Ecclesiastes 3:1

Verse of the Day Devotion – Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Alter)

“Everything has a season, and a time for every matter under the heavens.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Alter)

If today’s verse sounds familiar to you, but you can’t quite put your finger on it, it’s because I’m using a translation from Robert Alter. He’s the premier US scholar of the Hebrew language and has done his own translation of the entire Hebrew scriptures. Ecclesiastes is an interesting book. It’s one of those books that has a lot of wisdom, but isn’t something that’s taught on Sunday mornings. I believe it’s because of the fact you have to unpack the book with other scripture as context to fully appreciate it. In cases like this specific verse, it seems to just acknowledge a fact about life that isn’t particularly spiritual. In fact, it was picked up and became mainstream in secular culture over fifty-five years ago. You might be familiar with it:

“To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time to every purpose, under heaven.” – Turn! Turn! Turn! (The Byrds)

Just like in the song, this passage of scripture is very poetic. Solomon, the writer of the book, hid what we would today call easter eggs within the poem. After making the declaration about the seasons, Solomon specifically chooses seven verses that outline opposite or opposing things: being born/dying, weeping/laughing, mourning/dancing, loving/hating, seeking/accepting it’s lost, and one of the more unique ones according to Alter, “A time to embrace and a time to pull back from embracing.” The hidden easter egg is the significance of the seven verses to Jewish culture. Seven being a sacred number, was something that would have been ingrained into the minds of the young children for as long as they could remember. Growing up in a western culture, we don’t really have anything like this to relate to. In movies it would be like how when the hero’s theme starts playing, we know that the hero is on his/her way and we can relax because all is about to be well.

Solomon using the number seven was an assertion that all of these things were ultimately sacred, and that he wasn’t just being poetic – there was a purpose. When we pair this with the fact that he used the extremes across all parts of life it would have signaled the original readers/listeners to realize this wasn’t just about those specific things. When Solomon said in verse four that there was a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. He was describing all of our possible emotions. The good and bad times emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The interesting thing about verse 3:1 is that it almost seems different depending on the translation. In the Alter translation it reads as though Solomon is acknowledging that there are things that are going to happen in life, and there’s a season for it and much like the weather, there’s nothing we can do about it. There will be birth and death, mourning and dancing, and all that we can do is enjoy it when it’s great, and weather the storm when it’s bad. Then, there’s the Good News Translation (GNT)

(I know, weird translation right?
But it’s the translation of the first bible that my mom was given after becoming a Christian and had little doodles in it.
I read it a lot as a child, and some of the phrasings really stuck out to me so I like to look up individual verses in the GNT).

“Everything that happens in the world happens at a time God chooses.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 GNT

While the Alter translation talks about the events of our life being seasonal with beginnings and ends and things that seem to be inevitable. The GNT talks about how it doesn’t matter what happens, “Everything that happens in the world happens at a time God chooses.” It’s a reassurance that no matter what season you’re in God is orchestrating things. And to quote Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring, “… that is an encouraging thought.”

Tomorrow, I’m going to share another verse that I think will help solidify some of the claims I made in this devotion. Thanks for reading!

  • Christiaan

It’s me again, Christiaan, if you missed yesterday’s study, you can reference it here: Ecclesiastes 3:1 as I want to build on some of the things I covered yesterday.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

Verse of the Day Devotion: Ecclesiastes 2:24  

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” – Ecclesiastes 2:24

In this verse, we see the wisdom of the preacher as found in Ecclesiastes.  The preacher is no doubt Solomon, the son of King David.  He starts off in this chapter by describing some of the thing’s men do in order to bring meaning and joy to their lives, and he uses himself and his actions as the examples.  He describes how he tried laughter, wine, increased labor.  Also in planting gardens and making parks and ponds and a forest of trees.  He bought many slaves and through procreation increased the number as well.  He also collected an incredible amount of things as well as many concubines for his own pleasure.  He eventually became great and increased more than any other in Jerusalem.  Anything his eyes wanted he acquired (Ecclesiastes 2:2-10).  Then, after this was done, “Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 2:11. 

The above gave Solomon the conclusion that meaning regarding our lives is not found in wisdom, hard work or things: which was a prevalent and traditional belief of the teachers in Israel of that time period.  These things may give pleasure to the person pursuing these things, but only temporarily.  I remember speaking with a young lady who had just bought a new home in an expensive community, as well as a high-end automobile.  After some time, she bought a bigger home because she found a friend had purchased a bigger home in the same community.  She also purchased a fancier car.  The sad thing about this is that she did not have the money or income to purchase them, she just went further into debt, so much so that she had little money left over at the end of each month.  What this young lady had was very good.  But because her focus was on her status, she was never satisfied.  Solomon saw this and determined it was simply vanity.

Going back to our focus verse, Solomon came to the following conclusion.  “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24.  He determined that this drive to do all that is possible to bring pleasure to his life was a truly fruitless venture, for the pleasure was temporary.  It is not self-indulgent pursuit of pleasure that brings satisfaction, but a contentment in the food and drink we consume and accepting the work we do now as being good, because these things are given to us by God.  He then tells us later a more detailed thought regarding contentment.  “Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.  Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.  For he will not often consider the years of his life, because God keeps him occupied with the gladness of his heart.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. 

If Solomon, who is considered the wisest and richest man who ever lived, one who had the means to acquire anything he wanted and the ability to do anything he desired, found a good life to be in the contentment in all that God has given him, then we should apply this wisdom to our own lives as well.  I have found this to be the source of much peace, for all my needs are met.  I pray as you apply this, you will find the same thing for yourself.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Ecclesiastes 5:10

Verse of the Day Devotion: Ecclesiastes 5:10 

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” – Ecclesiastes 5:10 

Some years ago, a rich entrepreneur was asked a question regarding his goals.  Not remembering the exact quote, the question was essentially, ‘You have everything you could ever need, millions of dollars, a large and fancy home, and an incredible business growing fast and prosperously.  What keeps you motivated?  His answer was this, “To make another million.” 

This is a sad response to the question; however, I believe many more would answer this question in the same way.  This person could have said enjoying time with family and friends, learning new skills, or just enjoying life.  However, it appears that his mind was focused on making as much money as possible for his heart was focused on wealth. 

Money is but a small part of what life is about.  It should be used as a means of meeting our needs and the needs of others.  Of course we should set aside some provisions for future use.  “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8. We should not take all we make and spend it, for harvests happen one or two times a year, and some should be saved for when there is no harvest.  And this verse.  “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up.” Proverbs 21:20.  This is saying that it is wise to put some of our money away for future needs, because if we consume it all, we shall have nothing to support us during these times.

The problem with loving money is that we will never be satisfied and will focus on getting more and more.  People who love certain things will desire to acquire more of what they love.  Those who love snacks will buy assorted snacks to satisfy their desire for snack foods.  Those who love books will acquire books in order read what they desire, then put them away for future use.  And those who love admiration will seek admiration from others.  What we love we pursue as we have the means to do so.  But to put all our focus on anything other than God is not wise and will take our focus from pursuing God. As the writer of Proverbs says, it is vanity.  According to Strong’s dictionary, vanity is that which brings emptiness and is unsatisfactory and vain. Ultimately, loving anyone or anything more than God is empty and unfulfilling.

Let us work to place our focus on God: who He is and what we can do to give ourselves completely to Him.  Nothing can ever satisfy us more than God can.  And besides, as Timothy said, many have been lured away from God by its tentacles.  “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10.  This makes it clear that money is not the problem, but the love of it is.  It is not an abundance of money, but the love of it that causes us to desire more and more, focusing on wealth rather than obedience and love for God.  This life is so short, and the next life is eternal.  And we have two ultimate destinations.  We can be forever with God or forever separated from Him.  I know which I desire.  I pray you focus on life with God forever as well.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Verse of the Day Devotion: Ecclesiastes 3:1 

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1    

The traditional belief is that this book was written by Solomon.  According to Temper Longman III in his commentary on Ecclesiastes, this is an old and repentant Solomon looking back over his life.  What Solomon is saying in this verse is that everything in life has an appointed time.  Nothing happens outside of these appointed times.  Now, it is important to understand that as we look at the following verses, these are descriptive statements of happenings, and not moral statements.  For example, Solomon is not saying there is a time for man to kill someone, only there is a time when killing takes place.

He gives a list of appointed happenings.  “A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear 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 throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; 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.” Ecclesiastes 3:2-8.  These are things that happen under the heaven, in other words, here on earth.  Again, these are not moral statements, but descriptive.  And notice that there are opposites shown here as well.  There are times for birth and times for death; the beginning and the end of life.  A time to kill such as in war, and a time to heal.  To laugh, and to weep. To mourn, and to rejoice in dancing.  To gather stones, and to throw stones.  To embrace, and not to embrace. To search, and to give up assuming loss.  To keep things, and to throw away things.  Time to tear apart and a time to put together.  To speak and keep silent.  A time to love and hate, to wage war and bring about peace. 

This list encompasses most of what happens in our lives.  These things happen, whether we like them or not.  We may not want to die or see someone else die, but it will happen.  There are time when people will embrace us, and there are times when they will not.  We must understand these things happen in an imperfect world and though we may mourn it’s happening, that does not stop it from occurring. 

Since we know these things will occur, what should be our response to all this?  “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.  We cannot change these things.  Good and bad things will happen, and we need to accept this as reality.  However, knowing God is in control, we can trust and fear Him, knowing that He will be with us throughout and will guide us in the way we need to go.  Those who are saved and keep His commandments will be blessed and protected, those who do not will face judgment.  In this truth we can rest and be contented and at peace.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.