Time

“If I could turn back time …” is a popular motif in songs that show longing or regret.  The passage of time carries us along like a boat sailing downstream.  We can not control time – we do not exist in the future or in the past.  Our only time of existence is right here and now.  This is where a Carpe Diem attitude comes from.  There is a story being told which we can not change.  It starts with, “In the beginning God …” and finishes with “the grace of the Lord Jesus …”  We are here for our scene in the play as God has written the overall script.  He is gracious enough to let us improvise.  However, our stories are meant to be lived in harmony with the overall story. 

The opening of Ecclesiastes three is not prescriptive.  This is not a list of things that people are meant to do.  It is a descriptive list and describes the breadth of activities that God allows to happen in their time.  The overarching principle is that God controls time and we live in the present.  In the present we need to find joy in whatever the present time brings to us.  This is found in seeing the purpose of God and being thankful for whatever he has allowed us to have.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 22

1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent 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 do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

 15 Whatever is has already been,
   and what will be has been before;
   and God will call the past to account.[b]

 16And I saw something else under the sun:

   In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
   in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

 17I said to myself,

   “God will bring into judgment
   both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
   a time to judge every deed.”

 18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath[c]; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

 22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?

Questions

  1. What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively?
  2. How are animals and humans similar?
  3. Where should humans find joy?
  4. How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’?
  5. What ‘times’ have you lived through (economic security, recession, WW2, 70’s, etc.)?  How was God working his will through these personal, national, and global ‘times’?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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17 Responses to Time

  1. 1. zero idea what merismus means… hmmmm.
    2. animals and humans will meet the same fate in the end– our physical bodies will die.
    3. humans should find joy in God and His provisions… as well as in our tribulations. (not the easiest thing to do… but i digress).
    4. it is warning them that… planning is not always the way to go. while we should be prepared, we should not have every detail of our lives planned ahead… because God is ultimately in control of every single thing that happens on this earth. He reigns and rules, and we as humans think that we have the power to do the same. “well… i will save this much money and buy this car”. okay, so, i save the money and buy the car… that’s not to say that i won’t crash it within days of purchasing it. God spoke this section of scripture to remind us that He controls what happens, and we should live for the present and be joyful in it.
    5. heck, just going to college in Chicago has been a “time” for me financially. God has been gracious in providing me jobs that pay well, but when i first arrived in the city, i had no means whatsoever. God showed me, through many hours of prayer, that i needed to trust Him and that He would take care of me above and beyond in the future… but i had to trust Him first and foremost; i couldn’t rely on my own means to get by.

  2. rebecca Langer says:

    1.’Merismus’ is a Greek term describing how two or more parts make up a whole. Verses 1-11 accurately describe how life is made up of many occasions that would be opposites, but they work together. Healing/hurting, embracing/not embracing, sow/harvest – these things make up a life.
    2.Humans and animals both have measurable life spans. They can show pain and satisfaction. We both have to be born.
    3.Humans should find joy through God. They can feel satisfied in their work, relationships, abilities, or achievements, but the true happiness should come from resting in God.
    4.You never can know what will happen to you, so there is no use in creating elaborate plans for the future, because those might change drastically with one variable.
    5.I have lived through Y2K, the 90’s, and the recession. God was working through those times because I learned what it was to have to save money. My dad was in danger of losing his job (He worked for Chrysler), and we had to depend on God to provide for our everyday needs.

  3. Sandra Tindle says:

    1. ‘Merismus’ is the dividing of a whole into its parts. Verses 1-11 use this effectively by taking the whole picture of life and separating it out into its opposites and different times and stages.
    2. Animals and humans are similar because they both die and they both breathe the same air.
    3. Humans should find joy in their work, because that is their lot.
    4. This passage cautions those who have a “life map” by warning them that all their planning and working will not really mean anything once they die, and they should find joy in what they are doing now rather than focusing on the future.
    5. I have lived through 9/11, the economic recession, the wars in the Middle East. God was working his His will through these times by being faithful to His followers and not abandoning them (us) during hard times, whether personally, nationally, or globally.

  4. Kendalle says:

    Humans and animals are alike because we both have the same destinty. We both will return to dust and must find our true joy im christ alone.

  5. trishaindonesia says:

    1. It’s to divide into parts into making one idea.
    2. When animals and humans die, our physical bodies are left here on earth.
    3. We should find joy in God and His provisions and our present life.
    4. Planning your future is good and being responsible, but a lot of times we all tend to plan “too” much and this is where worry gets in the picture. We should just trust in God and enjoy the present rather than worry for what’s ahead. The Lord has already written your story, you just have to rely on Him and His plans for you.
    5. I was in Indonesia when the Tsunami hit Aceh, Thailand and many other islands in Asia. It made people see that you can’t run away from tragedy. Whether your rich or poor, to God we are all equal. This sad event also showed how everyone showed Christ’s love to each other.

  6. Grace Yoo says:

    1. Merismus means “to divide” and verses 1-11 use it effectively by talking about opposites.
    2. Humans and animals are the same in that our fate awaits.
    3. Humans should find joy in God and everything He has done for us. He has “set eternity in the human heart” and that is where we should find joy.
    4. This cautions those who have a “life map” by saying that thinking too much ahead of the future is not good because most likely you are only seeking what you want rather than what God wants.
    5. We have lived through a hard stock crash a couple years ago and God has been there for the people who has lost their jobs or have lost a lot of money due to it.

  7. aaron wright says:

    1. Its like when two things complement each other, but are opposites. Solomon is pointing out that these opposite spectrums of life both have their right place in life.
    2. we along with animals will eventually die and there is nothing we can do about it.
    3. We should find joy in pursuing Christ and finding satisfaction in what He has given us.
    4. It cautions by explaining that if we are always looking to the future, then we will always miss the hear and now and be miserable.
    5. I didn’t really know if i was going to be able to afford Moody. However, somehow God provided just enough work that let me work my way through.

  8. Melisa Guiles says:

    1. Merismus is the dividing of the whole into two parts. Verses 1-11 use this effectively by contrasting different aspects of life.
    2. They will both die in the end.
    3. Humans should find joy in the work that they do.
    4. We as humans cannot know what will happen in the future; only God knows that. There are times for everything and we as humans do not know those times. If we try to plan our lives out, we will fail and be frustrated because we cannot know what will happen.
    5. 9/11, family’s health problems, times of spiritual doubt. God used these to teach me things about Himself and to reinforce things I already believed. He also used these things to bring people closer to Him, whether that was me or other people.

  9. HeeJin,Choi says:

    1.What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively?
    – It means “to divide into parts” derived from Greek word. the word is effectively being used in verses 1-11 by contrasting two sides of life.
    2.How are animals and humans similar?
    – Both like to pursue what feels good to them.
    3.Where should humans find joy?
    – Being righteous and keeping ourselves pure before God.
    4.How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’?
    – Tt edifies them not to be perfectionists because anything from human is not perfect and would not last forever, but God’s.
    5.What ‘times’ have you lived through (economic security, recession, WW2, 70′s, etc.)? How was God working his will through these personal, national, and global ‘times’?
    – My parents’ severe car accident. I praised and praise my Lord who awakened me from my spiritual paralysis which had bothered me so long.

  10. Sokloon Dy (Lizzy) says:

    1. It divides the verses down the middle between the positives and the negatives.
    2. They live, die, and breathe the same air together.
    3 . We should find joy in Christ because is the Only Person who can satisfy our every desire and need.
    4. They should not plan out their whole life because they don’t even know when they will die. Also, life itself is unpredictable and feeble at best.
    5. After I graduated from high school, I could not come to America to study due to financial issues. I guess that was my time of “mourning”/sadness. But I trusted God during my hard time. And the Lord provided a way for me to come here. He has been faithful and brought joy to my life. This is my third year at Moody.

  11. [ED2203-01] HyeJin Lee says:

    What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively?
    – ‘Merismus’ means ‘to divide into parts’ and it is used effectively in verse 1-11 because all the concepts written are opposites to each other.
    How are animals and humans similar?
    – They both will have the same fate; they will die and go down into the earth
    Where should humans find joy?
    – from being happy and doing good while they live
    How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’?
    – planning ahead does not ensure that their lives will go by the same way as they planned.
    What ‘times’ have you lived through (economic security, recession, WW2, 70′s, etc.)?
    ….IMF (in Korean backgrond)
    How was God working his will through these personal, national, and global ‘times’? There always is ‘time’ that God had planned for us.

    .

  12. Kristin Goffinet says:

    1) Merismus means dividing into different parts. Verses 1-11 use this word well as the author compartmentalizes our lives, mentioning that there is “a time to. . ” weep, laugh, ect.
    2) We are similiar to animals in that we have many of the same basic needs, including, food, shelter, rest, and care.
    3) We should find our joy in the Lord and take refuge in Him, knowing that what He does is eternal.
    4) This passage questions what we really gain from our toil, which causes us to question if we really should have our lives all planned out.
    5) My family has gone through many cahllenging times, but one of the hardest was when my little sister was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. During this time I actually grew much closer to God and I learned to rely on him more.

  13. Moon [ED 2203;Mon 6:00pm class] says:

    1.What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively?
    – (rhetoric) A metonymic term to describe a type of synecdoche in which two parts of a thing, perhaps contrasting or complementary parts, are made to stand for the whole. (by wiktionary.org)
    – verses 1-11 use it effectively by describing a whole meaning of a life(time) as contrasting some factors of a life(time)
    2.How are animals and humans similar?
    both are fed by God’s provisions. both are living in under God’s time rule. And Both die.
    3.Where should humans find joy?
    in the present time, every thing that God has provided for us. especially the salvation which enables us to have the eternal life.
    4. How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’?
    without acknowledging that everything is under God’s control and having an own life map is meaningless before the fate of the death.
    5. What ‘times’ have you lived through (economic security, recession, WW2, 70′s, etc.)? How was God working his will through these personal, national, and global ‘times’?
    when i was a school student, South Korea went through the IMF financial crisis. Since the Korean domestic market was narrow, the side effect was tremendous even to ordinary lower and middle classes. I remember a numerous number of churches in S.Korea was spreading out a prayer campaign and Christians united to pray for overcoming the IMF crisis.
    as the prayer, We could overcome the IMF crisis in a short time.

  14. Jessica Gentry says:

    1.) Merismus means dividing something into different parts, so as seen in vs 1-11 it divides the opposing actions or emotions that have their own place in time, such as a time to laugh, but also a time to cry, etc.
    2.) Animals and humans are similar in that we all share a similar fate, at least on this earth we will all face death.
    3.) According to this writer humans should find joy in their work, on a deeper level though humans should find joy in the Lord, for when all else withers He still remains.
    4.) This passage cautions those who have a life-map by revealing that what the time has in store may not be what we had in mind and therefore we must take life at every season it has to offer, with all the joy or sorrow it may bring.
    5.) I have lived through the time of economic troubles, and a confusing war, that many people don’t understand or agree with, I have also lived through a time of very modern beliefs and loose morals or ethics. I see God’s will in all this global change in that God has brought His people through many difficult things, and many seasons where the focus seemed like it was drifting furthur and furthur from Him in our nation Overall though, He is still sovereign and this is just another season. In due time He will make things better and He will be glorified more than ever!

  15. Cassie Clark says:

    1.Merismus is a part of speech that uses complementary or contrasting parts to make a whole. Verses 1-11 list contrasting parts that show the whole of human experience.
    2. They both find their end in death.
    3. In satisfaction of our lives and work.
    4. We cannot know the future. Only God knows that. Life is unpredictable and cannot be planned.
    5. Although I cannot say this with certainty because I am not God, America’s prosperity may not have been a blessing. The recession may actually be a blessing. When we are living in more need is when we turn to God.

  16. spiritandtruth1128 says:

    1. What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively? Merismus means to divide. In verses 1-11 we are able to see God’s creation in two different perspectives. The author allows two views to be seen.
    2. How are animals and humans similar? They come to earth to live and then they die.
    3. Where should humans find joy? Humans should find joy in everything they do. We each have a different life, different job and different people around us. We should find joy in the opportunity God gives us to live and encounter different situations.
    4. How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’? That we should focus more on doing good in the moment and living a purposeful life in the present instead of focusing in the future because in the end God has the power to end our lives at any moment.
    5. What ‘times’ have you lived through (economic security, recession, WW2, 70′s, etc.)? How was God working his will through these personal, national, and global ‘times’? I feel like God has worked a lot through the 9/11 incident, with the war, with our financial struggles and with same sex marriage issues. I feel like God has worked His will by making us see that even though America is seen as a great country, obviously we have many people who have negative feelings toward us and there is no shield against violent acts towards us. I feel like God has humbled us, He has made us realize that we can’t rely on a government, but that we must truly rely on His protection, His plan, and His power. Finally, I feel like God is using war and same sex marriage as a way for us to seek Him more and for us to share His love with the people in the conflict.

  17. Kerri Klingsmith says:

    1. What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively?
    Merismus divides things into parts. This can be seen in verses 1-11 in how the author divides the topics into there being a time for everything and shifting to people’s view of God.
    2. How are animals and humans similar?
    They will both die in the end.
    3. Where should humans find joy?
    Their work
    4. How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’?
    We don’t’ know what will happen in this life and things may go off course.
    5. What ‘times’ have you lived through (economic security, recession, WW2, 70′s, etc.)? How was God working his will through these personal, national, and global ‘times’?
    Through many moves and cultural encounters, family pain and crisis, changing worlds, War on Terror, oppression of women worldwide and the suffering of children, human trafficking, national debt, global warming and many many more. God’s sovereignty is constant and does not change depending on the circumstances of the world. His ways are not our ways and sometimes we don’t get to know how God is working His will through these things. We need to place our trust and hope in what the Bible says and not necessarily what we feel like.

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