The Acts of God

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey | Pastor
First Baptist Church,  Spanish Fort, Alabama

Dr. Joseph Parker (1830-1902) shares the following in his little book titled, None Like It: a Plea for the Old Sword: “Can the Book of Ecclesiastes, some say, be looked upon as the Word of God? Look at its materialism, its sensuousness, its pessimism. The Book of Ecclesiastes is part of a larger book. Its pessimism is a shadow upon a landscape. There is undoubtedly a pessimistic side of life and I am glad to have it expressed exactly as it is found in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The Bible would be incomplete without it. If it were the whole Bible, it would cover the soul with deep darkness; but as part of the Bible it is part of human experience, and the very recognition of it is itself an encouragement to faith and hope.”[1]

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 reads, “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what 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; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, 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. What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?  I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been. And God requires an account of what is past.” Dr. Duane A. Garrett explains, “Our existence in this world is a mixture of joy and sorrow, harmony and conflict, and life and death. Each has its own proper moment, and we, as creatures of time, must conform to the temporal limitations that are built into the cycle of life. No permanent state of affairs exists in this world. This is a great source of frustration for people since longing for eternity is planted within us. We can neither be satisfied with what we are nor understand God’s purpose in all this. We can only humbly accept what we are in this world and confess our faith that God’s way is right. In light of this text, the meaning of the resurrection of Christ as the victory over death is clear.”[2]

Archibald Naismith explains, the “I know” of Ecclesiastes 3:12 speaks of “the knowledge of man’s ways” and the “I know” of Ecclesiastes 3:14 refers to “the knowledge of God’s works.”[3] Dr. William D. Barrick explains, “Solomon’s double “I know” (vv. 12, 14) appears to contrast with the three occurrences of “I have seen” (vv.10, 16, 22). Whereas the seeing comes from observation and experience, the knowing might represent intuitive knowledge or prior theological presuppositions.”[4]  Ecclesiastes 3:14 reads, “I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing can be taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.”

Notice three things about the acts of God.

1.  Note the parameters of the acts of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:14a reads, “I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. . . .”   The parameters of God’s acts are eternal not just temporal.   For example, think of His revelation; His redemption; and His regeneration.  Remember the parameters of His revelation. 1 Peter 1:23 reads, “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.” Isaiah 40:8 reads, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”  Remember the parameters of His redemption. Hebrews 10:12 reads, “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6 reads, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”  Remember the parameters of His regeneration. John 3:5 reads, “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John 10:28 reads, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

2.  Note the perfection of the acts of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:14b reads, “. . . Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it . . . .” Deuteronomy 32:4 reads, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect.” Rev. Charles Bridges (1794-1869) comments, “There is nothing defective-nothing redundant. How splendidly does his Providence display every attribute of his name!”[5]  Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) writes, “In addition to emphasizing the immutability of God and His works, this passage anticipates the great scientific principle of conservation (conservation of energy, mass, momentum, charge, etc.). Nothing is now being either created or annihilated. An entity may be changed in character and even deteriorate in quality, but it must be conserved in quantity. All God’s ‘works were finished from the foundation of the world’ and Christ is now ‘upholding all things by the word of His power’ (Heb. 4:3; 1:3).”[6]

Dr. E. H. (Edward Hayes) Plumptre (1821-1891), Dean of Wells, explains, “The Eternal Law fulfills itself, ‘whether men will hear or whether they will forbear.’ They cannot add to it or take away from it, but they retain the power of obeying or resisting it. It partakes so far of the character which was afterwards ascribed to a special revelation (Rev. xxii. 18, 19).”[7] Revelation 22:18-19 reads, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Solomon writes in Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” Eve encountered “the father of lies” (John 8:44) in the garden of Eden. Genesis 3:1-5 reads, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Deuteronomy 4:1-2 and 12:32 chronicles a caution against man’s tendency to add to and to take away from the Word of God, “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you.  You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. . . . ‘Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.’”

3. Note the purpose of the acts of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:14c reads, “. . . God does it, that men should fear before Him.” Dr. Duane A. Garrett comments, “We can neither be satisfied with what we are nor understand God’s purpose in all this. We can only humbly accept what we are in this world and confess our faith that God’s way is right.”[8] Dr. Ray C. Stedman (1917-1992) explains, “All through the Bible we read that ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.’ Until we recognize and trust the superior wisdom of God we have not begun to fear God. This fear is not abject terror of God, it is respect and honor for him. If you try to live your life without recognizing God, ultimately you will find yourself (as the Searcher found himself) empty, dissatisfied, and restless, feeling that life is miserable and meaningless. The secret of life is the presence of God Himself.  Most of life’s struggle comes when we want to play God ourselves, when we want to be in charge. That is true even of Christians. When God refuses to go along we sulk and pout and get angry with Him. We throw away our faith and say, ‘What’s the use? I tried it but it doesn’t work!’ What foolishness! God will not surrender His prerogatives: ‘Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere Him.’”[9]

Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) writes, “The last clause of this verse [Ecclesiastes 3:14] goes beyond a declaration of the fact of God’s government of the world Ecclesiastes 2:26 by adding the moral effect which that fact is calculated to produce on those who see it. It is the first indication of the practical conclusion Ecclesiastes 12:13 of the book.”[10] Dr. Sidney Greidanus explains, “Longitudinal themes provide another way from an Old Testament text to Christ in the New Testament. ‘Longitudinal themes’ is a technical term in the discipline of Biblical Theology. It refers to themes that can be traced through the Scriptures from the Old Testament to the New. We can utilize this concept of longitudinal themes for preaching Christ because every major theme in the Old Testament theme leads to Christ. For example, we have seen that one of the major themes in Ecclesiastes is to fear God. This theme of God’s people’s obligation to revere God goes back to the beginning of Israel’s history (see Gen 22:12; Exod 14:31) and can be traced from there to God’s later commands with the refrain, ‘You shall fear your God: I am the LORD’ (Lev 19:14, 32; 25:17, 36, 43), to the Psalms (e. g., 34:9), to wisdom literature (e. g., Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Job 28:18), to Nehemiah after Israel’s exile (Neh 5:9), to Ecclesiastes (3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 8:12-13; 12:13), to Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament: ‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matt 10:28).”[11]

Ecclesiastes 3:9-17 reads, “What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?  I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past. Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, Wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, Iniquity was there.  I said in my heart, ‘God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe comments, “It may not look like it now, but God will bring beauty out of all that happens (Rom. 8:28; Isaiah 61:1-7). No matter what the seed looks like, the flower will be beautiful, so give God time to work. You were made for the eternal; in Christ, you now share eternal life, the life of God (1 John 5:9-13).”[12] Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John writes, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.  He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.  And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:9-13).

Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) explains, “If you are not saved it is not because God will not or cannot save you; it is because you refuse to accept His mercy in Christ.”[13]  Dr. W. A. Criswell (1909-2002) cited the following poem in his message based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 titled, “The Time is NOW”:

There is a time, I know not when,
A place, I know not where,
That marks the destiny of men,
To glory or despair.
There is a line, by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s mercy and God’s wrath.
How long may men go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end and where begins
The confines of despair?
Our answer from the skies is sent
‘Ye who from God depart,
While it is called today, Repent!
And harden not your heart.’[14]

Dr. Billy Graham shared the following in a message titled, “Heaven,” broadcast on the occasion of his 96th birthday (11/07/14): “We’re all sinners, we are doomed. . . That’s the future for all of us if we don’t put our faith in Jesus Christ.”[15]

 

[1]Joseph Parker, None Like It: A Plea for the Old Sword, (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1893), 32.
[2]Holman Concise Bible Commentary, gen. ed. David S. Dockery, “The Poetic and Wisdom Books,” Duane A. Garrett, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 1998, 2010), 246. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
[3]Archibald Naismith, 2400 Outlines, Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes for Sermons, “The Work of God,” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), #450, 15.
[4]William D. Barrick, Ecclesiastes: The Philippians of the Old Testament, Accessed: 11/06/14,
http://drbarrick.org/files//studynotes/Ecclesiastes/Ecclesiastes03PBC.pdf .
[5]Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes, (New York, NY: Robert Carter Brothers, 1860), 101.
[6]Henry M. Morris, The Remarkable Wisdom of Solomon: Ancient Insights from the Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books a division of New Leaf Publishing Group, 2001), 205.
[7]E. H. Plumptre, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Ecclesiastes; or The Preacher, gen. ed. J. J. S. Perowne, (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1888), 133.
[8]Holman, Garrett, 246.
[9]Ray C. Stedman, Is That All There Is to Life? (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1999), 53-54.
[10]Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old Testament. [1834] Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.
[11]Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes: Foundations for Expository Sermons, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010), 28.
[12]Warren W. Wiersbe, Chapter-By-Chapter Bible Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), 438.
[13]Spurgeon’s Gold: New Selections of the Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Selected by Edmond Hez Swem, 3. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
[14]W. A. Criswell, “God’s Time Is NOW,” Sermon Notes, (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
[15]Billy Graham, “Heaven,” MY HOPE 2014 with Billy Graham, Accessed: 11/09/14,
https://www.facebook.com/BillyGrahamEvangelisticAssociation/photos/a.429423615327.375065.118548500327/10154767488850328/?type=1&fref=nf .