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Seasons of Purpose

Ecclesiastes Series #3

Seasons of Purpose

Ecclesiastes 3:1-17

Our scripture for today begins with what very well may be among the most popular words, the most well known words, in the whole of the Old Testament - right up there with “In the beginning...” & “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

Of course, those words are followed by a poem... a poem that describes the various seasons of life. It’s not necessarily prescriptive, nor is it instructive: it’s not providing a remedy or solution (because that’s not it’s purpose). It’s simply describes the reality of all the different seasons of life.

And the Teacher, honestly, gives us no advice on how to respond these various seasons. He’s just describing all the varied and “far reaching” activities of life as experienced “under the heavens… or under the sun” (apart from God).

Any literary majors here today (any English teachers)? The Teacher uses a literary device called merism - where opposites are used in order to capture the idea of everything else in between the two extremes.

“A time to be born... a time to die.”

“A time to plant... a time to uproot.”

“A time to keep... a time to throw away.”

“A time for war... a time for peace.”

So, the teacher uses 14 of these merisms, with the intention of bringing to mind all the experiences that you and I are subject to in this life. It’s an attempt to give the full range of the human condition... birth, work, love, war, peace, and death.

Honestly, we hear this scripture used at funerals from time to time… Probably in an attempt to say, “this is the cycle of life: we live, we weep, we laugh, we die.”

In other words, what I’m trying to get across is: The Teacher’s not describing things as they were intended to be... rather he’s describing things as they actually are in this fallen world.

Of course, you and I know, as students of the Bible, that with the introduction of sin into the world... death and decay became a normal part of life. But that was never God’s original intention. It’s not how He intended life to be.

Verse 11 tells us that God makes everything beautiful in its time. And that he has also set eternity in our hearts. God’s intention was for us to live forever... walking in the beauty of God’s perfection.

C. S. Lewis offers an explanation of what the teacher’s trying to get across to you and me, by pointing out that no creature is made with desires “unless satisfaction for those desires exist.” Humans feel hunger and thirst… and God provided food and water to satisfy those needs, and desires.

Lewis said, “a duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water” (Desire - Satisfaction). But... there’s a problem! Because there exist in all humans, a desire, a void, a space, that nothing in this world can satisfy... and so “the most probable explanation is that [you & I were] made for another world.” As followers of Christ, this world is not our home.

Of course, a major key to understanding the book of Ecclesiastes, and appreciating the teachers point… is found in verse 14. It’s a crucial pivot point for the entire book. “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” and that fear, that respect, that “holy awe” of our Creator... is foundational to alleviating the frustrations of this life... Frustrations that were brought into existence because we live in a fallen world... the time between... the time between the fall of man, and the complete redemption of God’s creation.

And all of the tension... and the frustration... and the burdens of this life... are very, very real... and they’re experienced to some degree by all of us... they’re common to us all. Yet... they’re not without purpose.

Every season of life is a season of purpose.

The reason God allows us to experience the polar extremes of this life; mourning and dancing, love and hate, weeping and laughing... is because they’re meant to drive us to the only One who can truly lift our burdens, and alleviate our anxieties. The only One who can raise our spirits and restore our souls and give us peace in this life.

And that very ONE... the Creator of all things; the Triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)... makes everything beautiful in its time. He’s working all things for our good and his glory, even when the momentary experiences of life, and our perspective “under the sun” makes it hard for us to believe that at times.

We tend to equate goodness, happiness... being blessed... with fairness. When we feel like we’re being treated fairly we feel blessed. So, blessings and fairness and justice, go hand-in-hand, right? In our minds what’s fair is right and good and blessed. So we demand fairness, and we complain when things are unfair...

But Ecclesiastes reveals a rather inconvenient truth... that we hate to admit: that truth is... life’s not fair.

We live the whole of our lives in the middle of the extremes... between the now and the not yet.

And into that often chaotic and unfair life, when we don’t feel particularly blessed and things don’t often seem good... God offers us Christ. God provides.

And despite the injustice and unfairness and discrimination we experience at times in this life... because of our race or gender or age... or our political affiliation or religious beliefs... or even our social and economic status... The Teacher reminds us, that God will ultimately right what’s wrong.

So we cry out for justice... and rightfully so! We should work with all our might to “seek justice” as God’s Word says. We should work, together, as the body of Christ - individually and corporately - for justice; fighting for the oppressed and the poor...

But at the same time, acknowledging the fact that God is the true and ultimate Bring-er of justice. For as the Teacher says, “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.”

Do you and I trust God during the various seasons of life?

Do we find rest & peace in Christ no matter the condition of the world around us?

Do we see God’s greater plan and purpose at work - not only in our personal life... but in everything - everything under the sun?

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”


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