Ecclesiastes 3

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Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Passage

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

Analysis

All Things in Their Time

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Everything has a proper time and place (excepting evil, which has no proper time nor place but occurs, and must be dealt with). When the time has come for a thing to happen, it is not good to seek to oppose that thing, nor is it right to force a thing to happen out of its time. For example, it is “murder” to kill another human being outside of his or her proper time, and it is blasphemous to suggest that Christians ought to unite the world in one Nation or State absent the coming of our Lord (who shall, indeed, dominate the world by his very presence).

There is a time and place for both that which we consider “good” and that which we consider “bad.” There is a time to be born, and there is a time to die. There is a time to plant crops, and a time to harvest those crops and retill the soil. There is a time for killing (for example, when another has initiated hostilities), and there is a time to heal (after the fighting is done, or when one has been wronged in some way). There is a time for breaking down that which has stood for a time (whether physical or ideological), and there is a time to strengthen, fortify, and rebuild. There is a time for weeping (as it is written, “mourn with those who mourn”), and there is a time for laughter (as it is written, “rejoice with those who rejoice”). There is a time to cast away stones (which is to say, a time to clear the rubble from a place) and a time to gather them up (as one gathers stones to build a structure).

There is a time to embrace others (both physically and metaphorically – when one enters the brotherhood we have in Christ, we ought to embrace them as our own flesh and blood), and there is a time to refrain from embracing (such as when one has erred, or when one has demonstrated only enmity). There is a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. There is a time to rend (again, physically and metaphorically – the bonds between men might need rending), and a time to sew. There is a time to keep your silence (as when a fool calls upon you to answer to his folly), and there is a time to speak (as when a fool approaches with foolishness in need of correction).

There is a time to hate, and a time to love – these two ideas are bound inextricably to one another, as both imply a degree of importance and care. There is a time for war (even though we might hate war and all its destruction), and there is a time for peace (as when all enemies have been repelled and all treaties are signed).

Notice the duality of these things, for it is important and repeated. There is a right time to do that which is considered “bad”, as with warfare and hostility – this is not for us to initiate, but rather when it has been initiated we are to engage fully. War can be the correct course, as can making peace; losing what you have happens just as surely as gain. To borrow from the profane religions, there is a time for “yin” and a time for “yang,” and in this is a sort of balance.

There is no Profit

What do you gain from all your struggles? When you seize upon the right times for certain actions, what ultimately is your reward?

All men must labor, for that is our lot in life. We struggle to build, to maintain, and to rebuild when things are destroyed. We amass wealth only to lose it to attrition or bad judgment. We plant crops every year, yet we must continue to raise crops or starve. God has made all things beautiful in his time, as in His time the brown earth yields beautiful flowers and rich crops; even death and war have a certain beauty, which can only be appreciated when one appreciates the Lord. Yet, for almost all men (perhaps all – I am unfit to say), this beauty is hidden from our eyes by the world, so that we cannot appreciate God’s works until they are finished. So it is that we struggle, gain, lose, suffer, and rejoice, only to look back and begin to see the majestic workings of our Lord.

What, then, ought we to seek in life? The simple answer is that we should seek after simple pleasures and good works. Many dedicate their entire lives to this, performing works of charity so that they might rejoice with those who are served, and partake of the fruits of their labors as is their gift from God. Such people, who tirelessly dedicate themselves with little thought of reward or worldly praise, are known by all for their cheer and blessed nature.

But, ultimately, we cannot know what God has in store. All that he does is eternal, and nothing done by man can either add to or remove from that working. This same God uses the righteous and the unrighteous in his designs, whether they know it or not, and no man can resist that which God has laid out for him to do. Therefore, let us fear the mighty power of our God and praise Him for all his wondrous works, which we cannot perceive except in part.

The Eternal

That which has been, still is as it was; that which is has already been. The Earth has persisted since its creation, despite the designs of man for its improvement or destruction. The stars have moved since the dawn of time, and they continue to move in their predetermined paths as they have always done. Mankind has within him both a desire to do good and a penchant for doing wickedness, as we have since Adam’s sin. None of this is new, and God maintains the progression of history and exacts His requirements of it.

The Corruption of Man

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Moreover, that same history continues to plague us to this day. There is wickedness in the places of judgment – the courts are often corrupt, the constables are often bound to working certain evils on men, and the lawyers seek only after results and not after morality. As a result, the just often suffer as the wicked, and the wicked are often spared judgment as though just. Further, the places of righteousness are filled with evil and wickedness – the papacy has a history of abuse and sexual degeneracy, the moral busybodies of the world usually find corruption in others that they also harbor, and the rulers of men are often among the most depraved and self-serving of all men. As a result, one who seeks after righteousness and sound teaching often finds error and sin, and one who strives to do good is persuaded that evils are good.

Therefore, it is both good and terrifying that God will, in His appointed time, judge the righteous and the wicked. He shall come in his perfect glory and power, knowing all things that have occurred within his creation, to separate the good from the wicked and expose the corrupt. While this sounds good to our ears, for we consider ourselves righteous, it is a terrible thing to realize how we are among those who suffer from corruption and wickedness within ourselves. Therefore, praise God that He has redeemed us at a high price, and that he has removed our sins from us so that we might be counted as righteous.

We are as beasts, and it is both right and good to understand that fact. As the beasts of the field and the birds of the air are born and die, so we too are born and die. As the animals are consumed by worms and bacteria, so are our bodies returned to the earth. We all breathe the same air, and we all yield up our last breaths; this same breath is consumed by all the beasts. To consider ourselves as anything other than the creatures is pure vanity. In this light, there is nothing better in this world than to rejoice in our works, for we live in the “now” and cannot foresee what shall come after us.

But this is hardly the end – there is yet vanity in this notion, as we shall see.

Let us Pray

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Sovereign Lord, you who have set the stars in their courses and made the universe to adhere to your order, we praise you for all your great works. We praise you for the majesty of the heavens and the glorious complexity of our cells and bodily systems. We praise you for the interweaving fabric of causes and effects, too complex for our minds to even comprehend, and we praise you that you have set these in motion and guided them toward our benefit.

Mighty God, we are deeply troubled by the teachings of Solomon. We see that he has observed all things in the world and concluded that they are vanities; our works amount to only very temporary gain, our struggles are lost to the sands of time, and our bloodlines can be easily eradicated. What remains for us, then, but to eat and drink and rejoice in our labors, for tomorrow we will die as the beasts?

Yet, in You we find our purpose. In You, we find our strength. You have redeemed us of our wickedness and removed our sins, through the blood of your son Jesus, who is the promised Christ and savior of the world. You have made us to be deliberate parts of your design, inheritors of Your will and emissaries of Your eternal kingdom. You have given us the Spirit, to reveal to us even small aspects of Your plans so that we might work within them and rejoice.

Oh, Lord, remove from us the troubles and vexations of this world. Make us joyous servants of Your will, according to Your designs, and for Your sake. For all that is exists as You have foreordained, and all that transpires is within Your grand plans. Even our salvation, which we could not earn nor merit, is a gift from You, our most loving and majestic Father, and was foreordained by You before the creation of the world.

May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.

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I have been a false Christian and a pagan, but now I seek to serve the Lord.