A Word About Time (Ecclesiastes 3)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Divine Service 3
  • Hymns: LSB #900, 389, 359, 387, 878

Sermon Text

What is Time? The dictionary says it is the interval, or period, between two events, or the period during which something happens. We measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, years, and so on.

But then the dictionary goes on to add: time capsule, time consuming, time honored, time immemorial, time keeper, time lapse, timeless, time limit, timely, time out, time piece, timer, time saving, time sharing, time sheet, time tested, time warp, time zone and many others.

We worry whether or not there will be enough time. Just as this year is coming to an end, so our time on this earth comes to an end. How much time do you have? None of us knows. Whether by death or by Jesus’ return, our time is limited.

As we ponder this, we Christians have opportunity to share our faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of all Time. The Bible calls Him “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”[1] He holds all Time in His hands.

That’s because God created Time. Each of us is created by God in time. Indeed, we cannot think without thinking about time. Time moves in one direction; we cannot go back. It’s going forward whether we’re ready for it or not. That is God’s doing too. At the very beginning of time, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. . . . God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”[2] Time.

“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.”[3]

Time. It is part of God’s good creation, for our benefit. And that’s something for which we give thanks to God this New Year’s Eve.

As the Bible talks about it, however, there are actually two different kinds of time. There is the period measured by hours and days and years. But there is also (and this is more important in God’s way of thinking) the time that is Now, the time that is just the right Time for what God intends to do.

That’s the sense in which our text from Ecclesiastes is written. There is a time for every purpose, a proper time, a right time. We are not always in control of that, but we need to recognize what the right time is— that all times are in God’s hands.

Think of what goes into preparing for a special time for your family. You mark the date, make all the preparations, and then, suddenly, now, Now is the Time!

Children often have a hard time with this. It seems you’re always waiting— waiting for Christmas, waiting for grandparents to come, waiting for your birthday, waiting for your driver’s license. And then, ready or not, it’s Now, now is the Time.

That’s the sense in which I want you to hear our second Scripture text for today. It will help us understand how God uses time for us. How God’s lordship of time can also increase our faith in Him.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.[4]

The key phrase here is “When the fullness of time had come.” In other words, when God knew everything was ready, when God had done all he was going to do to prepare, then God sent His Son. Sent Him into our Time.

Notice how much God’s Son is like us. He has a birthday, which we just celebrated. He is born to be one of us, to be fully human, to be under the Law for us, in order to redeem us, to make us His own.

The passage explains it in terms of family. Because God did everything for us and for our salvation in Jesus, now we who believe in Him are adopted into the family. We possess the inheritance. We have the Spirit of His Son in our hearts. We can call God our Father, and there is stored up for us the inheritance of eternal life.

And as God talks about it, this blessing is something we have even Now.

We entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For He says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.[5]

Now is the day of salvation. And this Now is both a warning and a blessing.

It’s a warning if you are putting off for some future time anything that has to do with your relationship to God. I can study the Word later. I can repent later. I can apologize to him later. I can always believe more later.

No, Now is the time. You do not know how much time you have left. We’ve seen recently in our community how quickly life on this earth can come to an end. That’s why Scripture says, “Now is the Time.” Don’t put it off.

But when you are sorry for your sins, when you do repent, when you do come to the Lord in prayer, when you do hear His Word and trust in Him, worship Him, desire to serve Him, here is the blessing: He does not put you off, ever. He is there for you, right Now.

Everything God has done for you, He brings to you Now, here in His Word. Here in His body and blood. God doesn’t wait and say, “I’m going to make him wonder and suffer for a while, asking, ‘Will God turn to me in love, or not?’ ” No! God comes Now, comes in Jesus with all His promises.

Here’s where the concept that God is the Creator of Time is also such a blessing and comfort for us. Everything God does for our salvation in Jesus is done. It’s done already. It’s finished. When we say the creed together— I believe in Jesus Christ . . . conceived, born, suffered, was crucified, died, was buried, descended into hell, rose again, ascended into heaven— do you notice all those things are past? They are done, finished.

God is the Creator of Time. Time only goes in one way: forward.

In some movies, people invent ways to go back in time. How many movie plots employ this device? As much as I am a science-fiction fan, I’m thankful that can’t be done in reality. You see, the devil would love to go back and change the cross and the resurrection of Jesus. He would love to convince you and me that it didn’t happen or that it wasn’t for us. But he can’t, because it’s done. It’s all finished in Jesus Christ!

And God brings all that to us Now!

And that, by the way, is how we can go into the future with confidence. Calling God our Father, knowing Jesus is our Brother, living by the Holy Spirit’s power, members of the family, confident of our inheritance.

Oh, we know we’re not yet there. We still live in a world of sin and death. We do not yet fully enjoy the eternal life that Jesus gives us, but it is sure and certain, because it rests on His promises. Rests on what He has done.

God looks at you and sees you in Jesus, already there.

This world, with all its glory and time, with all its worries, will pass away. But the Word of the Lord stands forever. And that is the Word brought to you, the Word you believe, the Word that gives you eternal life.

So where does that leave us Now, Dec 31, at the close of 2015?

God has given you Time and Eternity. Now is the Time to believe. Now is the Time to live for God, to live as God’s man, God’s woman, right where He has placed you.

God’s Time Is Now. Now is the Time, because Jesus has done it all! Amen.[6]

References

  1. Revelation 22:13
  2. Genesis 1:3-5
  3. Genesis 1:14
  4. Galatians 4:4-5
  5. 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 RSV
  6. This sermon adapted from Rev. Herbert Mueller's sermon in Concordia Pulpit Resources, 2015.