Video: Pete Seeger and Judy Collins sing "Turn, Turn, Turn."
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's sermon on Ecclesiastes 3:1-11.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is one of the best known passage in the entire book.
Many children of the sixties know the words not from reading their Bibles but from The Byrds song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” which drew its lyrics nearly verbatim from Solomon: “To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” It hit Number One on the Billboard charts in November 1965. The song was actually written in the 1950s by folk singer Peter Seeger.
I often tell my college students, that every religion has a view of time. The Jews and Christians, based on the special revelation of Scripture, saw time as linear. It has a beginning and a purposeful ending. The pagans, on the other hand, without that guidance, saw time as cyclical, the same things repeated over and over without purpose. This is how the idea of reincarnation developed. With the pagan view of time came a sense of futility and lack of control over time, so that man was seen as the victim of time as a capricious master. Men saw themselves as subject to the great wheel of fortune. Round and round she goes, where she stops nobody knows. One man’s house gets hit by lightening and burns to the ground while his neighbor’s house stands intact. One child is stillborn, another is born and lives to 100. It’s all a matter of chance, or fate, or karma.
Solomon in our passage puts forward his own views of time from the perspective of godly wisdom and he teaches that time is not a master but it is a servant. Time is on God’s leash. He controls it and he uses it to fulfill his purposes for the world and for every person and creature within it.
God is sovereign over time. As Isaiah prophesied, the Lord declares “the end from the beginning,” saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). Every day ordained for man was written in God’s book before one of them ever came to be (see Psalm 139:16 NKJV). Proverbs 16:9 teaches: “A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” And Jesus himself taught that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground unless it be God’s will (see Matt 10:29-31).
Christians, therefore, do not believe in luck or fortune. Those are pagan terms. There are no accidents or mistakes. We believe in providence. God provides for all his creation, and especially for the redeemed, what gives him the most glory and does them the most good. The opening paragraph of chapter five “Of Divine Providence” in the 1689 Baptist confession:
God the good Creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will; to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.
That is what is being affirmed in Ecclesiastes 3. Solomon not only declares that man’s life is meaningful but also that man is not the victim of time as a series of random and purposeless events. John Currid observes: “the Preacher argues against those who believe that time is a tyrant that is totally out of control” relentlessly pushing us toward our deaths while we are but “helpless pawns in a cosmic game!” (p. 49). No, Solomon says, for every time there is a purpose under heaven!
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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