A Time for Everything (Ecc. 3:1-11)

Publié le 20 septembre 2020 dans Non classé

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Here’s one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible in terms of poetry. In a few lines, the Teacher captures all human experience and activities. The sentences and the very sonority of the poem correspond to the rhythms and vicissitudes of life.

However, the beautiful poem describes a reality that is not always pretty to live. One commentary considers that the passage describes “the tyranny of time”. We’ve just sung that we are “in the rush of life”. And the Teacher himself concludes the poem with these words, “What do people really get for all their hard work?” (v9)

French-Algerian philosopher, author and journalist Albert Camus wrote a philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. In Greek mythology, “the gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. » The Teacher might say to Sisyphus, “A time for everything, a time to roll up a stone. A time to let the stone fall down.” But is that a consolation? According to Camus, Sisyphus is a metaphor for human life, more precisely for our daily modern life, « The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. »

The Teacher is worked up about the same question, but he offers a different answer we can focus on this morning: “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” (v.11)

I. At the moment, life is very complex

The Teacher wants to first convince us that the complexity of God’s life and work is incomprehensible to the human mind. After saying that there is a time for everything, he says in v11: “but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

v7, “A time to be quiet and a time to speak.” But when should we be quiet and when should we speak? We don’t know because we don’t know the future. We don’t know all the outcomes of our choices.

Besides, most of these things here are not our choice, but they are things that happen to us arbitrarily. For newlyweds, it’s easy to say, « a time to kiss ». But then there can be an illness, a bereavement, a divorce, and it’s « a time to get away from kissing. » Or in v1, “A time to be born and a time to die,” are two things you don’t control.

“A time for everything” doesn’t explain why there are negative things on the list. We do not believe that good and evil must be balanced. It’s quite nice to see the different seasons of the year, and each season has its beauty. After many days of sunshine, we like the rain and after many days of rain, we enjoy the sunshine. But here, there are things we would manage quite well without. Death, hatred, and war have no innate beauty. They are the direct results of the Fall and corruption.

(I’d like to emphasize that all these things can be justified in certain circumstances, so these lines do not justify the wrong. Jesus himself did or will do all these things. We can’t say: there is a time to pay taxes, a time for tax evasion, a time for fidelity, a time for adultery…).

When you look at the diversity of human experiences, at all the activities and occupations, we can see that life is complex.

Why does the Teacher insist on the complexity of life? He wants to make us get confused, he wants to make us perplex, he wants to make us think, he wants to prevent us from accepting simplistic answers. He wants to get us to say: I don’t understand everything. I am not in control of everything. I don’t have all the answers. I am not God.

II. One day, life will be perfectly good

v11: “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.” One day we will look at the whole history and work of God, and there will be nothing to improve. v14, “And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear him.”

If that is true, that changes everything. That gives meaning to everything. Our lives are no longer like that of Sisyphus. Everything we do, everything that happens to us is not useless. Conversely, everything contributes to the final beauty of God’s work.

But is that true? Camus did not think so. There are several solutions to escape Sisyphus’ problem. There is suicide, but also intellectual suicide, that is to say faith, religion. Is it intellectual suicide to believe that God will make all things beautiful in his time? I do not believe so. The proof that the Teacher gives us is, v11, « He has planted eternity in the human heart. »

What is the thought of eternity?

It is the universal observation, which gets across time and culture, that we can find in humans the sense of eternity, of infinity, and of an eternal God. The thought of eternity is also when unbelievers pray, when they want to hear at a funeral that their friend is in Heaven. The thought of eternity are that no one can look at a starry sky, or at his bride on the wedding day and still says, « blah, this is an accident. »

The thought of eternity is also the sense of judgment (v16-17: I also noticed that under the sun there is evil in the courtroom. Yes, even the courts of law are corrupt! I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.”) In all men, there is a sense of justice, a thirst for justice. To ensure that all things are beautiful one day, it first requires judgment, and destruction of evil and wickedness. According to Paul’s argument to the Romans, the sense of righteousness and awareness is also a proof of God.

The thought of eternity is also the fact that everyone wonders what happens after death (v19-21, “For people and animals share the same fate—both breathe and both must die. So people have no real advantage over the animals. How meaningless! Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust. For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth?”)

This thought of eternity invites us to look above the sun, towards eternity, to seek the God of eternity, the sovereign God, creator who can make all things beautiful in his time. And for us Christians, God has given us more than the thought of eternity, he has given us a convincing proof. God has given us Jesus. His resurrection is the ultimate proof that God can make all things beautiful in his time. Even the crucifixion becomes beautiful, and if even a crucifixion can become beautiful, so can the complexities and sorrows of your daily lives.

III. It’s always the time to “fear God.”

v14: “God’s purpose is that people should fear him.” (In the Bible, to fear God is to trust him, to do his will, to accept his wisdom. It is also to fear his judgment in accepting his salvation.) So this passage calls us to faith at all times; to be able to say, there is a time for everything in God’s wise and sovereign plan. Even though I don’t understand everything, I have every reason to believe that God makes all things beautiful.

It helps us come to terms with the circumstances, or the changing seasons of life that God places us in.


the age of growing children

a passing coronavirus

a changing professional situation

These truths keep us from worrying about the future, and bitterness about the past.