Summary: 7th in a series from Ecclesiastes. We can’t change the seasons of life - we can only choose how we respond to them.
It has been said that there are four seasons to a man’s life:
• There is the time when he believes in Santa Claus.
• There is the time when he no longer believes in Santa Claus.
• There is the time when he is Santa Claus.
• There is the time when he looks like Santa Claus.
I also found a couple of other illustrations this week that help us to understand the whole concept of the seasons of life.
For instance, there is this picture that needs little further explanation. It shows the bottles that accompany the various seasons in our lives.
And finally, there is this illustration from the animal world. [Pictures of a male lion at three stages of life].
This morning, as we continue our journey through the Book of Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth is also going to discuss the seasons of our lives and how we need to respond to them. You’re probably already familiar with at least the first portion of this passage:
1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: 2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; 8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace. 9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. 12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor - it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him. 15 That which is has already been, And what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (NKJV)
The first eight verses of this passage are arguably the most well known words in the book of Ecclesiastes. They’ve been used quite effectively as a great comfort at a multitude of funerals and in other appropriate ways. But they’ve also been take out of context and used in unfitting ways as well. They’ve often been employed to justify objectionable human conduct. For instance, someone tears down another person and then rationalizes it’s acceptable to do that because there is, after all, a “time to tear down”. As we saw in our introduction to the book several weeks ago, they have been used as the basis for the anti-war ballad written by Pete Seeger in the 1950’s – “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Which is quite interesting since I’m sure that others were using those same words to justify war – there is, after all, a “time of war”.
This is a really practical and helpful passage for us as we live out our lives here on earth. Qoheleth provides us with some very relevant observations about the seasons of our lives. But he doesn’t just leave us hanging there. He also presents us with some very practical wisdom about how we ought to respond to those truths.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE SEASONS OF LIFE
1. Life is full of change, but not of chance
1 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
In verses 2-8, Qoheleth describes life with a very familiar poem that contains 14 pairs of antinomies. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines an antinomy as:
A contradiction between principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable; a paradox.
Qoheleth begins with the biggest antinomy of all – life vs. death – and then he adds 13 additional illustrations to help us understand that life is full of contradictions and change. I’m not going to spend much time at all this morning looking at these 14 pairs of antinomies in any kind of detail because that would actually defeat the author’s purpose here. This list is not to be all-inclusive, but rather an illustration of the fact that life is always changing.