Ecclesiastes Bible Study (Chasing The Wind)

Ecclesiastes 3, Time For Everything

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Let’s play pretend. Let’s pretend that your banker called you late last Friday and said he had some very good news. He told you that an anonymous donor would loves you very much has decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your account each morning, starting the following Monday morning. That’s $864 a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year.

He adds, ‘But there’s one stipulation. You must spend all the money that same day. No balance will be carried over to the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use.’

With a big smile, you thank your banker and hang up. Over that weekend you have time to plan. You grab a pencil and start figuring: $864 times seven equals over $6000 a week…times fifty-two. That’s almost $315,000 a year that you have available to you if you’re diligent to spend it all each day. Remember, whatever you don’t spend is forfeited.

So much for ‘Let’s Pretend.’

Now let’s play ‘Real Life.’ Every morning, someone who loves you very much deposits into your bank of time 86,400 seconds of time–which represent 1440 minutes–which, of course, equal twenty-four hours each day.

Now you must remember the same stipulation applies, because God gives you this amount of time for you to use each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the next day. There is no such thing as a twenty-six hour day (though some of us wish there were). From today’s dawn until tomorrow’s dawn, you have a precisely determined amount of time. As someone has put it, ‘Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you want to, but you can spend it only once.'” (Charles Swindoll, Life On The Ragged Edge, pg. 67)

All of us have the same amount of time allot to us. It does not matter if we are dirt poor or have great wealth, we have the same amount of time. Young or old, single or married, all of us have the same amount of time. Time is the easiest thing wasted, yet is the one thing we often say that we do not have enough. Let us read the first eight verses of chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes and read what the Teacher has to say about “time.” We will continue to use the Holman Christian Standard Bible because of its literal rendering of the Hebrew words in this text.

There Is A Time For Everything

The point the wise writer wants to make is that there is a time and place for everything in life. The circumstances of life are always changing and there is a need for us to ready for those changing occasions. Nothing in life stays in its current state. There is a time to give birth and there is a time for death. Life situations change. Consider plants. There are times when it is time to plant, but there are other times when those same plants must be uprooted for a new planting. There are time when buildings are being built and times when the beautiful building must be torn down. Think about the historical Orange Bowl in Miami. There was a time when it was a wonderful facility, full of meaning and memories. But now it is being torn down. It was time for the building to be destroyed. Its time had come. I believe the Teacher is asking us to look around and consider life. Everything has its time. There is a season for everything and nothing remains permanently.

This concept is now applied to the life of humans. There is a time for weeping and there is a time for laughter. If you are having a very difficult time in your life, understand that life will not always be like this. There are times of great difficulty, but it will not always be this way. If you are enjoying laughter as things are going well, enjoy it because life will not always be like this. There are times of enjoyment but know that life is not full of only good times. Life is always changing and there is a time for everything. Think about how quickly life circumstances can change. There is a time for embrace and a time not to embrace. There is a time to keep things and a time when we must throw things away. Life is a vapor. Life is transitory.

There is a time to keep silent and there are times to speak. There is a time for love and a time of hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace. Life is always changing. Circumstances are always changing. Be ready for life to change.

Lesson #1: Never assume life will be like it is now. We have the tendency to assume that the way things are now is the way things will continue to be. This leads to an obvious conclusion: appreciate what you have now. It may not be this way tomorrow. Grace’s diagnosis stands as like a turning point of time in our lives. One day, great happiness. The next day was crushing news. Such is the nature of this world. The time given to you will have many ups and many downs. In fact, verse 11 seems to be teaching that this is the way God set the world. Don’t expect things to be different. God has made everything appropriate in its time.

Eternity In Our Hearts (3:11)

There is a lot of discussion about this conclusion that the teacher draws. He says: “He has also put eternity in their hearts.” In light of the context, I believe the conclusion being drawn is this: despite the knowledge of the brevity of life and the ever-changing nature of our circumstances, we have within us an innate feeling that there is something more to life. God has placed that innate feeling within us. Everyone ponders the meaning of life. Everyone considers life after death. Nearly everyone thinks that there is something more that will happen to us when we die. Now, what happens may be under debate. But it seems that everyone has the sense that there is some more to life than this. Therefore, humans set themselves to the task of finding out what more there is to life.

At the beginning of the lesson we talked about the one thing that is equal to all humans each day: time. Each of us have a set amount of time. You cannot save today’s time and use it tomorrow. The teacher has pointed out the ever-changing nature of life. God has placed eternity in our hearts. Put these three things together and you have the conclusion that we need to use our time to plan for our future. All of us know that there is something more to life. Yet we only have a set amount time which throws us on life’s roller coaster. What are we doing to prepare for the eternity we know lies ahead? There is no slowing down the inevitable.

Time has begun for each of us, but our time has not ended yet. Are you ready for time to end and eternity to begin?

God’s Gifts (3:12-13)

The teacher returns to the theme of this book, a point that we have made in the past two lessons. Enjoy the fruit of your labor. Enjoy life. But there is a little bit more added to this wise counsel. YOU HAVE TIME TODAY. ENJOY THE TIME YOU HAVE TODAY. Circumstances will change. Enjoy the moments you have now. It is not necessarily that life will be better or worse. But life will be different. There was a time when I was single and there were special things about that time, like no responsibilities and living fairly carefree. There is the time when you are married and you are able to enjoy time with your spouse without outside interference. It is a great time to build a marriage and share time together. There is a time when you have children and you enjoy them when they are so little and completely dependent upon you for everything. There is a time when the children are no longer completely dependent, but completely independent. You see that life keeps changing. We must enjoy what is because what is will change and we will have something different to appreciate.

Do we see life as a gift of God? Do we see the activities of life as a season to enjoy?

Our Time Is Fleeting, God’s Is Permanent (3:14-15)

The futility of life points us to God. This seems to be the final conclusion of this section of the teacher’s writing. The futility of this world makes us want eternity. Even though there is life to enjoy here and now, the lack of lasting satisfaction points us to God whose actions are not futile and whose work lasts forever. Nothing in life is permanent and nothing in this life is perfect. But God’s work is permanent and perfect. Our futility should lead us to God’s perfection.

The final verses of chapter 3 reminds us of our fate. “All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return” (3:20). But we must understand: “God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work” (3:17).

Conclusion:

  1. Life is always changing. Do not expect the way things are today to stay the same tomorrow.
  2. All of us have time. Time is God’s gift to us. How are you using your time: in futility? Or toward the God who judges the righteous and the wicked.
  3. Enjoy your life, maximizing the time allotted to you.
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