I know that, whatever God does, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God does it…
Ecclesiastes 3:14-17. An argument in support of the statement that
A present use and enjoyment of the gifts of God is advisable, is found in the fact of the unchangeable character of the Divine purposes and government. He who has given may take away, and none can stay his hand. While, therefore, we are in possession of benefits he has bestowed on us, we should get the good of them, seeing that we know not how long we shall have them. Exception has been taken to this teaching. "The lesson to cheerfulness under such bidding seems a hard one. Men have recited it over the wine-cup in old times and new, in East and West. But the human heart, with such shadows gathering in the background, has recognized its hollowness, and again and again has put back the anodyne from its lips" (Bradley). But though the thought of the Divine unchangeableness may be regarded by some as a stimulus to a reckless enjoyment of the present, it is calculated to have a wholesome influence upon our views of life, and upon our conduct. Acquiescence in one's lot, and reverential fear of God, leading to an avoidance of sin, are naturally suggested by it. The conviction that the will of God is righteous will prevent acquiescence in it becoming that apathetic resignation which characterizes the spirit of those who believe that over all the events of life an iron destiny rules, against which men strive in vain.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT. (Ver. 14.) It is eternal and. unalterable. In the phenomena of the natural world, we see it manifested in laws which man cannot control or change; in the providential government of human affairs, the same rule of a higher Power over all the events of life is discernible; and in the revelations of the Divine will, recorded in the Scriptures, we see steady progress to an end foreseen and foretold from the beginning. What God does stands fast; no created power can nullify or change it (Psalm 23:11; Isaiah 46:9, 10; Daniel 4:35).
II. THE EFFECT WHICH THIS UNCHANGEABLENESS SHOULD PRODUCE. (Ver. 14b.) "That men should fear before him." It should fill our heart with reverence. This is, indeed, the purpose for which God has given this revelation of himself, and no other view of the Divine character is calculated to produce the same effect. The thought of God's infinite power would not impress us in like manner if at the same time we believed that his will was variable, that it could be propitiated and changed. But the conviction that his will is righteous and immutable should lead us to "sanctify him in our hearts, and make him our Fear and our Dread" (Isaiah 8:13), and give us hope and confidence in the midst of the vicissitudes of life (Malachi 3:6). In the earlier part of his work (Ecclesiastes 1:9, 10) the Preacher had dwelt upon the uniformity of sequence in nature, as if he were impressed with a sense of monotony, as he watched the course of events happening and recurring in the same order. And now, as he looks upon human history, he sees the same regularity in the order of things. "That which hath been is now, and that which is to be hath already been." But the former feeling of weariness and oppression is modified by the thought of God's perfection, and by the "fear" which it excites. He recognizes the fact of a personal will governing the events of history. It is no mechanical process of revolution that causes the repetition time after time of similar events, the same causes producing the same effects; no wheel of destiny alternately raising and depressing the fortunes of men. It is God who recalls, "who seeks again that which is passed away" (ver. 15b). "The past is thought of as vanishing, put to flight, receding into the dim distance. It might seem to be passing into the abyss of oblivion; but God recalls it, brings back the same order, or an analogous order of events, and so history repeats itself" (Plumptre). And out of this belief in God's wise providence a healthy spirit should gather strength to bear patiently and cheerfully the difficulties and trials of life. The belief that our life is governed by an unalterable law is calculated, as I have said, to lead to a listless, hopeless state of mind, in which one ceases to strive against the inevitable. But that state of mind is very different from the resignation of those who believe that the government of the world is regular and unchangeable, because unerring wisdom guides him who is the Creator and Preserver of all things. Their faith can sustain them in the greatest trials, when God's ways seem most inscrutable; they can hope against hope, and, in spite of all apparent contradictions, believe that "all things work together for good to them that love God." - J.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.