Improper Timing is Vanity
The beginning of Ecclesiastes 3 is likely the most well-known portion of the book. "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace" (3:1-8).

Solomon's use of the word "season" in 3:1 is likely emphasizing the cyclical nature of these events. Clearly, however, the main idea is that there is an appropriate time for every legitimate activity. Many examples of this fact are listed in 3:2-8.

Although man is typically unaware of such, all of these times are regulated by God providentially; that is, man has very little control over the timing of these events (whether they be good or bad). For example, you might plan an activity on a certain day to celebrate an accomplishment, but God's timing may grant you a day of mourning instead. One cannot force his own timing if it is not God's will. Allow me to share with you a personal example of this truth. I was planning to help out as a teacher and counselor at a Christian camp in southern Illinois starting on July 17th. However, it seems the Lord had other plans for me. After suffering from rather severe side pain for the better part of a day, my appendix was removed on July 16th. The timing was simply not right for me to help at camp. Although such was disappointing, I accept the truth that many things in life are beyond my control. When the time is not right for a particular activity (even one that has been planned for a long time), the answer is not despair. Such is the response of a fool who does not understand that there is a time for everything, but that time might not be right now--regardless of how badly one may desire it!

Let us now briefly consider the rest of Ecclesiastes 3.

In 3:9, Solomon asks - "What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?" Is he concerned again about physical labor in general or is he talking about something more specific? Based on the context, I believe the king is suggesting that it is futile to attempt to circumvent God's appointed seasons and times. No matter how hard one may work at a particular task, if the timing is not right in the divine scheme of things, such efforts are futile!

Truly, God has "made everything beautiful in its time" (3:11)! This would include birth, laughter, and peace, as well as death, weeping, and war. Everything has a part in God's overall scheme, though man cannot see it or comprehend it all. God has put "eternity" in the hearts of men to help them through the difficult seasons of life. God desires that we live in view of eternity.

According to 3:12,13, man's duty is to make the best of his circumstances; he should enjoy the good times and accept the bad, all the while placing his trust in God.

3:14 underscores some of the major differences between men and God. The work of God is: (1) permanent ("it shall be forever"); (2) perfect ("nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it"); (3) purposeful ("that men should fear before Him"). Those who are wise should fear God for His great power and control of the times and seasons!

The remainder of the chapter focuses on the fact that there will be a day of reckoning; yes, there is a time for God's judgment of the righteous and the wicked! This truth should be remembered as one chooses his path in life.

Lord willing, this series will continue tomorrow.