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Lowell Brueckner

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


Chapter 3


1.  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
2.  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
3.  a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
4.  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
5.  a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
6.  a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 
7.  a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
8.  a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. 

An honest study of Ecclesiastes destroys a certain falsified Christianity, based on human goodness and compassion. An old friend of mine referred to this as “The Bleeding Hearts Club”. He categorized its members under a banner of external “saintliness”, who revel in the gentle breeze of tender speech, peaceful tolerance and a trusting acceptance of all. They are appalled at every evidence of anger, voices raised in protest and the severity of discipline. They all but eliminate the exposure of sin from their conversation and eternal punishment from their creed. Their love covers a multitude of sins, without any blood sacrifice whatsoever.

Many over-simplify God, in order to fit Him into their mentality. They think that they understand him and are scandalized by the entrance of a manifestation from the presence of God that differs from their concept. They exclaim, “God would never do that!”  They claim to have learned that the Creator is always involved in the positive and good. They find it difficult to accept a Sovereign, who can be angered, capable of hate and involved in casting people into hell. I very clearly recall the confession of one lady Bible-teacher: “I cannot believe that my god would cast anyone into hell.” (I purposely neglected to capitalize the “g” in god. I believe she was an idolatress, who had created a false god in her mind.)  

God revealed Himself through Isaiah declaring, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Is.45:7). Jesus warned His disciples, “Fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Lk.12:5). The apostle Paul questioned, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…?” (Ro.9:22).

The preacher proclaims in verse 8 that there is a time to love and a time to hate. Please understand that I know what the Bible teaches about the love of God and I am eternally grateful for it.. However, this is a time, when we almost exclusively hear preaching about love, and many are shocked, when they are told that the Bible also reveals God's hatred. Therefore, I want to bring a few portions to your attention. I just pointed to Romans 9, and in the same chapter, verses 11-13, Paul cited Malachi, “Though they (Jacob and Esau) were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad… As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’”. Before anyone finalizes his theology, he needs to take three Psalms into account: “You hate all evildoers… God is…a God who feels indignation every day… His soul hates the wicked…” (Ps.5:5; 7:11; 11:5). 

In being who He is and in doing what He does, God takes no man’s opinion into account: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps.115:3). “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does” (Ps.135:6). "Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?" (Is.40:14) “He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dn.4:35).  

The Lord’s ways are wonderfully diverse and balanced and with Him, timing is vitally important. Len Ravenhill used to quote two commands given Elijah, “Go, hide yourself” and “Go, show yourself” (1 K.17:3 and 18:1). He said, “It’s wrong to show yourself, when God says ‘hide yourself’, and equally wrong to hide yourself, when God says, ‘show yourself.’” You are wrong, when you conclude that God always commands either one way or another.

This is the principle now presented to us by the preacher… the divine principle of timing, as it regards life on earth. Season means timing. He begins with the most basic: a time to be born and a time to die. One is not right and the other wrong; it is a matter of timing. The radical conclusion of some; God gives life and the devil takes life, is wrong. The Bible teaches that our times are totally in His hands (Ps.31:15). Every farmer knows the season to plant and the season to uproot the ripened plant at harvest. Anyone not conformed to laws of planting and harvest will fail in agriculture, if not starve, and uprooting is as necessary as planting.

Pacifists need to learn that there is a time to kill, just as there is a time to heal (see, for instance, Ac.5:5, 10; Ac.12:23; Rv.2:23) or, as in verse 8, there is a time for war and a time for peace. This is true throughout history. It is true on a personal level and in the lives of individuals, there comes a time, when there is no remedy or healing. It is true concerning nations. The Lord sent His people into the land of Canaan to destroy seven nations that lived there. When their leader, Joshua, entered the land, he met the Commander of the Lord’s army, before Whom Joshua fell on his face and worshiped (Jos.5:14). The Scripture reveals God as The Lord of Hosts or Armies, and this is the title, which He gives to Himself, especially, through the book of Zechariah, which speaks of the end times. Especially as God draws things to a close, healing becomes more and more difficult, as the heart of man becomes harder and harder, and finally the age ends in a total destruction of the world’s armies. There is a reason and a season for war and a season for peace. Thanks be to God that the Millennium approaches, when the Prince of Peace will reign.

There is a time for building and a time for tearing down and for the sake of conciseness, we will put verse 5 into the same category, concerning casting away stones and gathering stones. This is true, even concerning the church and Jesus, who said, “I will build my church” (Mt.16:18), also said to the Ephesians, “I will remove your candlestick” (Rv.2:5) and to the Laodiceans, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rv.3:16). It is the passion of Christ to plant His church in every nation of the world, and that people should come to Him from every tribe, tongue, and nation. There they stand together as a light to the nations and the salt of the earth.

However, there is also a time for what someone called a “backdoor revival”, which must occur before a genuine revival can take place. It is a time, when members become stagnant and will leave, as new light and life enters. It happens in a local church, as well as in a full denomination, that its testimony becomes negative and it is better, for the cause of Christ, that it be removed. Something to keep in mind: It seems consistent in the Bible that the breaking down and the casting away seems to happen before the building up and gathering.

There is a time to weep and mourn and a time to laugh and dance. In chapter 7, the preacher will have much more to teach us about this principle, so we will only briefly point to a beatitude, according to Luke’s account (6:21): Jesus said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall be comforted.” In that text, Jesus shows clearly the consistency in a time-element, spiritual principle. He gives it also to His disciples, as they near the crucifixion: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn.16:20).

In our Christian relationships and our attitude towards the lost, please remember that there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. Concerning the sinner, there is a time, when we must allow the law to do its work and bring pain and conviction of sin. During that time, the greatest harm can come from an attempt to comfort. When repentance takes place, the time arrives to encourage and love the sinner. The same is true concerning a brother or sister in Christ, who strays from the way. Do not embrace, when it is time for a work of brokenness to occur.

A parent must go through the painful process of releasing his hold upon his children. There is a time, when it is our responsibility to keep them, to protect them, and to provide for them. This is the time for training and discipline, in which faithfulness is required by the Lord. Then, we must remember that they are given to us only as a loan, but they belong to Christ. At that time, we must let them go. Similarly, the evangelist, the church leader, and the mature Christian leaves the 99 and looks for the sheep that is lost, until he finds him. He cares for him, nurtures him, disciples, and teaches everything that the Lord commands. The problem with many elders is that they forget that the sheep belong to Christ and, at the right time, he must let them go.

There is a time, when hearts must be torn and then, a time when they must be mended. Both tasks are the work of the preacher. The living sword penetrates deeply into the heart and soul of the recipient and, when the sword has finished its work, oil and wine are poured into the wound. The wine is to cleanse the wound and oil eases the pain. The need for discipline towards one in Corinth, who fell into immorality, gives us insight into the process. Paul says, first of all, “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Co.5:4). In other words, since this man has defied the church, let him experience the hell of living outside the church and under the control of Satan, so that he will repent and be saved before it is too late. Then in 2 Corinthians 2:1-8, Paul “sews”: “I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”

One of the most delicate parts of Christianity is knowing when to speak and when to keep silence. Some of us are given over to speaking, while others always keep silence. Both are right and both are wrong. Every Christian must learn that there is a time, when he must speak. He is guilty before God, if he does not. Tozer called this “the guilty silence”. God made it clear to Ezekiel: “If … you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way… his blood I will require at your hand” (Ez.3:18, also 33:8). However, there is also a time to turn things over to God’s hand and rest in his wise words and work in people’s hearts.

What wisdom Solomon has put before us! I have applied most of it to the Kingdom of God, as it functions here “under the sun”. Because we live in imperfection, in a world of imperfect people, you have wise and foolish virgins. You have good and bad fish caught in the same net and you have good seed and tares in the same field. You have a mustard plant that becomes a mighty tree and you have leaven in the meal. May the Lord teach us to pray, that we might be effective, as we seek to please Him in our various ministries. We need to be a people, who are filled with the Holy Spirit of wisdom, in order to fulfill His will.


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