Time to Turn | Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1–3:15
Introduction | Rewind
Good morning! This week we are continuing our series of Ecclesiastes called The Pursuit: Chasing Meaning Under the Sun. Where do we go to find wisdom, meaning, and purpose? What is the point of all our accomplishments? Where is our hope when we life is met with failure or even simple toil and boredom? Is this all there is to life? In life under the sun all seems to be vanity as we struggle to find our purpose and meaning apart from God. “Fear of God will turn a vain, empty life into a meaningful life including enjoying God’s gifts.” – Greidanus. The message of this sermon of Ecclesiastes isn’t all of life is meaningless and nothing matters; it’s because of God as the source of all meaning, and goodness, as we live the life we are given EVERYTHING matters! Our pursuit in this series is to mine the wisdom of The Preacher in the hopes of seeing and understanding the world, our lives, as they truly are, as accurately as possible.
Previously we’ve seen a generation comes and goes, the sun rises and sets, wind blows in circuits. These were all signs of our finiteness and a source of pessimism for our lives under the sun because it meant this is all there is. Chasing meaning for the preacher (Solomon) meant looking down different paths of purpose. First looking at wisdom, what if I can just see the world properly, that led to great knowledge of the pain and brokenness in the world. Ok, what if I just live my life focused on my own self-interest and self-indulgence? As comprehensively as he was able to pursue pleasure and accomplishment it still left him empty. After looking at wisdom again over foolishness he found short term gain but the unjustness of death for all (the wise and foolish) lead him to hate and loth work that would quickly be handed over to another generation and eventually would be forgotten for all. There is a frustrating to striking out at the plate. But Last week ended with hope, the curtains in the dark basement laboratory have been pulled back and now things can be seen clearly for what they are. The light illuminates and warms our experiences.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
Verse 1 | A Time for Everything
What is your philosophy for looking at the world? Karma? Fate? When different things happen to you call out to “The Universe”? As if there is some force at work you cannot see but is both random and cold? Are your existence and life experiences an accident? When the world philosophies try to explain the apparent randomness and chaos of the human existence and natural phenomenon they do so apart from a concept of a purposeful intentional designer. This can’t help but lead to a fatalistic view of the world. When something good happens great but its just “winning life’s lottery” and we’re always one chance accident or incident away from total ruin or disaster. Life under the sun (apart from God) is meaningless. Yet we look at world events and life events and begin to recognize patterns, cycles, and seasons and while not always clear we begin to see there is less chaos and more intentionality than we’d like to admit. Verse one uesues the phrase “Under Heaven” is not necessarily the same thing under the sun. Under the Sun is the world divorced from God. Here Under Heaven is the world ordained, watched over, planned and executed, by God. God is not just the creator of the universe (heaven and earth) but is also the master of all time.
So if we look at verses 2-8 apart from God, or ruled by a God who is not loving; the predestination of seasons is more like a tyrannical prison then an artful masterpiece of a tapestry. So we won’t look at these patterns and season pessimistically believing the worse about God, we will see them an opportunity for Hope in the enduring character of God.
Verse 2-8 | Poem Time
There is this famous poem showing the comprehensive nature of the times, seasons, and cycles of life. God has set the times of everything for ever for the purpose of us to stand in awe of him. Before you think this means God is an ego maniac remember that when you stand in awe of something you recognize you are experiencing something great. This is why we say for His glory and our joy. The two are linked. Because of the duality and familiarity of seasons we are underwhelmed with life, and ultimately God.
The beginning of verse 2 is the umbrella that everything else is under. Birth and Death. These are the biggest moments of our lives. We know we won’t be late on the day of birth or on the day of our death. These days are fixed and while we can be active with a lot of different things we have no real control over these days. Psalm 139 is clear each of our days are numbered by God and the preacher knows it.
The poem is comprehensively realistic about the life we experience drawing out the outer limits of what we will do, feel, and see with in the range of the day of our birth and our death. Within life we will undoubtedly participate in both creative and destructive endeavors. Planting, healing, building AND uprooting, killing, breaking down. But while we have both participation and responsibility for these types of activities we are not God we are not sufficient for all these activities, verse 10 tells us God has given us this business and we saw last week we were created for purposeful work and fruitful activity. Within our experiences and endeavors, since some are productive and other are destructive will also have various times and seasons of wide ranging emotions both privately (weep/laugh) and publically (mourn/dance).
Our relationships also have cycles, patterns and seasons. People you were friends with you are no longer. Those you have been estranged from you may have restoration with. Some of your greatest allies in life seem like enemies later and people you’ve held in derision are now live giving friends. We go through seasons of gathering, building a business, a home, filling it with furniture, filling it with children. And there will be a season of sending off, of clearing out, and handing over. There are times where you are working on restoration of something broken and there are times of growing separation. Times to speak up and speak out and times to be silent. We individually, corporately and even nationally experience seasons.
How do you read these? What portions stand out to you? That might give you an indication of how you see or experience the world. Death and mourning or laughing and dancing? No one choose a time to weep and mourn. In fact some of the greatest times of celebration, laughter, and joy are time we did not plan or even foresee. Take a moment to reflect on your life, were you are today and ask yourself is this how you imagined your life looking like? For better or worse? Think of your responsibilities and duties. Are they what you thought would drive you? So if we are placing our purpose and meaning and enjoyment of life only in the seasons were we are experiencing good we will be disappointed.
We all talk about “seasons” all the time in the church. I am in a season of trail. Or I can really sense that I about to enter a season of joy! Hey that’s great but….. You don’t get to decide when you’re going to leave one season and enter another. You cannot simply say I am not going to be in winter any more. Winter lasts as long as it does. What you can do is attempt to see what God is doing in your life and try to more accurately assess what type of season you’re in. It is important properly identify what seasons of life you’re in, because there is a dissonance with seasons are out of-wack or mixed up. If it’s spring or summer, go ahead and take your winter coat off. If it’s fall or deep winter stop pretending it’s sunny and warm out. But when you find yourself in a season or period of time don’t you can pray to be moved from it, but also make sure you’re seeking how God is trying to grow and shape you in that season. Rather than hoping in the next season, remember God is with you in the time and season you are in now.
Verse 9-13 | God’s Business
So we are given life as a gift, we are given tasks, treasures, and because of sin toil. We can and do experience enjoyment in this life, but we are not meant to be entirely self-sufficient. The question from chapter 1 about what gain our purpose is there in our toil is beginning to get an answer. Where is our great hope in all these seasons and cycles? Enter Verse 11!! He has made everything beautiful in its time! This is an incredible statement to make when we look at the halves of the cycles/season that are negative.
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
We can have, and are given hope, in the cycles of life that mourning, tearing down, weeping are not destinations. We have to be aware of the bigger story of our lives and God’s story. We are far to quick when thing are terrible to believe this must be the new normal. I am encouraged when something looks terrible it means it’s not done yet. Don’t look at one snap shot and believe it’s the whole story. We’ll see in the next section part of that “making beautiful” is His perfect righteous judgement. But we can have more peace even in these seasons when we know there is a Big God over them and in them. We want control over that but we can’t. so we exhaust ourselves trying to turn winter into summer artificially. We are too focused on ourselves we forget to see what God is doing in the world and our lives. The Preacher is saying after his poem about time is this section is NOT primarily about the seasons we experience, but about the God who is the master over all seasons and times.
He has put eternity into our hearts. What that means i:s we are never going to find ultimate satisfaction in anything temporary. So while there is enjoyment in these seasons they will change and we will be back to places of longing. Are you dissatisfied in your life at all? If so it may be a gift from God for you to seek and fine your lasting satisfaction in Him.
You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you. - Augustine
Additionally, we need to be comfortable with not knowing all there is. We are made to desire more then what is directly in front of us. Yet we are not capable of seeing the fullness of God’s plan and design all the time. We need to understand we don’t understand as much as we think we do. We see and know only a fraction of the world, it’s movements and it’s design. If even the history of the world, or humanity, was a movie we don’t know how long it is, and our experience of it is barely the length of one frame of one scene, yet we believe we’re able to accurately judge what the entire film is about and how it ends. We have our faces pressed up against a painting we’re told is great but we wonder why because we only see the paint splotch in front of our noses. We desire to see and know more but in this life we will never be able to step back far enough to see the whole work God is making Beautiful in it time. We think we have seen it all it is merely our pride talking we know very little. Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
If you were in Seattle 15 years ago and saw the Kingdome was imploding and knew nothing of history and had no vision of the future you would think that was the end of football in our city, or even think maybe there is a war going on. When you step back and see before there was a team that was barely .500 at home but since the new stadium was built has the best home field record in the league and two years ago there was a Super Bowl parade something like the destruction of a stadium is beautiful.
God is a giver, he gives us business to attend to, he gives us a sense of eternity (past and future), and he gives us the ability to have enjoyment in our toil! This is all good news! In light of this big God how are we to live out our days and navigate these seasons? We’re called to “do good” and have joy. This is a good call to be given. When there are commands in the bible they are present because the opposite is often true. We don’t do good or experience joy. As long as we live reminds us there is a time this will all end.
Gal 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Is our only hope in the future? No! Where chapter two talks about eating in drinking paired with toil and vexation now it’s only married to Joy! What’s the difference? The sovereignty of God!! Man center pessimism gives way to God glorifying faithful optimism. What has been an unhappy business is now seen as God’s business! Is time a prison yard or a playground? That depends on your relationship with God Is he your judge and jail or your adoptive father?
Verse 14-15 | God’s Character
Questions from the beginning of Ecc began to get some answers. Where can security and refuge be found in this world with it’s unending cycles? I can be found in God and His character. Verse 12 and 14 being with “I know, or perceive” There is a resting by the preacher God’s character and a resolution in our call. When God does something it is unlike anything we are able to accomplish causing us to be in awe of Him.
Permanent – Whatever God does is FOREVER!!! Think about that for a second that applies to your salvation!! It applies to judgment, it applies to beauty in a meaning. It endures!!!
Complete- When God does something it is complet! Nothing can be added to it, because nothing needs to be added to it!! Our work never adds to God’s work. All that we think we accomplish is it is hidden with-in the realm of what he accomplishes to us through us and for us.
Secure- No one can come and take what God has granted or done, none of it will be eroded away.
You put these three together and you have great cause to stand (or fall down) in awe of who God is and how amazing his work is. God is in control and nothing we can do will overwhelm that! God in control should lead us to rest!! So saying What is, is what will be, is not fatalistic when God is in the picture. He pursues!! And we are His pursuit. We see that in Jesus!
Time for Jesus | Time for what is next!
We need to anchor ourselves to something that does not change to keep from being overwhelmed by the seasons, and circumstances of our life. Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
The Byrds song version of Ecc 3 “Turn Turn Turn is an unknown call to repent, the song ends with the only other original lyrics “I swear it’s not to late.” There is Gospel Truth to those words. Each one of us here is between the day of our birth and our death so it is not too late for your repentance and salvation, but there is a day coming where it will be. We are appointed once to die and then judgement.(Heb 9:27)
Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Because of our sin, and the sin of this world we are both weak and ungodly. Without Jesus our destiny is one of destruction. God knows because of sin we’ve been torn from lasting life with him, driven away from His perfect holy presence and yet He is God that seeks and pursues us to bring us back to His family.
Galatians 4:3-5 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
The redemption and adoption is a gift we receive but it was not without a cost. The cost is the cross. So we remember the cross weekly. At some point we need to be through the seasons and times and of trial, sorrow, mourning, hate, and death. We all long for sweet unending time of life, joy etc. It’s not enough to have the good and the bad and hope the balance out to zero or neutral, the seasons of life cry out for some lasing satisfying joy. This is where we find the promises of God and remember Ecclesiastes is not the destination but pavement on the road to something new that has not yet been.
Rev 21:4 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Rev 22:1-3 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him
This is a time to turn from sin and a time to Trust Jesus!
More in THE PURSUIT | Ecclesiastes
January 3, 2016Season Finale | Ecclesiastes 12:1-14
December 20, 2015Bridled Joy | Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
December 13, 2015Farmers Market of Foolishness | Ecclesiastes 10:1-20