A Time For Everything
OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To reflect upon the Preacher’s observations gleaned from his search for the purpose of life under the sun 2) To understand why God’s ways are sometimes inexplicable, and why injustice along with wickedness are allowed to exist 3) To be reminded as to what is best for man to do in life under the sun
OUTLINE I. THE INEXPLICABLE PURPOSE OF GOD (3:1-15) A. A TIME FOR EVERY PURPOSE (1-8) B. MAN’S INABILITY TO FIND OUT GOD’S PURPOSE (9-15) II. THE INJUSTICE AND WICKEDNESS OF MEN (3:16-22) A. WHAT THE PREACHER SAW (16) B. WHAT THE PREACHER REASONED (17-21) C. WHAT THE PREACHER CONCLUDED (22)
1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The inexplicable purpose of God (1-15) - The injustice and wickedness of men (16-22)
In a well-known passage, we are told that to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. The Preacher has seen that God has given man the task to seek out God’s purpose by putting eternity in man’s heart. But then he also saw that no one is able to find out what God does from beginning to end, and no one can change what He decides to do. Why does God act this way? Why are His purposes often incomprehensible? The Preacher offers that God does this so man might fear before Him, seeing that God will require an account for what is done. This prompts the Preacher to state again (cf. 2:24-26) what he believes is the best one can do: to rejoice, do good, to eat and drink, enjoying the good in their labor. This he concludes is the gift of God (1-15).
Verses 1–8 are a poem often used at funerals and popularized by songs.
How do these verses connect with the Preacher’s search in the surrounding chapters?
What does this poem reveal to the Preacher about God?
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.
2) What does the preacher say about everything under heaven? (1) - There is a season, a time for every purpose
3) List some examples of how he illustrates “a time for every purpose” (2-8) - A time to be born, and a time to die - A time to weep, and a time to laugh - A time to keep silence, and a time to speak - A time of war, and a time of peace
9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
4) What question does the Preacher restate? (9, cf. 1:3) - What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
5) What four things has he seen? (10-11) - The God-given task with which the sons of mean are to be occupied (cf. 1:13)
- God has made everything beautiful in its time - God has put eternity in man’s heart - No one can find out the work God has done from beginning to end
Explain the phrase, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (3:11).
To what theological truth about God revealed in 3:9–15does this point us?
Where else in Scripture do we find this truth?
6) What does the Preacher conclude is best for people to do? - Rejoice, and do good in their lives - Eat, drink, and enjoy the good of all their labor
- It is the gift of God (cf. 2:24-26)
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
7) Why has God made what He does unchangeable? (14) - That men should fear before Him
8) What will God require? (15) - An account of what is past
Next he describes what he saw “under the sun”. In places were there should have been judgment and righteousness, he saw wickedness and iniquity! Why does God allow it? He reasoned in his heart that God will judge the righteous and wicked, and that there must be a time for every purpose and for every work. He told himself that God tests men, to help them see that they are little different from beasts. Both man and beasts die, and both return to the dust. From a purely earthly perspective, there is no advantage of man over beasts, for one cannot see whether the spirit of man goes upward (but cf. 12:7) while the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth. This led him to the perception stated once again (cf. 2:24-26; 3:12-13), that it is best for a man to rejoice in his works. This is man’s heritage, for who can bring one (back) to see what will happen (on the earth) after him (16-22)?
16 Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. 17 I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. 18 I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. 19 For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?
9) As the Preacher looked in places where there should have been judgment and righteousness, what did he see? (16) - Wickedness and iniquity
10) What did he reason in his heart about this? (17) - God shall judge the righteous and the wicked - There shall be a time for every purpose and for every work
11) What did he tell himself was the reason God allowed such things? (18) - God tests men, that they may see that they are like beasts
12) What does man have in common with beasts? (19-20) - They both die - They both return to the dust
13) What is different between man and beast? (21) - The spirit of man goes upward (cf. 12:7) - The spirit of the beast goes down to the earth
14) What did the Preacher perceive was best for man to do? Why? (22) - To rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage - Who can bring him to see what will happen after him?