Skip to content
Jul 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 8, 2012 – Ecclesiastes 3:2-3

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.
Ecclesiastes 3:2-3

INTRO: Reading through this poem, we cannot help but feel its rhythm

The genius of the poem is that it makes us feel its message
– to live well is to get in step with the rhythm of life
• when you find your life’s rhythm, things work for you
• if you cannot find the rhythm of your life, things go wrong
– it’s like driving through a city and hitting every red light

Rhythm is a recognizable movement – our brains detect its pattern
– in music, it is timing – it’s all about the beat (metronome)

Rhythm in poetry makes words flow gracefully
– perhaps the most frequently quoted line in the Message Bible is found in Jesus’ invitation (Mt. 11:28-30), “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace”

But rhythm also has another effect: it can put us to sleep
– “highway hypnosis” – we can go through life in a similar state
• the repetition of our days make us less aware

The poem wakes us up to where the rhythm of life takes us
– it swings back and forth, from one end of spectrum . . .
– the only constant in the poem is time
• so the point is not awareness of rhythm, but of the present moment
• where am I now in time? It is time for something – but what?
If you invested everything in a specific stock, wouldn’t you watch it?
– maybe monitor it every day – when is it time to sell?
– Christian spirituality is bringing that kind of awareness to our inner life

Let’s briefly notice the way these lines are structured

In verse 2, the order goes from development to demolition
– from being to not being – from doing to undoing
– verse 3 reverses the order

There are also parallels between verses 2 and 3
– “give birth” as opposed to “kill,” “die” as opposed to “heal”
• it’s easy to see similarity of planting (v. 2) and building (v. 3), uprooting and tearing down
• the same words are paired up in Jeremiah 1:10 (& 1 Cor. 3:5-9)
– what the poem stresses is that these actions are definite and decisive
• they don’t happen by accident and we can’t make a mistake regarding the timing of them without serious mishap

What I want to do is apply the wisdom of rhythm to our inner life
– so in each line we will look for a NT perspective

A time to give birth and a time to die

He goes straight to the big one, doesn’t he?
– this covers the whole scope of our existence

This line is unique in the poem
– we did not have any say in the timing of our birth
– we won’t have much control over the timing of our death
• my uncle hated being the runt of the liter (youngest of four) and felt like he had missed out on a lot of stuff
• several times, I heard from my grandmother how Uncle Bill had asked her, “Why didn’t you born me sooner?!”
– the first lesson in finding the rhythm of life: Accept time of your life span

Here’s a question for you: Does there have to be a birth or a death to awaken you this moment of your life?
– we hear that for people who are dying, every moment is precious
– do we really have to be passing from life to see what a gift it is?

NT perspective: For Paul, entire spiritual experience is dying and birth

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted

On July 4th, Barb discovered this wonderful program on A&E: Duck Dynasty
– the Robertsons describe themselves as red necks–although I suspect a few hillbilly genes slipped into the pool
• Willie, the lead character and CEO of the company, made a fortune on manufacturing duck calls
– in one episode, Willie bought a vineyard and wanted to make wine immediately
• he brought in a consultant who told him it wasn’t grape season
• being impatient, he purchased grapes and with the help of his crew, made a concoction that wasn’t palatable
– a great example of how we can’t mess with the timing of the seasons

Most of us live in a very different world from our grandparents
– it was important for them to put down roots
– we live in a mobile society – our neighborhood is not our community
Simone Weil observed that we are not only uprooted geographically, but intellectual, socially, morally, and spiritually
• we experience our uprootedness in our sense of alienation and loneliness
– on other hand, it’s sometimes Jesus who calls us from our homes and uproots us

NT perspective: Colossians 2:6, “rooted in Jesus” (secondary, in his church)

A time to kill and a time to heal

For us this is strong language
– but it wasn’t for the readers whose existence was constantly threatened by enemies who lived on their borders

Still, there’s a possibility that kill is used metaphorically
– it’s opposite is “heal,” and you can’t heal what’s been killed

When working with dangerous elements, researchers will build a kill switch into their experiment
– it shuts down everything
– if we don’t have a kill switch in our contacts with certain people, we get used and abused and can waste a lot of time, energy, and money

Recognizing the time to heal can be just as difficult as knowing when to throw the kill switch
– basically, the time to heal is whenever we see a wound
– so the difficulty is not knowing when, but accepting that it’s now and that healing is our responsibility

NT perspective: Romans 8:13, put to death every evil within us
– then let the Lord bring us to wholeness and go to work in helping others to wholeness

A time to tear down and a time to build up

To get anywhere in life (“succeed”) requires not only risk, that we do something we’ve never done before, but also that we stop doing certain things
• things that are not helpful, that get us nowhere, or work against us
• these are things we often hang on to from habit, comfort, or fear

When is it time to build up our health? Marriage? Relationships with the kids?
– some activities or attitudes that should be temporary can become permanent
• the opposite is also true
– a strength in one moment of our lives is a weakness in another–i.e., being defensive when it is necessary for survival

I have a friend who is surprised that I don’t want another big church
– to be on radio or television, or do something global
– but I know it’s no longer my time for anything like that
• and I love what I’m doing and this time of life that I’m in

NT perspective: Jesus’ transfiguration – Peter said, “I will make three shrines”
– he wanted to make permanent what was meant to be temporary
• the temple’s grandeur and beauty, but Jesus said it would be torn down, “you’ve made it a robber’s lair”
– the time to tear down is when the structure no longer fulfills God’s intent

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for My sake will find it.” (Mt. 16:24-25)

– here is the tearing down and the building up
• we must lose the false self to find the true self

CONC: If we master these rhythms of life, is that everything?

No, it isn’t
– we may enjoy a good life, but get no further than that
• there is something higher than the rhythm of life – eternity

Helmut Thielicke, “We are always filled with something–either the substance of eternity or the present.”

One of the Bible’s greatest heroes is Daniel
– also one of those characters that displayed the greatest spiritual strength
– three times a day he opened his window toward Jerusalem and prayed
• he opened a window and let Jerusalem enter his room, his heart, mind and soul

We can find the rhythm of time and simultaneously transcend it
– we open a window toward heaven and let eternity flood into this present moment

The weakness of so much Christianity, is that it’s all ideas, concepts, and rules
– when do we practice being “in Christ”? — to Paul, this was the essence of being a Christian
– since this is an eternal condition, it is always time
• and we would be wise to practice it frequently

Leave a comment