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Time and Season

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11


This week's Old Testament lectionary reading comes from the "season and a time" list in Ecclesiastes 3:1-13. Sadly, often, the only time we hear this passage read is at funerals, which is appropriate but should not be confined to that setting. 


For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:

2a time to be born and a time to die;

a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3a time to kill and a time to heal;

a time to break down and a time to build up;

4a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance;

5a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;

6a time to seek and a time to lose;

a time to keep and a time to throw away;

7a time to tear and a time to sew;

a time to keep silent and a time to speak;

8a time to love and a time to hate;

a time for war and a time for peace.


Some of these may strike us as inconsistent with God's teaching. Is the author saying it's okay to kill, break down, and go to war? In reading Ecclesiastes, we need to remember that it is included in the wisdom literature, meaning its purpose is for us to read, ponder, and chew on it intellectually. We also notice that verses 1-8 are in poetic form. Like all poetry, the word selection and pairings tantalize our minds. Notice the groupings: born and die, plant and pluck, kill and heal. The poem lists those things we like paired with some we don't.


Following the list, we have the verse for today, which puts it all in perspective. As part of life, we encounter the items on this list. For example, we like to laugh and dance, but the weeping and mourning not so much. But they are all part of our human experience. 


But through the big beginning and end, eternity in our heart picture, we can find peace in God. Whatever our situation, God is with us. We have his promise, "'Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you." (Deu.31.6). Because of his promise we can find beauty in the times when life is hard, this beauty comes not from the suffering, but in the knowledge God is with us. Because of what God has done and continues to do for us, we can give thanks in all circumstances (1Th.5:18).


We may at some point understand why there is killing, weeping, and mourning, but, likely, we never will. That's okay; we don't need to know the inner workings of God's mind. Why did God create heaven and earth? What did our pathway to salvation unfold the way it did? Why did he assume the form of Jesus Christ when he did? These are great thought-provoking questions, but ultimately, it comes down to our faith. 


What is faith? The Apostle Paul defines it like this, "Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Heb. 11:1) Without seeing, do we accept that these things are true? Do we accept God for who he is and what he's done? By our faith and with the yearning for eternity in our hearts, we can find beauty even in our sorrow.


Lord, we thank you for making everything beautiful in its time. 

You have set eternity in the human heart, yet we cannot fathom what you have done from beginning to end. 

Help us to trust in your perfect plan and timing for our lives. 

Help us to seek you above all else and to find our ultimate satisfaction and joy in you. 

Help us to live in the present and not to worry about the future or regret the past. 

Help us appreciate the seasons of life and embrace the changes and challenges they bring. 

Help us to use the gifts and opportunities you have given us for your glory and the good of others. 

Help us to grow in wisdom and grace and to reflect your beauty and love in this world. 

In Jesus' name, we pray, Amen.


Blessings,

Pastor Tim


I am on vacation for the next week; the next devotion will be published on Tuesday, January 9, 2024.




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