Wisdom of Marion Vol 1.26 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)

by | May 7, 2011 | Study of Ecclesiastes, Wisdom From Kammbia Column | 0 comments

3rd Study: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15

Ecclesiastes 3 begins with the most popular section of the book that has been used by pastors for sermons, quoted for books, and even used for gift cards.

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 cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time 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.

{Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ESV}

I must admit as many times as I have read that passage, I thought it was about there being an appropriate time for every human activity in our lives. Well, Pastor Meyers from his book, A Table in the Mist, gives a different meaning from Solomon’s perspective:

From the start we get a hint that the issue is not primarily human activity or our determination to find the opportune time to act a certain way. It is too often sentimentalized and romanticized–taken out of its proper context in Solomon’s overall argument. So the poem is often read to mean that there are appropriate moments for people to act and at the proper moment even ordinarily objectionable behavior can be “beautiful in its own way.”

Unfortunately, this is not what the poem is about. It is not about human determination of events or even human discernment of times and seasons. The poetic passage is about God’s activity, not man’s. It is about God’s comprehensive determination of all of man’s times.

Are you constantly frustrated that you are not accomplishing enough? Are you unable to be satisfied because you lack control over your life? Do you constantly try to read more to gain insight that will gain an advantage? Ecclesiastes is asking you to reconsider your stance toward life. Controlling the times and seasons, or even understanding why God sends them when he does, is too great and marvelous a thing for anyone but God. {pp. 74-6}

Well, that is much different from what I have learned about this popular passage.  And this is another indication that Ecclesiastes is more of a book of faith than just a book of wisdom.

The next section of Chapter 3 really crystallizes man’s anxiety and frustration in Verses 10-11:

 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. {ESV}

It seems like is God is teasing man.  Sorry, if that’s crude for some of you.  God has given us the yearning for something bigger and larger than ourselves. But, he doesn’t tell us everything.  And as human beings we want to figure everything out and move on to the next thing to conquer.  God knows that about us and decided a little taste is good enough for man.

What is man to do?

Pastor Meyers writes this:

Men and women need to learn to accept the good gifts that God gives to them. We need to learn to find satisfaction in the work that God has given us–to eat and drink with thankful hearts. Brooding, sulking, or cursing any aspect of God’s particular work is out of place. The believer should enjoy what he has given.

In other words, we must live fully in the present.

Living fully in the present means we have to rely on God for things we can’t control.  That’s hard.  Let’s be honest with ourselves.  Especially as adults, we are the ones who wants to be in control of our own lives, not anybody else or even God.

The message of Chapter 3 is to lay the burden of self-improvement and self-actualization down and have faith in God’s plan for our lives.

Here are a couple of questions for you to think about from this study.  I welcome your comments.

1) Are you surprised that the popular passage from Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 is more about God’s orchestrating of timing in our lives instead of ourselves?

2) In this chapter, we have learned that God wants us to enjoy the gifts he has given us and live fully in the present.  What keeps us from fully living in the present?


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