For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 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. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
We hear this morning a scripture that is one of the most popular scriptures in history. One that is familiar, comforting, disturbing, and motivating all at the same time!! It is one of the scriptures that provides for us, as the hearers, a unique opportunity to hear God’s word!
Ecclesiastes is a collection of King Solomon’s wisdom based upon his faithful life in listening and walking with God. Yet, as often happens when humans get involved with God and scripture, we have the ability to make it both comforting and disturbing. Yet it is also a scripture that is universal in the light of God’s love and nurture for all of God’s people.
But as it often is, when we come to talk about “balance” in our Christian life we have the delicate notion (and task) of working to balance the disturbing, comforting, and motivating “call of God”!!
Yet the danger within this text is that we use it without setting the qualifications in balancing our lives. Balancing our lives is a way that pleases God and gives balance to our faithful living. Hence this becomes the message of the text this morning. It gives to us the work that God promises us in a unique understanding of “time”.
We could easily spend 3-4 weeks talking about the nature of God’s time, but what we have before us in Ecclesiastes is an earthly understanding of God working in our time, from an earthly perspective.
I think this also shows us that the concepts of “time” and God was just as much an issue for the people of the Old Testament and New Testament as it is for us today.
Therefore, we need to look at what we hear in this text as it relates to us.
The very first thing that is brought to our attention is that God has a time for everything!!! A season, every matter under heaven! How comforting is that? A plain and simple reminder that God is in control of everything! “A certain time appointed by God for its being and continuance, which no human wit or providence can alter”. The concept of God’s time in this text is not a time that God has “set apart” for humans to do their thing, but rather it is a time that is wholly at the disposal of God!!! What we must do, is work to balance our lives in the context of that Holy God time!!
What Solomon does for us in his listening to God, puts forth for us the understanding of some of the most difficult, yet daily attributes that we as humans face in order to assist us in balancing our lives with what God has given us and has in store for us during our life.
He starts with the very vital beginning and end; “a time to be born, and a time to die”. How much more of a time frame do we need? How much more of a measurement do we need to understand that God is in control from the beginning to the end? He sets it plainly for us in the context of a lifetime. We have no choice as “children of God” but to work on the balance of this time frame.
NOW, what complicates matters is what follows. Because what follows are the things we confront during that time of measurement!! Things that complicate our balance, things that complicate the simple measurement of a lifetime. But they cannot be escaped and they cannot be avoided.
v.2- “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”
We hear the news that not everything is eternal!! There are those things that we will “plant” in our lives that will have to be dug up and harvested. We hear that there are those things in life that will change over the time they are in the ground so to speak.
I’m going through a time of planting and plucking up, as Thompson works to make a decision on going to college, leaving home, starting his own life. That my friends is not an eternal bond in the sense that what has been planted, is being harvested, now the only thing I have to fall back on is did his mother and I do a decent job of planting? The true answer is, I don’t know yet!! God’s time is still not finished.
v.3 “a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;” Here again, we must be careful to understand that God is not providing us the pathway to kill, God is providing for us the understanding that when that happens we must seek a way to provide and find healing in our lives that offers to us a balance to cope with violence and death.
v.4 “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”
What greater sense of balance is there than to find a common peace between mourning and dancing? Friday morning I felt this scripture come alive as I watched the horrible events unfold in France. As I watched, a safe country away, people being killed, mobbed, and broken. It was a time when God’s providence called me to weep and mourn along with others in life that I did not know, yet we felt the kindred desire of a God who cares for people to “fall down” and mourn together as a people.
Yet in the same breath, as I found myself out and about on a beautiful Friday seeing people and enjoying the breath of a great relaxing day, I felt the same sense of urgency to embrace “a time to dance”! Yet I am a firm believer that scripturally and as in life, the mourning and weeping must be experienced in order to understand and appreciate the full joy of laughing and dancing!!
v.5 “a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together;” The essence of understanding that there is in God’s time the time to work together and then to move apart either because of God’s work or our own.
“a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”. The performance of friendly offices, one to another and then the time to avoid that in wise counsel of the Holy.
v.6 “a time to seek, and a time to lose, a time to keep, and a time to throw away;”
Again, Solomon’s wisdom in the understanding of a God given gift. There comes a time to seek and search out that what God is leading you toward. The challenge becomes discerning, what is God’s and what is ours? I believe it is within this wisdom that we learn to balance what is necessary and we make choices about what we need to “lose” and “throw away” and what we need to “keep” in the eyes of a balanced Christian life. One of the things that Solomon understood, I believe, is that this was a daily practice of discernment and time spent with God. It was not something that we were born with or understood from one point to the next, it was a work in progress!!
v.7 “a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;”
Once again, we find ourselves back to a cultural overtone from the Jewish understanding that when grief was real, when grief was at the “home place” we tore our garments to signify that grief was very real and very painful. Such as is the balance in our own lives. Grief is real and we can’t deny that! Yet at the same time, we are given the God time to sew and to literally “heal” from that grief. To move forward and to bind ourselves into that loving kinship with a God who has provided for us, walked with us, and cried with us and laughed with us.
Then there comes the time of balancing, what we need to say and what we do not need to say!! A tough act to balance, but one that comes with a daily walk with God and the people that God loves, all of us!! One of the things that I think we often find neglected in working on the balanced life of a Christian is how do we discern the conversations we have with those whom we live and worship? What makes for “right” conversation? What makes for “right silence”? Those are things that we must learn to work with as we move about in the Christian community, proclaiming love for Jesus Christ. Because that is what Christ calls us to do!! To have “right” conversation and “right” silence on the behalf of a God who has given us the time to do just that!!
v.8 “a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
Probably the hardest of the wisdom words to hear. Because we are in a New Testament society that has placed ALL of its emphasis on love and not much on “hate” at least in a proclaimed setting.
But we must remember, this is what God is laying forth. A given, that there will be a time to love and a time to hate. He is not instructing us to hate, God is simply professing that “hate” will exist in our lives. Just as war will exist, God is not condoning us to proclaim or profess war, the words of scripture simply tell us that “war” is going to happen and in the same breath, remind us that a time of “peace” will persevere in the midst of a violent world.
Having heard these words this morning, we are still back at the balance pendulum. We are still back in our daily life of seeking balance.
That is one of the things with this series surrounding “balance”, it is not a series that will provide an answer numbered 1, 2, or 3 but it is a “walk” in hopes of finding balance and union with God in a way that we become better people of faith, better people of Christianity, better people for the Church, and better people, better “children of God” in a way that will change the entire balance of the Kingdom and God’s World.
I admit, this scripture is one that will “work on you” in many different ways, but it is a text that I understand and appreciate more and more as I read it and study it and hear it but most of all as I live it!!
Let this be our task this week, to live out the understanding of God’s time in our life and live to work at the time God has given us!!
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.