To Everything There Is a Season (2)

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To Everything There Is a Season (2)

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8




As we continue our study of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s letter in which he defines his search for the meaning of life, we now come to some observations about the variety of life.

These verses are perhaps some of the most well known verses of this letter, as they describe variety in life.   Several years ago these verses were the basis of a song created in the late 50s and made popular in the mid-60s.   It is also a passage of scripture sometimes read funerals as it describes the cycle of life.

We will examine it simply as a part of Solomon’s observations.

  1.   Some thoughts about this text
    1. Doctrinally this passage is sometime misused to teach Calvinism, as if to say that God purposes every little act we engage in. But that is not the only possible interpretation, and it is contrary to numerous Biblical doctrines including our free-will and choice.
    2. Also, many of the behaviors and actions are also abused, as we shall see.
    3. Solomon’s point – there is a time for everything. Life happens, and events are going to occur, some within our control, and others beyond our control.   And while Solomon’s primary focus is this life, many of these descriptions as apply spiritually, to which we will make some application.
    4. To everything there is a season – a season indicates a designated time that comes and goes.     Anyone who has observed and considered life understands that there are times when one choice is appropriate, and other times, when the opposite choice is the right one.
      This gives life a little variety (contrast that with how in chapter 1, Solomon talked about the mundane and predictable nature of the world).     And with this cause for man to stop and think.
    5. A time for every purpose under heaven – there are laws that God has set in order.  They are universal. When God created this world, He created the natural laws that govern it.     When He set things in motion, these laws have been constant and irrevocable (save when He steps in).
      One thought – This is true spiritually as well.   This world and man has a purpose. There are “spiritual laws” we must abide by.   The way this world works is the hand of God and is designed for man to seek him, and realize that life is not just about himself.   We have to think about others as we manage our lives, which is seen in most of the descriptions in this text.
  2.   To everything there is a season
    1. A time to be born – the bringing of life into this world.   The NASB says, “A time to give birth”.
      Of all the qualities described, this first set is the one we have the least among of control. This event happens when “it’s time”.
      Spiritually – It was the fullness of time (the right time), when God brought Christ into this world – Galatians 4:4.   Also consider the birth, we do have control over – being “Born again” – John 3:3 – to Nicodemus, and 1 Peter 1:23 – we are born again…
    2. A time to die –Some use this to justify killing – such as suicide, or perhaps euthanasia. But it deals with life. Genesis 3:19, Hebrews 9:27, etc.
      Spiritually – when we sin, we die – Romans 6:23, 5:12; but to be raised, we must put to death that old man of sin – Romans 6:3-6, Colossians 3:9
    3. A time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted – harvest times.   Remember when the flood ended, and the rainbow was given – promises were made – Genesis 8:21-22.     There are times on this earth that are set in place where certain actions need to be done. An almanac is a book that gives us the details to know WHEN is the right time for each.   They are only useful, because God has appointed the times – and they are dependable.
      The planting is obvious, but the plucking (uprooting) could address harvest time – receiving the crop that I planted, or when its usefulness has gone – uproot and replace.   Farmers know these things.
      Concerning nations – God uprooted nations for their wickedness (Jeremiah 18:7-8), including 7 nations in Canaan because of their wickedness, so that Israel could inherit the land (Deut. 7).  And in time, He uprooted Israel. They were judged.
      Spiritually – the Bible makes reference to planting and harvest time, as well as uprooting.   We are to sow seed and plant (John 4:35, 1 Corinthians 3:6, Luke 8:11ff, etc.).
      And there are times when we walk away for what is planted.   If one rejects the “seed”, we must move on.   God will certainly “pluck” on the day of judgment (Matthew 13:24-30 – parable of the wheat and tares).
    4. A time to kill and a time heal – in this world, there are times for killing (though specifics are debated) – eating food when you’re hungry, capital punishment for crimes (Genesis 9:5-6, Deuteronomy 13:9-10, etc.), even self-defense (cf. Exodus 22:2, etc.). The government does not bear the sword in vain (Romans 13:3-4).   Discussing these is controversial, but they are reality and serve a purpose.
      NOTE: This is NOT justification for selfishness, such as abortions, etc.
      And clearly, there is a time for healing – to treat sickness and seek to preserve life. IF we value life, this ought to be our desire.
      Spiritually – we put to death the man of sin as already noted.   There are attitudes and actions that we need to “kill” in our lives. BUT, when we “kill” something, we must replace it with something better – hence the healing.   Revelation 3:18 – Laodicea needed to heal their diseased eyes.   James 5:16 – pray that we may be healed (of the consequences of our sins). 1 Peter 2:24 – by His stripes we are healed.
    5. A time to break down and a time to build up – buildings and other structures get old and start wearing out to where they need to be torn down and replaced.   IT is actually a natural law that over times this will decay.   We know these things now and beyond.
      A builder needs to assess his circumstances and determine if a structure is salvageable or needs to be totally demolished.   This must be determined before renovating or replacing.   Sometimes it is more efficient to demolish and start over.
      Spiritually – the Bible addresses this as well.   Typically, it addresses the building up, BUT implied in that is also the tearing down. For example: 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 – we must build on the foundation of Jesus. WHAT if our foundation is something else?
      We have also noted 2 Timothy 4:2-3 – where Timothy is to preach the word – he needs to tear down, but also build up when that is done (reprove, rebuke and exhort).
      Acts 20:32 – the word is able to build you up;
    6. A time to weep and a time to laugh – clearly there are occasions when these emotions are appropriate. An interesting observation here is a call for balance.   We must not let our emotions rule us.   There is a problem when all one does is weep (depressed, negative, etc.) or laugh (is not serious).   Proverbs 17:22, A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.
      Spiritually – we weep with each other and rejoice with each other (Romans 12:15).   Philippians 3:18 – Paul wept at the enemies of the cross of Christ; James 4:9 – if there is sin, we ought to lament, mourn and weep.   As to “laughing” – I think of how we as Christians ought to joyful. And I believe this ought to be our primary emotion of the two (Philippians 4:4)
    7. A time to mourn and a time to dance – similar to the previous point, but here it deals with occasions.   When I think of mourning, an example would be a funeral (cf. Eccl. 7:2-4), and dancing – a joyful occasions such as a wedding or festive event.
      We should not read into this justification for going to events where dancing is designed to provoke lustful thoughts and males and females handling each other. “Dancing” in the Bible can be simply jumping up and down joyfully, with or without music. We will address this more on another occasion.
      Spiritually – there are occasions for mourning and “dancing” or rejoicing.
      When we say goodbye to a loved one (perhaps this involves both, if they are saved). When we withdraw from the disorderly or sin is in our midst, we ought to mourn (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:2). Matthew 5:4 speaks of mourning concerning our own spiritual failures.
      We ought to rejoice at the good fortune of our brethren (Romans 12:15), when one obeys the gospel or repents (Luke 15:7, 10, 32, etc.); or when one overcomes some spiritual struggle.
  3. The Everything There is a Season – Continued
    1. A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones – like the building up and tearing down.   There are tasks and times to accumulate things, and other times when we throw them away.
      We have addressed before the dilemma of clutter – physical and spiritual.
      Spiritually – I simply think of times when we need build upon what we have by increasing in that area.   2 Peter 1:5-7 – a list of things we build upon our faith.   And as we have noted, we are NEVER done with this.
      AS to casting away, is see a willingness to change when it is needed.   Because of a changing world, there are times we need to adapt.   There are “methods” that are no longer effective or expedient (e.g. filmstrips, VHS and cassette tapes, or 8-track and reel to reel).   Be willing to adapt if it will result in winning more souls.   Just as Paul was willing to become all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
      There are may be areas of study that we need to add to our spiritual library or arsenal (e.g. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6).   Example: Our current study of apologetics – these are things we are more likely to have to deal with today, than just a few decades ago.
      Wolves are constantly trying to enter into the flock and devour the weak – they come up with some new doctrine (though nothing is really new – just repackaged) that we might need to study about (Ephesians 4:14-16).
      Do what we need to do to grow (gather the resources), and when something is no longer useful as a tool, move on (cast it away).
    2. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing – there are times when embracing (hugs, etc.) are appropriate, and other times when they are not. This could also apply to physical relationships. E.g. a husband and wife can embrace (though in private), while others should not (e.g. teens dating in circumstances where they are tempted to lust (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22)).
      I also think of the “holy kiss” that we greet on another with (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, etc.) – what is that in our society? Be careful to NOT go too far with the embrace.
      Spiritually: I think of fellowship.   The idea of fellowship is a mutual sharing with one another.   It is a misunderstood word because of its many uses in our society, and confusion as to how it is used in the Bible.   In God’s word, the idea is a spiritual relationship that we SHARE with our brethren based upon our relationship (fellowship) with God – 1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 John 1:3, etc.   That’s what it’s about.
      We are to have fellowship with one another as brethren – Acts 2:42, Philippians 2:1, 1 John 1:3, etc.
      We are NOT to have fellowship with the ungodly of this world, and those who have fallen away (until they return) – Ephesians 5:11, 1 Corinthians 10:20 (fellowship with demons).  2 Corinthians 6:14
    3. A time to gain and a time to lose – The NASB reads, “a time to search and a time to give up as lost” – this shows the idea of times when we keep looking for something, but there is a time to move on.
      Spiritually – think of the lost coin and sheep in Luke 15:1-10.   Both show diligent search.
      But there is a time when we must judge that we are “casting our pearl before swine” and move on – Matthew 7:6
    4. A time to keep and a time to throw away – similar to many things we have discussed with building, gathering, planting, etc. and their counterparts.
      Spiritually – what are we willing to give up to follow Him? Matthew 6:19-21 – where is your treasure?   Do we have the attitude of Paul in Philippians 3:7-8?
      Will we keep the word of God close to us? (John 8:51)   Will we keep the faith? (2 Timothy 4:7)   Will we keep His commandments? (John 14:15, 1 Corinthians 7:19); Will you keep yourself pure? (1 Timothy 5:22)
    5. A time to tear and a time to sew – another description similar to the gathering and casting away stones.
      Spiritually – You could relate this to the mourning we have addressed as well. Remember how in mourning people would tear their garments.
      But that period of mourning was to end.   Repair your “garments” and move on.
      Consider repentance in this – 2 Corinthians 7:11, Luke 18:13
    6. A time to keep silence and a time to speak – wise words to always consider.   We don’t have to always say something.   Sometimes the best thing you can do is say nothing (like Job’s friends for a week after they came to him.   As long as they were silent all was well – Job 2:13).     Proverbs 10:19, In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.
    7. A time of love and a time of hate – there are things we ought to despise and things we can and ought to love, WHILE in this world. The problem with the world is so often they get these things mixed up.     And sometimes, we as Christians also get these things mixed up and we try to serve 2 masters at the same time.
      Spiritually – we know the things we should love – Matthew 22:37-39, 1 John 4:7 – one another; Matthew 5:44-45 – even our enemies.
      AND there are times and things we should hate (or love less) – Romans 12:9 – Abhor what is evil;
      1 John 2:15-17 – do NOT love the world or the things in the world, etc.
    8.    A time of war and a time of peace -a fitting conclusion. Conflict is inevitable in life.   In making decisions concerning many of the above contrasts, in our minds there is conflict about what to do.   We must work through it.
      Also, we may not like to think about wars, but sometimes they are inevitable to stop an enemy from encroaching.   The nature and time of wars is subject to debate, but sadly there is a time for such.
      AND there is a time for peace, INSTEAD of choosing war.   Clearly, this should be the default choice.
      Spiritually – let us NEVER forget that we are at war – Ephesians 6:10-13, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, 1 Timothy 1:18 – wage the good warfare.
      BUT in this, our ultimate goal is for peace – peace with God, within ourselves and with others. Matthew 5:9 – blessed are the peacemakers.   NOTE: Sometimes to get peace, there needs to be war first.   1 Thessalonians 5:13 – be at peace among yourselves.   Colossians 3:15 – let the peace of God rule in your hearts.

Thus, we find Solomon acknowledging in this life there is a time for everything. The question is, will we use the wisdom of God to determine what and when that is, or will we live for ourselves facing eternal gloom.     Let us resolve to “fear God and keep His commandments.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-4). Think about it.