourselves—
and surrender to Christ as Master & King & Savior & Lord.
That is the issue, always has and always will be…
And oh how He graciously responds to the weakest repentance and faith:
He doesn’t take prisoners of war:
He gives life and sets us free and grants us His peace…
Instead of marching to the beat of our own drum,
let’s drum His symphony that He wrote,
that He’s conducting,
His music, His rhythm, His beat, His notes,
His instruments & playing our part, our drum—HIS drum—for His glory & fame…
that by His grace & cross & empty tomb,
eternity no longer is just an echo,
but a symphony that we hear, enjoy, participate in,
sing loudly, experience and teach to others…
He Who possesses eternity
has set eternity in our hearts…
May we by repentance & faith in Christ Jesus
set our hearts in His possession for all eternity…