February 26, 2019

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Today is a momentous day for two of our nation’s national parks.

One hundred years ago, the Grand Canyon was designated a national park. Read about the chasm’s history in “How the Grand Canyon Transformed From ‘Valueless’ Place to a National Park” from this month’s issue of Smithsonian magazine, then check out centennial events at the park.

Way on the other side of the country, Acadia National Park celebrates the 100th anniversary of its renaming as a national park. A little history: Acadia started out as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1916, then three years later on this day became Lafayette National Park, in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and military officer who aided our country during the Revolution. It was the first national park east of the Mississippi River. Ten years later, the name changed once again, to Acadia National Park.

Since national parks can only be made through federal legislation, I guess you’d say Congress had a busy session on February 26!

Ecclesiastes chapter 3 contains a popularly quoted portion of Scripture, the “a time to be born, a time to die” passage that’s perhaps best known to those alive during the ‘60s as a song by The Byrds called “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The words are pretty much a word-for-word rendition of verses 1-8, written by folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger.

The entire third chapter of Ecclesiastes is a pondering of time and eternity, through our lens and through God’s. Solomon, the book’s author, begins by acknowledging that all the events of our lives aren’t random, but divinely ordained: the times of our birth and death (vv. 2-3), days of sorrow and laughter (vv. 4, 7), when to plant, reap, build and throw away (vv. 5-7), and yes, times of love and hate (hate, not as in malice, but in the idea that some things are much less important in respect to others), and of war and peace (v. 8).

Solomon goes on to explore the dichotomy that exists in us about time—while we try to wrap our minds around the idea of eternity, we tend to stay fixated on the present, because we are unable to fully grasp God’s timeless perspective: “God has set eternity in [our] hearts, so that [we] cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (v. 11). We may get glimpses of it, but because we’re finite, we just can’t completely imagine the infinite.

I think God uses that tension of day-to-day and eternity within us to drive us to Himself. “Do not let this once fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise [of His return to earth], but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).

God uses the precious commodity of time to get us to see both the short-term and long-range view. We may think we’ never have enough time—or paradoxically, believe we have all the time in the world—so we waver between action and procrastination. With respect to our relationship to God, “later” is often our response. Yet He focuses on “today” and “later.”

“Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation,” the apostle Paul urges his readers in 2 Corinthians 6:2, referencing the prophet Isaiah’s call to the Israelites to anticipate the Messiah’s coming, when He would offer Himself as a sacrifice for their sins, and thus fulfill the Abrahamic covenant of deliverance and grace (Genesis 17:1-5). “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tried Me by testing Me…I said ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know My ways;’ as I swore in My wrath, ‘they shall not enter My rest,’” the writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 95, referring to the Israel’s challenge to God’s authority and their rebellion before they reached the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:7-11). Both of these New Testament passages apply these warnings to both Jew and Gentile “that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving hearts that falls away from the living God,” but instead we are to “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Right now, in this mortal existence, Solomon discovered, “there is nothing better than to rejoice and do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that everyone who eats and drinks sees good in all his or her labor—it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:12). But he also points to later: “the conclusion, when all has been heard, is: reverence God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Do you have those short-term and long-range views? Are you living the “now” and “today” with God—trusting in and obeying Him through the seasons of rejoicing, mourning, laughing, loving, warring and peace, knowing you’ll never completely figure it all out—while also mindful that sin, that is, missing God’s perfection in thought, word or deed, “so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1)? Are you confident that in the coming day of judgment you’ll be found not guilty because you accepted the gift of righteousness through Jesus?

Or are you thinking, “I’ll think about that later. I want to do what I want to do now, and let the chips fall where they may. I have time.” The problem is, you really don’t know if you do have time. It’s a sobering thought that “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13).

February 26 is a significant day in national park history. It can be for your history, too. I pray that this day might be the time when you, as Solomon poetically recommended, “remember your Creator…remember Him before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:1, 6-7).   

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