A season for everything, a reason for everything – Friday, 25th Week in ordinary time – Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
The book of Ecclesiastes represents a reaffirmation of the central idea held in ancient wisdom; that we as humans need to acknowledge the limits of human understanding. We as humans must stand in awe of God, in awe of his great plan in our lives; that is the beginning of wisdom for us. We are called to live life under the ‘son of God’ rather than just life under the sun
Reading this book, one may come to a false conclusion that the author denies the sovereignty of God, that is not true. What he does deny is the ability of finite man to grasp the meaning of life. For the ‘preacher’ who is the author of this book, man’s perspective is limited, so limited that he cannot make any pronouncements on the meaning of things. It is impossible for man to formulate any theory with regard to the individual occurrences of life.
Humans have an innate tendency to search for a reason for everything that happens in life. For the author of the book, life as we know it is repetitive and the best way to approach the ambiguity of life is to be accept it for what it is; not to over analyse it nor try to avoid it. The Preacher began with a search for meaning in wisdom, pleasure, and possessions. In the end he discovered that we should enjoy the life that God has given us.
The text of today can be broken into two parts. The first part is verse 1-8 which could well be entitled ‘a season for everything’ and verses 9-15, of which some part of our reading is included, could be well entitled ‘a reason for everything.’ In today’s text the author of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for every matter under heaven. When he speaks of time he uses the word in the sense of an occurrence; or that simply everything occurs. He describes the different seasons and facets of life which are beautiful. Yet it also casts a dark shadow because it reminds us of the inevitability of trouble and evil, and of the relentless monotony of life.
The reptation of the word ‘time,’ used 29 times in the first eight verses, are intended to indicate this sense of boredom in the monotony of all things, rather than of their variety. He lists 28 different activities in eight verses but whatever may be our skill and initiative, our real masters seem to be these seasons. The poetic quality of the list shows that even the tragic and dark aspects of our life can be artfully and powerfully presented. This list also shows us the need to take full advantage of the time God gives us. Many a man loses his soul, as Saul did his kingdom, by not discerning his time. Esau came too late; so did the foolish virgins. Let us take a few lines that may be misunderstood due to the issues of translation
The Preacher understood that though there are good things in life, the bad things can’t be escaped. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal (verse3). That last one sounds a bit strange. The author is not telling us there was a time for murder. The Hebrew word used here for ‘to kill,’ is not the word reserved for murder in the sixth commandment, where premeditation seems to be in view. And yet war brings upon us the reality and the horrors of death in times of war while peace heals all things broken.
In verse 5 we are told that there is a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together. In the ancient world they commonly scattered stones on an enemies’ land to hinder farming. The author is simply acknowledging human nature that can hinder the good of others, as we do, or simply prevent it, as we are capable of.
Having reflected on the season we now look at the reasons for the season in verse 9-11.
What gain do we have from all our toiling, asks the author? The Preacher asked that kind of question before; but this time he found an answer in the God-given task that God gives to man. He acknowledges that it is God and not man who makes all things beautiful in his time. He looks at the good and the bad as they are described in verse 1-8 and understood that God has made everything beautiful, but in his time.
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