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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:A Time for Everything
Text:Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
    and what will be has been before;
    and God will call the past to account

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3.1-8

Preached by Rev. Keith Davis at Lynwood URC on 2-5-12 (Songs: 184, 388 (1-3), 421 (1-3), 408)


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the passage we read a moment ago is a very familiar passage to many of us.  We usually here that passage read at an Old Year’s or New Year’s Day service; and they are often read at a funeral.  And this is a very fitting passage for those occasions, to be sure, since they contemplate the passage of time and the seasons of life.  


But what’s unusual about this passage is that it might be every bit as familiar to people outside the church as it to us.  These first eight verses have been used as lyrics in songs and even printed in poetry books.  In 1965 the musical group The Birds made this passage famous with their rendition of the song Turn, Turn, Turn.


So many people are familiar with the words, but the problem is, not many people understand what they mean.  O sure, people understand what it means that time rolls on; that time waits for no man; that the seasons pass, and so do we, and that is new today is old and obsolete tomorrow.


But these verses say something much more than that.  These verses say something about the God who controls time; about the God who was before time, about the God who controls our every moment, our every day, and the seasons and years of our lives.


That is what we are going to consider together this morning.  Here, the Lord Exercises Sovereignty over Time.  We see

1) The Scope of His Sovereignty  

2) The Beauty of His Sovereignty  


1)  The Scope of His Sovereignty 

Perhaps a good place to begin this first point is to remind ourselves that time is not a god.  Time is neither divine nor omnipotent.  Time is not infinite or eternal.  Time is not all knowing. And time does not exist outside of this created universe.  Time itself is a creation of God.


For, when God created the sun, and the moon and the stars, they were created not only to be lights to govern the skies (the greater light to govern the day and the lesser lights to govern the night), but Genesis 1:14 says that they were also created as signs to mark the seasons, the days, and the years.  And this make perfect sense when you think about it, for God is a God of order not of disorder; and in God’s wisdom He has given man the ability to mark the passage of time, to keep track of the passing of the hours, and days and years and even his own mortality (read Ps. 103: 15-16).


Many ancient civilizations (like the Egyptians and Mayans for example) had sun dials and calendars as a way to chart the passage of time, and the coming and going of the seasons, and to mark and order their everyday life.


So in that sense we are reminded that our almighty God is also the God of time.  And the Bible reveals that truth to us in Joshua 10, where the Lord literally stopped the sun in the middle of the sky for about 24 hours, so that Joshua and the Israelites could continue their battle against the Amorites.  The Bible says there never was a day like it before or sense.


So this gives us a very Biblical and wonderful understanding and perspective on time.  When we bring this perspective to Ecclesiastes 3, it helps us to see that time is not in charge.  Time is not a tyrant (as some have said) who marches ever onward with no end in sight.


And contrary to what science says, time is not unstoppable.  Time belongs to God.  He is the King of time.  And like everything else in creation, time is God’s subject, his servant.  Time serves God’s good ends and purposes.


Let’s keep that in mind as we look at these first 8 verses in chapter 3.  Here we find this poem written by Solomon in which he lists 14 different seasons of life.  Each of these pair represents the polar opposite of each other.  The more familiar ones are A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to reap; a time to tear down and time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh.


But what we need to understand is that Solomon isn’t just talking about the extremes here – he’s not just talking about time as it relates to our birth and our death, for example.  No, there is something comprehensive about this list.  The whole of our experience is in view – not just war and peace and life and death and seed time and harvest, but all the time in between!

This poem covers the widest possible range and of human emotions and experience; it addresses the width and breadth of life as we know it.  In a very creative way, this passage basically states the same thing that the Psalmist does in Psalm 31:15 My times are in Thy hands.


God rules and regulates all our moments and our days.  Every season in life is subject to His divine will and control.  And what’s worth noting as well is that God exercises sovereign rule and control over both spectrums, over both extremes of life. 


God is in control the moment we are conceived in our mother’s womb and he is in control the very moment our body is laid to rest in the tomb.  I mention that because some people think that God is a one dimensional God – that He is only in control of the good things that happen.


They’ll acknowledge that God is a God of life, and a God of healing, a God of peace, a God of the good times and dancing, and a God of building up.  But they won’t go so far as to say that God is the God of death or of cancer or of war or of sorrow or of uprooting and tearing things down. 


They’ll attribute those extremes to the list of unfortunate circumstances that befall us in this crazy mixed up world of ours that is spinning out of control.  But that’s not the case at all. That’s not what God’s Word says.  God is not a one dimensional deity.


For God not only plants, but he also uproots; He not only builds up, but He tears down; He not only gives life, but He also sends death; He not only brings us wonderful moments of joy and happiness; but He also sends us seasons of sadness, and grief and mourning.


And God is not only the God of peace, but He’s also the God of war.  The Lord loves, but the Lord also hates.  Proverbs speaks of the Lord’s hatred for haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood (among other things).


It is the Lord who also said Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.  And we know from the history of God’s own people Israel how it is the Lord who planted them in Canaan and gave them years of prosperity, but after many years of stubborn sinfulness, God saw fit to uproot them, to tear down their cities and their temple, to bring peace to and end by sending great nations against them in war, Babylon and Assyrian acting as God’s servants doing His bidding.


So this is poem in Ecclesiastes teaches us not only about the seasons of our life, but it also teaches us something about the nature and character of our own God.  And as you and I know from experience, it is a great comfort to know that God is in control of our every circumstance of our every situation of our every moment.


Nothing surprises God, nothing is beyond His power, and unlike the way we feel many times in our lives -- nothing gets out of God’s control.  God knows the end from the beginning.  God so oversees the seasons of our life so that not only our birth and death, but each day, each hour, each second in between is known by Him and controlled by Him.


2) The Beauty of His Sovereignty       

So that is the scope of His sovereignty.  But secondly we notice the beauty of His sovereignty.  We pick this up, of course from verse 11 where Solomon says He has made all things beautiful in His time.   Perhaps another way of saying this is that God has perfect timing.  


Just as we read those eight verses and sense the rhythm and the rhyme we sense the poetic flow to those words, so too Solomon is saying that there is a discernable and a divine rhythm and rhyme to life, there is a divine purpose and reason for everything that happens under heaven, and for everything that happens to us in our lives. 


That’s what Paul says in Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him who’ve been called according to His purpose. We can put it this way, everything God does, as well as the timing with which He does it is not only good, but it is perfect, it is beautiful, it is a wondrous thing to behold. 


And keep in mind, we say this, we confess this even though there are moments and days in our lives when it seems that things are far from perfect (far from the way we would have them at least); there are times when we feel like our life is in shambles – we’re falling apart at the seams,

At other times it seems that God’s timing is way off. 


Remember how Sarah felt when the Lord finally told Abraham that after all those years of waiting that he and Sarah we’re going to have a son next year.  She laughed and said will God give me a child now that I am worn out and my master is old (as good as dead).  God has to be kidding.


And there are also times in our lives when God’s sovereign plan for us seems like it’s anything but beautiful. Think of the tragedies that come upon God’s people; think of the atrocities and afflictions His people have suffered down through the generations; think of the sorrows he sends into our own lives when parents see their own children suffer and die from cancer.


Surely, there’s nothing beautiful about that, is there?  But then let’s remember that even sickness and illness and cancer and disease are not outside God’s control.  Remember that God sends sickness as well as health, he adversity as well as prosperity; he sends sorrow as well as happiness, he sends famine as well as plenty, drought as well as rain.


And in everything he sends, in everything he does, in every season of our life, no matter what end of the spectrum it might be, no matter of it’s somewhere in between, God has our own good in mind.  No matter what happens God has a perfect and beautiful plan for each of us.


And you see, the secret to believing this, to truly grasping this by faith is the knowledge that God’s beautiful plan reaches far beyond this veil of tears here on earth.  The beauty of God’s plan is that it takes us from this life into eternity, into our life in heaven above, where God promises to wipe away every tear, where there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying or pain, for the old order of things, the trials, the sin, and the sorrows of this life will be no more.


And with each passing day, as we encounter joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, gain and loss, life and death, love and hate, war and peace, planting and uprooting, building and tearing down, the Lord is preparing us, the Lord is perfecting us, the Lord is sanctifying us for life with Him in glory above.


There’s one closing thought that really helps us see the power of this passage.  When we say that there is a time for everything and that God makes everything beautiful in his time, just think of how this applies to the history of redemption – the revelation of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. 


Galatians 4:4 says when the time had fully come (after thousands of years of waiting) God sent His son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 


From the very beginning God so orchestrated time, he so ordered history, he so set things in place that at just the right time, the Christ child would be born of the virgin Mary, in they city of Bethlehem just as the prophet said.


And Jesus would grow up in Nazareth, and he would follow John the Baptist, and he do miraculous signs -- giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute; he would heal the sick, raise the dead, and make the lame to walk. He would be welcomed as a King!


But later these crowds would reject him, and Judas his own disciple would betray him, Peter would deny him, the guards would beat him and spit upon him; Pilate would pronounce him innocent, yet condemn him to death – not just any death, but the cruel crucifixion on a Roman cross suffering where Christ could suffer hell for us; and then he died and was laid in the grave.


That may not sound very beautiful, but brothers and sisters, that was all part of God’s plan.  And on the third day, when the stone was rolled away, and when the angels announced that Jesus was risen – that was the most glorious moment in all of history! 


That was the most beautiful news ever preached!  Christ is Risen!  After that, what did Jesus do?  He appeared to His disciples and told them that all these things had to happen to Him so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, so that they might have salvation -- then they finally understood.  Then they finally knew the beauty and glory and perfection of God’s plan.


For Jesus too, there was a time to be born, and a time to die.  However, in His own resurrection from the grave, Jesus breaks the cycle of this life on earth.  Jesus broke the deadly cycle of sin, and death, and the grave.  Death no longer is the stronger; hell itself is captive lead!


And as we spoke of earlier, God’s Word tells us that very soon will come the day when the Lord brings to consummation His glorious kingdom, and on that day all death, and killing, and hatred, and war, and tearing down, and weeping and mourning will be no more.


That passage we read from Revelation 21 is actually the fulfillment of Ecclesiastes 3.  It is the fulfillment of all of God’s divine purposes in life.  All of life, all of history, time itself is moving toward that one point and time: the Lord’s return and the consummation of His Kingdom.


But until that day comes, beloved, we are called to stand fast.  We are called to be faithful.  We are called to see the goodness and the beauty of God’s plan and of timing in everything around us.  And we are called to humble ourselves before God, to accept what He brings into our lives with patient trust and confidence, knowing that our heavenly Father loves us dearly.


And we are called to continue to worship the Lord, to praise Him for goodness and for the beauty of His purposes in our own lives and in the lives of our loved ones.  We can take to heart the words of the familiar hymn: the bud may have a bitter taste, sweet will be the flower, for God makes all things beautiful in His time.  Amen   


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2012, Pastor Keith Davis

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