Turn, Turn, Turn – Ecclesiastes 3:1-10

 

In this chapter Solomon makes a change in his writing style. He drops the autobiographical form of the first two chapters and temporarily waxes philosophical. He could have put this to music and added another million dollars to his already fabulous fortune. Although what he says is obvious, the way in which he puts things catches people’s attention.

“Turn, turn, turn.” I’m sure that the folk rock band, the Byrds, would not appreciate my outline. But let’s consider God’s sovereignty, our tenacity, and the resultant opportunity.

First there is God’s SOVEREIGNTY.

Would it be a good idea after church tonight to go home to our gardens and plant orange tree seedlings? The weather has changed; we are not going to have any more single digit temperatures for at least six or eight months. Despite the warmer days, planting orange or grapefruit trees, would not be a good idea. Because with a great many other things in life there are seasons which must be respected. I don’t care what tomorrow’s forecast might say, the weather in the Northwest is not conducive to growing certain fruits and crops.

Solomon speaks of “seasons.” A season is basically a rule of time. Perhaps we could use the word “dispensation” in our conversation about seasons. Sometimes the seasonal rules are painfully strict. And at other times the rules are bent without seriously breaking any bones. The next six months of 2018 might be very mild, but don’t donate your winter parka to the thrift store, because winter will return, unless the Lord returns first.

A “season” is a RULE of time – and a rule of weather. And what things does the word “rule” draw up into your mind? Perhaps there are the ideas of lines and boundaries. A “ruler” can be an instrument for drawing straight lines. And then there should be the recognition of a rule-giver, a law-maker. And therein comes the suggestion of “sovereignty.” There are seasons in this world because God has ordained that there be seasons. He created the universe and established laws of gravity, earthly revolutions and galaxial rotations. Would you please tell me who says that I can’t plant an orange tree tomorrow? I can plant all the citrus trees I want, but God has ordained that my labors in this regard will be in vain.

I am convinced of the sovereignty of Jehovah. The world is not controlled by a random bunch of earthly expectations. It is controlled by a supreme King – a God filled with a variety of principles and attributes. He is the King of the universe, so he can ordain laws to govern His universe. And He can overthrow any rule or law which He has previously ordained. Furthermore, He can establish new laws, and men are powerless to reverse them. Or God might establish something, permitting to man break or meet that rule for either of their benefits. There is much that the Lord has ordained for us – there are seasons which have been set. We were told that March 20 this year was the first day of Spring. But I distinctly heard people saying that was not true because several nights that week were below freezing. And the first day of summer is still more than two months away – so why was our temperature a record-breaking 82 two days ago? You can try to call March 20, the “beginning of Spring,” but your declaration would not have kept your garden from freezing. You may decide to sell all your winter clothes, but it is not a good idea. We MUST conform to the God-ordained season or suffer the consequences.

Sometimes God’s seasons are painfully obvious. Sometimes seasons are even more concrete than spring and winter. Some of them are not revealed by the weather-man, but rather by the Word of God. This means that we need to learn the Bible and view life in the light of its pages. And some seasons don’t look like seasons at all. For example, Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the Kingdom of God.” There is a season in which God can be approached through the Lord Jesus Christ. And that season is characterized by certain features. But here are people who find it impossible to follow the rules of the season. For example, there are some adults who cannot humble themselves as children. Perhaps at one point in their lives humility was a possibility, but the season has passed. Oh, how we need to let God be God – planting the right crop in the right season.

A second observation made by Solomon relates to TENACITY – PATIENCE.

I wish that I had a dime every time I heard: “If you don’t like the weather around here, wait 15 minutes.” I have heard that here; I have heard that in Alberta; I have heard that in Colorado and in New Mexico. It seems that people in every corner of North America. think that this idea is uniquely theirs. But sometimes it IS more true than it is for some other people. And yet, it is universal, if we wait long enough the sky will clear – or it will get cloudy.

Everything comes in its turn: even if we weep today, there is the likelihood we’ll laugh tomorrow. And if not tomorrow then perhaps next week. If today we have nothing but toil, perhaps next week will bring rest and peace. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Not necessarily in twelve hours time, but for the child of God, at least in eternity.

So what does this mean? It means ….. have patience – the Bible’s kind of patience. The number one religion in the world today is a human clone of Satan’s religion. Isn’t it true that mankind thinks that he can do a better job than Jehovah? “Lord this is a terrible time for my hand to be injured.. I have hours of heavy yard work to get done, and you know the season is right. Lord, why couldn’t you have let me slip and fall on the ice in winter, rather than trip on dry pavement?

The obvious fact is, we are not God, nor do we possess the least of His prerogatives. It is our lot, generally speaking, to plant in the spring and to reap in the fall. Or to fall in the spring and heal in the summer, or something like that. We glorify Jehovah by putting our trust in His wisdom and behaving properly in each of His seasons. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” “Wait upon the Lord, be of good courage and he shall strengthen thy heart, wait I say upon the Lord.” This text reminds us to wait for the opportunities that the Lord grants to us in their respective season.

And each season brings its own OPPORTUNITIES.

There are seasons and there are purposes for those seasons. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to very purpose under the heaven.’ This is where we see the blending of ordination and opportunity. Stir together God’s sovereignty and our opportunity and we arrive at responsibility.

Solomon reminds us that there is a time for birth and a time for death. None of us chose to be born; and we didn’t choose the time of our birth. There have been many people, who thought they were born two hundred years too late. They think of themselves more adapted to live in the 18th century – or perhaps in the 22nd. Similarly, none of us have circled a date on our calendars as the time of our departure from life. Some people may take their own lives, but suicide is a sin against God. And how many planned or attempted suicides fail, because Jehovah forbade its success? Just ask the Swede Ove (Uva). Birth and death are things which must or should be left in the hands of God. But in the mean time, we have the responsibility to use our few days for God’s glory. We need to be opportune.

There are moments for killing and also for healing. These things are not completely outside our influence. Doesn’t this apply to the nasty subject of capital punishment? There are times to take lives, and times to save them. Let’s make these words refer to something other than the obvious. Could they apply to friendships or to job situations? A professing Christian can choose to either join the Lord’s church or to forsake it. There are seasons for making such choices – beware of butting heads with the season of God. Those seasons can pass.

There are times for breaking down and building up verse 3. I suppose that this might refer to an old building, but it applies in other ways. For example, I believe that the Christian should be the most amiable person in any society. In our stamp meeting, the quilt guild and the political rally. This means that wherever we are, we should be friendly and attractive. As Solomon told us in Proverbs 11 “be gracious.” But when we are gracious, some might be drawn to us who are not the most beneficial to our souls. There are times when friendships should be cautiously cultivated. When there is opportunity to see spiritual good in these acquaintances, friendship should be pursued. When we can be strengthen by our contact with them they should be furthered. But there are times when those friendships should be torn down. Maybe this relationship will eventually bring us into a sinful compromise. Maybe that person is trying to destroy our faith or our doctrine.

There is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. There are TIMES not to embrace and there are PEOPLE not to embrace. There are times to keep silent and there occasions when we must speak. When is it IMPROPER to speak out for Christ? There are those occasions, but they are very few. Perhaps one is when we are being paid to do another man’s work, then do it. To waste or steal a man’s money by not working in order to glorify Christ, doesn’t in fact glorify Christ. When is it time to silent? There may be many such times. When our heart is bursting with pride is certainly one of those moments. Another might be when our anger is reaching an inappropriate boiling point.

There is a time to love and a time to hate. The hatred of people simply because of race, color, religion or political affiliation is always out of season. But to love something that is condemned by God is also out of season. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the most loving man on earth, but at times He was filled with anger. There were times when He was at war, and there were times when He was at peace.

All this boils down to this: We need the direction of the One who determines those seasons. We need the lessons of the Word of God to show us what those seasons are. And then we need ears to hear the message and hearts willing to obey.