Tuesday, August 19, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-08-19 [Random Musings] Time

(This is a re-work of a dev from 2003!)
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. Ecclesiastes3:1-8

This passage is one of the most oft read passages in the Old Testament. People have even composed songs from it. But there are some very different understandings of this passage.

For some this is pure fatalism - everything in life is pre-ordained - 'Your time is your time.' - God does as He pleases and we have little choice in the matter. For others this passage is just a description of life as it really is - 'You have to take the rough with the smooth you know...' Others have used this passage to justify themselves - almost always as an excuse to go to war or do something like that.

But what did the teacher mean?
In the verses that follow a number of perspectives emerge:

Firstly: At the end of the day, God is sovereign and nothing happens that is outside His control. But rather than giving us the sense that we live under the rule of a Tyrant, this knowledge should fill us with a sense of praise. Jesus reminded us that even the hairs on our heads are numbered. This is an indication of the Father's loving attention to detail. ('I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken away from it. God does it, so men will revere Him.' 3:14.) God's will, even though we cannot fathom it, will endure.

Secondly:We can kick against the rhythms and cycles of life or we can embrace them and find meaning in them. The Teacher uses work as an example: Work can be seen as a burden and as toil that is subject to the cycles of life ('What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men.' v9-10) Or we can realise that the cycles of life shape us for something greater than this life and that even when we don't understand it, God is at work. ('He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.' v.10) We are eternal creatures and the cycles of life shape us for the glory of eternity.

Thirdly, the roller-coaster of life may seem random and circumstantial to us, but when we choose to allow God to work in us and when we reach out to Him for His help, life will make better people of us. ('He has made all things beautiful in _His_ time.' This is not fatalism or even positive fatalism ("Alles sal regkom - Everything will turn out OK") - we have a role to play and we must respond to the One who wants to make us more beautiful.

What will you do with your gift of time today?

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/