A Time for Every Purpose

Series: Under the Sun: The Book of Ecclesiastes

A Time for Every Purpose

August 02, 2020 | John Ewart

Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

One of the most familiar passages in Ecclesiastes is Ch 3, songs and poems have been written.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven.

Time is a fascinating thing.

Please go back and watch my Wed night teaching about Trapping Time.

Time is constant=30 minutes is always ½ an hour.

But it is also very relative- 3 months to a child facing summer vacation compared to an expectant mother are different time periods.

It is also the great equalizer.

We all have the same, it must be spent, it cannot be saved, and it stops for nothing.


Life is going to happen; time is going to pass…for now.

We cannot control time; it is given to us.


The world’s “under the sun perspective” about life might be summed up by Joseph Wood Krutch, former professor of English at Columbia University: There is no reason to suppose that a man’s life has any more meaning that the life of the humblest insect that crawls from one annihilation to another.


Not a lot of value or meaning there.

But biblically, life is not meaningless.

God fills life with meaning. God gives time divine purpose.

He can do amazing things in an instant: Part seas, raise the dead, calm storms, heal the sick, cast out the enemy.

Time with God is an opportunity.

But under the Sun, without God, time is monotony.


So far, Solomon has argued that life was nothing but grasping broken soap bubbles and chasing after the wind.

But in his wisdom, he is not finished with the journey and he spends the next chapters reexamining the issue.


Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck 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; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw 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 of war, and a time of peace.


Commentators point out that this is a masterpiece of wisdom poetry.

These are observations of life and not mandates.

In other words, you are not commanded to kill in Ecclesiastes 3.

The king is watching and noting that which makes up this thing called life and time.

These are the parts of the whole.

He is not stating whether they are good or bad at this point.

And we must learn that…


  1. God Orders Time

You don’t have to be a philosopher or scientist to know that “times and seasons” are a regular part of life.

These dependable parts of life bring order.

Summer is hot in NC and winter is less hot.

But there is also an overruling providence at work.

We live within the confines of mortality and are governed by created time.

We live day by day as life, time and purpose is given to us by God.

I assure you there is always time to do God’s will.

But there may not be enough time to accomplish your own.

If we cooperate with and submit to God’s timing, life will not be meaningless.

From before our birth to the moment of death, God is accomplishing His divine purposes, even though we may not always understand what He is doing.


Psalm 139:13-16

13 For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.


Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.


God has created us perfectly for the work He has prepared for us to do.

He will give us the time and opportunity to do those things if we serve Him.


Solomon uses 14 phrases to point out the tensions or balances of life.


Birth and Death v. 2

These are not human accidents; they are divine appointments.

We may foolishly hasten our death, but we cannot prevent it when our time comes, unless God so wills it.  

As missionary Lottie Moon once said, We are immortal until our work on earth is done.

Sometime read Isaiah 38 about King Hezekiah’s life being extended,


Planting and Plucking v. 2

These were agricultural people and would know these terms and actions.

Their religious calendar was based on agriculture.

Farming terms are used throughout Scripture.

Leviticus 23 describes the various feasts and offerings to be made from the fields.

They were to understand who caused them to produce.

Men may plow and sow, but only God can give the increase.


Psalm 65:9-10

9 You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. 10 You water its ridges abundantly, you settle its furrows; you make it soft with showers, you bless its growth.


The key is to recognize His Lordship and ownership and our stewardship and service.

He has life ordered for us.


Killing and Healing v. 3

Likely not just war or self-defense (see v.8) but also the result of sickness.

Might be better to think of to wound.

The only way they can be saved is to be healed in other words.

God permits some to die while others are healed.


Weeping and Laughing v. 4

Mourning and Dancing v. 4

There are times of real tears and real celebration.

The hard times help us to appreciate the joyful ones.


Casting and Gathering v. 5

It was a stony land.

They had to clear the rocks out of the way in order to plow.

They had to remove stones before they could harvest.

They had to gather stones before they could build.

People gathered stones for walls and homes.

There was also a military or personal strategy to hurt an enemy, fill his field with stones.


II Kings 3:19, 25a

19 Also you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall cut down every good tree, and stop up every spring of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones.”…25 Then they destroyed the cities, and each man threw a stone on every good piece of land and filled it…


Stones are neither good or bad, it all depends on what you do with them.

If your enemy fills your land with rocks, don’t throw them back, build something!


Embracing or Not v. 5

A common, cultural Eastern greeting normally included the kiss on the cheek.

This might be a COVID verse for us right now with social distancing!

There is a time to say hello and to say goodbye.

Could also include a husband and wife.


Getting and losing v. 6

Keep and Throw Away v. 6

There is a time to search and gain and a time to give it up for loss.

Here is also the biblical authority for garage sales!

Throw it away!


Tearing and Sewing v. 7

There comes a time to get up and sew up the rip.


Silence and Speaking v. 7

An important balance many forget often.

You do not always have to speak.

Listen sometimes.


Love and Hate v. 8

This may be more of a national concept and not personal hate.


War and Peace v. 8


The ingredients of life must be properly blended and ordered.

We are not capable of this on our own.

Thankfully, God is in control.

He does all things well.

There is a time for it all.

All of it is going to happen.

But what good is it? How does it profit us?


Ecclesiastes 3:9-14

9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. 12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.


God does not just order time…

  1. God Occupies Times

Solomon adjusts his sight for a moment and no longer simply looks under the sun.

He looks above and brings God into the picture.

He recognizes that God is eternal, and His work lasts forever.

He sees that God is not simply contained by time but occupies it in order to fulfill His grand design.

Outlook helps determine outcome in this case.

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

He puts eternity in our hearts.

This separates us from the rest of the creation.

This is part of what it means to be created in the image of God.

But it also helps us see the “beauty” of it.

The word Beautiful means fitting or appropriate.

We recognize life has all of these parts and that they are normal or appropriate.

They fit together in His plan.

At the same time, we feel a disconnect because we cannot see the whole plan.

We have just a limited vantage point, such an incomplete understanding of the whole.

We are aliens in this place, and we do not get to see the whole design yet.

Therefore, our pursuit must not be of life, but of Him.

We were meant for His purposes and to spend eternity with and for Him.

When man does not do that, there will be a sense of frustration or discontent.

God accomplishes His purposes in His time, but it will not be until we enter eternity that we will begin to comprehend His total plan.

Perhaps you ask why doesn’t God reveal Himself and His plan more to us right now?

Well, God is not obligated to do so.

He owes us nothing.

As Allister Begg has stated, You cannot pull a string and make God dance for you.

God will reveal to us what we need to live for Him in His Word.

He is not there to simply give you all you want.

And therein lies the need for faith.


As Jon Akin writes, We perceive and long for better things than this cursed misery, but we cannot see the full picture, and we must lean on God. We are trapped between time and eternity, and we must trust that God uses the details to work out a grander plan.


And yet, life can still be full of joy and meaning now (v. 12-14) if, we recognize its source.

That is the paradox.

As we long for our place in eternity we must live here for a while to serve and to bring Him glory.

He has a purpose for you right now, right here, and it can bring you great joy.

This enjoyment is the gift of God.

Enjoy God’s gifts as the fruit of your labor no matter how difficult life seems to be.

Life here is transitory but whatever God does is forever.

So, when we live for Him and let Him have His way, life has meaning.


We love to quote Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.


But we tend to ignore the context of the verse!

Go back and read before and after it.

The context is one of bringing God glory and overcoming while we endure tribulation and persecution and trial.

You do not get the overcoming without the thing to overcome to go with it!



So, instead of complaining about what we don’t have, or what we are going through, perhaps we should seek how beautiful and appropriate it is and thank God for it and for what it is producing in my life for eternity.

How can life be meaningless when God has made you a part of His eternal plan?

You are not an insignificant insect crawling from one sad annihilation to another!


Therefore, let us fear Him v. 14 in reverence because He is in control of life.

 14 I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.


Ecclesiastes 3:15-22

15 That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past. 16 Moreover I saw under the sun: In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there. 17 I said in my heart, “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.” 18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” 19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. 21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth? 22 So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?


God orders, He occupies and…


III. God Oversees Time

The past seems to repeat itself, but God breaks in and does new things.

Think about it what He has done: The Incarnation, Cross, Resurrection, Your salvation!

Jesus broke the vicious cycle.

God also keeps track and will call into account what we have done with our time.

He is working out His eternal purposes.

God will be the judge, but He is already the judge now as well.

Man’s judgments are unjust and oppressive.

We see injustice.

We cry out that is unfair!

We wonder when evil will be held accountable.

We even fight with God at times thinking we must judge all ourselves.

But we must wait for Him to judge.

He is sifting man I promise.

He will not forget.

He will hold accountable.

He will render justice and judgment.


The danger is that man leaves God out.

When man leaves God out, he becomes like an animal in nature and action.

Left to his own devices and truth, man will act like a beast.

No concept of justice, right and wrong, no sense of eternity.

He seeks to distance himself from the image of God and embraces the characteristics of a beast.

They act as if life has no worth and no end.


Psalm 32:9

Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you.


We will physically be dust.

Our bodies are mortal and what we do here will be mortal unless it is an investment into God’s plan for eternity.

We must never be satisfied with ourselves, but we must find satisfaction in what    

God gives us in this life.

Nobody but Him knows what the future holds.

Knowing God is the only way to true peace or shalom.


This passage almost makes me want to break out into: Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) sung in response to the Vietnam War in 1965 by the British rock group The Byrds. Almost word for word from Ecclesiastes 3. They end with:

A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.


It is not too late.

There is a war raging.

A war with lostness and sin.

With darkness and purposelessness.

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