Barry Webb writes about two of the popularly known expressions found in the third chapter of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes – the ‘every season’ section and the ‘eternity in the hearts of men’ section that follows it.
In doing so he demonstrates that whenever you read something in Ecclesiastes and feel a sentimental response you’re probably reading it wrongly.
Ecclesiastes looks at life without a filter so that the reader can think about what it is that truly endures.
… the idea of God as the sovereign disposer of human fortunes. This issue is brought into sharp focus in chapter 3 in terms of the ‘times’ of human life (3:1-8)
Here the question of the profitability of human toil is taken up afresh in a much more explicitly theological context. The ‘time to die,’ which writes heḇel over everything, is a time determined by God. But so are all the other times of human life. This means that the worker is never in control, and can never, strictly speaking, achieve anything (3:39). It is God’s work, not his, that has enduring significance, and that is something he can neither contribute to nor understand (3:11, 14). The ‘ôlām (‘eternity’) in the human heart in 3:11 is best understood in terms of what immediately follows in the second half of that verse. It is a God-given awareness that there is something more than the particulars, an overarching scheme of things determined by God: ‘all that God has done from beginning to end’. The burden under which the human labourer toils is of knowing that this greater reality exists, without ever being able to see it clearly as God does. And this frustration is deliberately imposed by God so that human beings will always be able to recognize the difference between themselves and their Maker and defer to him: ‘God has done it so that men will revere him’ (3:14)
Barry G Webb, Five Festal Garments, Apollos, 2000, pg 94