“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?
- What is ‘merismus’ and how do verses 1-11 use it effectively?
- How are animals and humans similar?
- Where should humans find joy?
- How does this passage caution those who have a ‘life map’?
- 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’?