Happy New Years! It seems that each year comes more quickly than the previous one. Time seems to speed up with each passing year. This seems to be an appropriate time to talk about time and the times God has ordained.
In the late 1950’s, Pete Seeger wrote a song that was first recorded in 1959 in which a large block of scripture is loosely quoted. The song was again recorded in 1965 by the group known as The Byrds and the times were right for the words of the song to strike a responsive chord. Within the song, toward the end of the song the last verse has these words:
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late
At the time this song became popular, the war in Vietnam was escalating Many things were being questioned and challenged. It seems relevant that this section of scripture appears in the song.
Solomon had spent his life satisfying his desires with all that was available only to find that the pleasures and activities never delivered satisfaction. He too asked why? The Book of Ecclesiastes is a book that I frequently read. It helps me to recenter my focus on life. In the 3rd chapter, Solomon is telling us that there are seasons in life that are natural and often recurring. These times are appointed by God and are appropriate in the proper time.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB)
Solomon starts this section with the statement that there is a time for everything. When we read the second sentence, Solomon is not repeating himself. The word that is translated as purpose, activity, or event (depending on your translation) is the Hebrew word חֵפֶץ (khay'-fets) and means: pleasure; hence (abstractly) desire; concretely, a valuable thing; hence (by extension) a matter (as something in mind):—acceptable, delight(-some), desire, things desired, matter, pleasant(-ure), purpose, willingly.
The literal translation reads: To everything -- a season, and a time to every delight under the heavens: (Ecclesiastes 3:1 Young’s Literal Translation)
Solomon is saying that there is a time for everything, even the pleasures in life. He then delineates those times which seems to indicate that from one extreme to the other, all of these things are covered in the various seasons as God has ordained.
The next several verses list opposite extremes to seasons or times in our life. As Solomon reflected, there are times when we see the extremes as well as the various stages between the extremes.
A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. (Ecclesiastes 3:2 NASB)
Our lives are bound on earth by two dates; the day we are born and the day we die. There are two exceptions found in the Bible, but we are all born with an expiration date. We do not know that date but it is sure and certain. Each of these events happen in order. That is an axiom. The time and season must happen in the prescribed order.
Nature also tells us that the crops are planted and then harvested. This cycle happens during the seasons that are appropriate for the crop.
A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. (Ecclesiastes 3:3 NASB)
When Solomon lists a time for killing, it has been questioned by many commentators. Some suggest that it may refer to justified wars (whatever is a justified war). Some suggest this refers to capital punishment, that is a possibility. However, within the world, we experience good and bad. This may allow for the encroachment of the evil of murder and death. To counter or offset this evil, there is a time to heal and make whole.
A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4 NASB)
Within our lives, we experience times when we shed tears while there are times when we enjoy the laughter. We have grief and joy. All of these emotions are a part of life. God has blessed us with the full range of emotions. There are times in our life that we experience the extremes.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:5-7 NASB)
As we read this section, we may have some questions. What is this about stones-throwing and gathering? Farmers prepared their fields for crops passed through and removed the stones and threw them out of the field to make the field ready for cultivation. Once this was done, those stones were gathered and used to build houses and sheds.
When we read this last bit of this section, we see there is a time to be silent and to speak. Most of us have great difficulty knowing when we should speak and when we should remain silent.
As we finish up the various seasons ordained by God, we come to another enigma.
A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NASB)
We have so become accustomed to reading the Bible and hearing sermons about love that we fail to see God ordaining a time for hate. Yet, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:9 very specific instructions:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9 NASB)
We have covered the fact that hypocrisy is playacting. So, our love should not be a pretense. “I love you” to your face but a frown when you walk away. Certainly, it is not gossiping behind someone’s back. Love is to be pure and genuine. We are to abhor that which is evil. Abhor, we all understand is intense hatred. Yes, there is a time for hate.
A time for war? War is when people fight and die. We know that wars are often fought by young people who sacrifice their lives because old people could not resolve their differences. Wars always result in tragic loss of life and resources. As mentioned earlier, some commentators suggest “justified wars”. The Bible does mention wars that God supported one side or the other. Jesus tells us that before His return there will be wars and rumors of war. So, we have war. The other mention in this scripture of times talks of peace. Some may think that peace is the absence of war. This is not found in the Bible.
When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and they arrived at the Red Sea, they murmured that they were better off as slaves than to die in the wilderness.
But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14 NASB)
There is a phrase that we often miss and it is critical to note: The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. God will fight our wars for us. Our job is to keep silent and let Him do His job. Too often we want to tell God what to do and how to do it.
One of the psalms that we often quote or have printed for display, encourages us to be quiet while we acknowledge God.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10 KJV)
Those words: Be still may also be translated Cease striving, let go, relax. The wars that come and go the war between good and evil are not our concern. We are to turn them over to God.
Paul very clearly tells us: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)
Want that peace now and during times of war? Hand it to God and then let Him handle it His way and in His time.
Solomon wraps up this block of scripture reminding us that God has given each of us a job. From the beginning, God placed Adam in the garden to tend to the garden and to care for it. We will find contentment in doing our job and enjoy the fruits of our labor while we allow God to attend to His job. It is not our job nor is it in us to understand the eternal nature of God.
He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 NASB)
As we begin a New Year, let us remember that God is in charge. He has ordained the right times and seasons for everything we see, face and endure. If we are to endure and enjoy these seasons, we need to hand control over to God.
Enjoy the adventure that God has planned for you this year and in the future. If you are not in Christ, now is a great time to make that commitment.