1 To every thing there is a season [et], and a time [zeman] to every purpose under the heaven [Shomayim]:
What a wholesome, orderly contrast to the former gloomy picture he has given us.
Here is the first great lesson for man to learn -- that all God's work has wisdom, and purpose, and order, and arrangement which our puny, little finite minds cannot hope to fully comprehend, but which we must accept in faith and joy. *
... There is a time for everything-surely one of the most ignorantly quoted and misapplied portions of Ecclesiastes. But what does it really mean? It means that the pattern is immutably set by God. It is our wisdom to learn and perceive and conform to that pattern.
Every moment of our God-given and God-arranged lives has its duties and opportunities. Wisdom will fit itself into the divine unchangeable pattern. The wisdom of life is to discern the time. Christ condemned his generation, and they destroyed him, their saviour, because they did not perceive the divine time.
We must always in prayer be seeking to be guided as to what is the right thing to do right now, in order to be a harmonious productive part of the great divine working - the only work worthwhile. Life is made up of a continuous chain of choices and decisions - wise or unwise - based upon a perception, or a lack of perception, of the divine time.**
2 A time [An et (season)] to be born, and a time [An et (season)] to die; a time [An et (season)] to plant, and a time [An et (season)] to pluck up [uproot ] that which is planted;
Birth, life and death describe the circle of human experience as it now is. It was because of this experience that He was manifested; but we must take it widely enough to see the bearing. We have children born and ourselves have been born of our parents; our parents, of their parents, and so backward till we get to the starting point of the process. The Bible only gives us this starting point in a reliable and reasonable form. All human thoughts on the subject are speculations, and self-destructive speculations when thoroughly reasoned out...
The Bible gives us a first pair at a distance of time corresponding with the multiplication of posterity that has since taken place; and it accounts to us for the sad marring of that posterity that we see before our eyes. It shows us the will of God set at naught-in a small matter, to be sure; but the smallness matters not: the principle of disobedience is the same in small as in large matters (and to God, the source and container of all, there cannot be large matters and small matters).
And it shows us the vital paramounce * of that will in a light that nothing but sentence of death could have made so strong. In the channel of this sentence, we are born; for death is a physical thing and runs in the constitution. Our "time to be born" is therefore a time to come under the dominion of evil. Of this we cannot complain, as the unwise do. Before we were born we were nothing. It is better to be born mortal beings than not to come into existence at all, for the goodness of God prevails over his holy severity even in mortal existence. It is the plan God has adopted in working towards the final upshot of his wisdom: and who can say unto God, "What doest thou?"
To this process of mortal generation, Christ stands related. Our "time to be born" unto this evil state, brings Christ with it in the association of things: for it is because of this our lot that Christ was "made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem them that are under the law." It was the "one man's disobedience" that necessitated the arrangement for one man's obedience, that whereas chaos and death have come by the one, life, love, and order might come by the other.
Christ's life in this sense comes out of ours. It was because of poor afflicted dying man upon the earth that the angels were able to say to the shepherd, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Without Adam the first, there would have been no Adam the second. Without the continuance of his posterity, "made subject to vanity, but not willingly," there would have been no remedial provision such as God made when "of the seed of David according to the flesh he raised unto Israel a Saviour."
We remember this when we remember Christ in the breaking of bread. And it is not difficult or unprofitable to glide from his birth to our own. His birth was a great event: ours was not; but there is this much of advantage in reflecting on the arrival of our "time to be born" that it is good for every man to look back and behold himself a feeble, puling infant in the cradle. It helps him to that modesty of reasonable feeling which is beautiful always, but which is rarely to be seen in the world as it now is, when the habit is to swagger and swell up to an insufferable degree of arrogant self-importance-odious alike both to God and man.
The poor little baby that has been allowed to grow up ought not to behave like that, but to be humble and kindly, godly, and wise, and rational in all his ways. The recollection of the cradle will help.
How much more, the recollection of the coffin? Some people make a shudder as if you did unpardonable violence to good taste when you speak of the coffin. Why should it be so? Because true enlightenment, which consists in the knowledge and recognition and logical allowance of all truth, is scarce. Most of the "good taste" so called will be found to be the fostering and fondling of flattering illusions. People like to think of themselves as noble, pure, undecaying, angelic. They deck up and cosmetique poor mortality. They don't like to be brought down to the humiliating level of the actual truth, that they are decaying organisms, evanescent forms of life, living in a state in which the curse of God prevails.
They are shocked at the familiar introduction of the coffin. Well, to a certain extent, it is possible to sympathise with their susceptibility. It springs from the latent aspiration to be something better than they are-an aspiration that can only be gratified in reconciliation with God. But, at the same time, when it rebels against the truth, it is a nuisance to be put aside.
"There is a time to die," and it is well to remember it. The man who remembers it is wiser every way than the man who habitually dismisses and ignores it...
...The man who fully realises that he will soon be done with all the matters he has in hand will find it much easier to carry them lightly, and to act the part of righteousness than the man who suffers himself to be overpowered with the sense of present existence as if it never would end. He will find it easier to remember God, to continue in His word, to hold fast the faith in all its service, to be kind, to be just, to be self-sacrificing, and everything else required of us by the law of the Lord, if he have his end in view, than if he habitually draw the veil to the disagreeable aspects of life.
From this we may readily deduce the unwisdom of association with the lovers of the present world, in whose company our perceptions will be blunted, our senses drowned in a flood of foolish excitements, and our hearts drawn away from the beautiful, wholesome, lasting, satisfying things of God, which, while they may have a present bitterness with them, as of the bitter herbs of the passover, are even now a source of far deeper satisfaction than is to be derived from the ways of worldliness in all departments.
The Christadelphian, June 1887
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 get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time [et (season)] to love, and a time to hate; a time of war [milchamah], and a time of peace [shalom].
There is a time for everything. Life is not just an endless, meaningless cycle, but an orderly, purposeful arrangement. All things we see and experience -- birth, death, killing, healing, weeping, laughing, loving, hating -- all have their place in the purpose of Providence.
Each contributes in its own mysterious way to the accomplishment of that glorious divine assurance to God's children:
"All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."
Bro. Growcott - The whole Man
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
God saw at the beginning that all that He has made was very good. And He will see at the ending that all that He has made is very good. And He perceives that everything in between is very good in the sense that it contributes to the ultimate and eternal perfection. He subjected the creation to vanity in hope. "He hath made everything beautiful in his time." Here is the assurance that gives peace and happiness in the face of every disappointment and vicissitude of this life.**
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
14 I know that, whatsoever [HaElohim] doeth, it shall be for ever [will endure l'olam]: nothing can be put [added] to it, nor any thing taken from it: and [HaElohim]doeth it, that men should fear before him.
Here is a contrast between natural man's endless, ever-changing cycle of futile, perishing efforts, and the eternal, purposeful, unchanging work of God. God's plans will stand forever, and man -- to be happy -- must adjust himself to them. *
All of natural man's work and activity is a mere meaningless, purposeless treadmill of futility and nothingness, ending in sorrow. Every act of God has a purpose and leads onward to eternal joy. Our wisdom is to become totally and unreservedly a part of that eternal work.**
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
17 I said in mine heart [lev], [HaElohim] shall judge the righteous [tzaddik] and the wicked [resha]: for there is a time [et (season)] there for every purpose [matter] and for every work [ma'aseh].
This is the first mention of judgment in the book, and it adds more significance to the first part of the chapter about a time for everything. The whole book ends on the thought of judgment.
Man is seen to have a responsibility for his actions. The book is about the human search for happiness and good, and the eternal facts of responsibility and judgment have a major bearing on this search.
The preacher goes further than saying a man must adjust himself to the fact of an all-powerful and unalterable God, if he would seek happiness.
He must also adjust his life to the equally real fact of a God who calls to account and metes out reward or punishment according to a man's actions. *
This must be post-resurrectional, for he observes elsewhere that the wicked often enjoy long life and die in prosperity, while the righteous often suffer and die in adversity.**
18 I said in mine heart [lev] concerning the estate of the sons of men [As for bnei haAdam], that HaElohim might manifest [tests] them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts [like beheimah].
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men [bnei haAdam] befalleth beasts [beheimah]; even one thing befalleth them [share one and same mikreh (fortune)]: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence [the adam hath no advantage] above a beast [beheimah]: for all is vanity [hevel].
Now, the carrying out of this principle necessarily involves great loss of human or animal life; for, if virtue be the subject of reward, vice must also be of punishment. Because, if vice be unrestrained, it would gain the ascendancy, eradicate virtue from among men as before the flood, and defeat the principle upon which it is proposed to effectuate the work, and thus destroy the original design.
The mere fact of dust, by the power of God expressed in creation and the physical laws, assuming the form of men, does not therefore entitle them to the glory of the future ages, or expose them to the alternative of damnation in eternal death. These are doctrines predicated upon a moral, not a physical constitution of things.
The destiny of the animal world, and that of men, is physically the same; they are all under God's physical laws, and consequently have "no pre-eminence" the one over the other.
Man differs from other animals, as these differ from one another, and if his race attain to the angelic nature, which God designs it shall, it will not be because it is human, but because it is voluntarily obedient to His laws.
Elpis Israel 1.6.
"There is a natural body," saith he; a soma psuchikon: and he proceeds to prove the assertion by quoting the words of Moses, saying, "And so it is written. The first man Adam was made into a living soul" -- eis psuchen zosan. These words are parallel with le-nephesh khayyah, and are explanatory of them. If the Spirit be asked, what is a nephesh khayyah, he answers in Greek, psuche tzosa; and if it be further inquired, what is psuche tzosa? the English version replies, a living soul, or a natural body; but as !hebrew! khayyah is not an adjective, but a substantive, it should be rendered a body of life.
And what, then? say "the merchants of the earth," who auction off their spiritual merchandize from the pulpits of all lands. Are not "bodies and the souls of men," somata kai psuchai anthropon, the most precious of our wares? But wherein is the preciousness of souls, which we proclaim to be immortal jewels, whose estimation is incalculable, if men have no pre-eminence over monkeys; and bishops, deans, and ministers, no excellence over the reptiles of the wilderness? The supposition is downright atheism and infidelity! (Apoc. xviii. 13,11).
Doubtless, in the opinion of the soul-merchants of the earth the Spirit's teaching is both atheistic and infidel, for it is destructive of their whole system. He has, to speak apocalyptically, "spued them out of his mouth;" how, then, could there be any harmony between his word or teaching and their theologies?
They teach that there are in men "immortal souls;" souls which are immaterial, and therefore immortal; and which when their bodies die, exist without bodies: that the value of a single such soul is incalculable; and that it is the possession of this divine incorporeal entity angelized at death, which constitutes the pre-eminence of men over all other created things. But to such, the Spirit rejoins, "Fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" -- "Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish" (Psal. xlix. 12,20). One such divine oracle is worth incalculably more than whole shiploads of university logic and collegiate "bodies of divinity."
This, then, is the grand principle upon which the immortality of man is based -- a scriptural comprehension of the truth developing a faith that works by love and purifies the heart in the obedience it commands. A man with such an understanding heart is a "spiritual man;" but before he had the understanding of the truth, he was like bishops, deans, ministers, reptiles and monkeys, without pre-eminence demiurgically on any other speciality than form. The "natural man," the Spirit saith, is a beast; a mere "body of life."
He may be decorated with all imaginable titles of honour, and humbly worshipped by his fellows; nevertheless, if he "understandeth not," he is a mere natural still. There is no seed of immortality in him.
Now, the scriptures teach that the seed of immortality in a believing man is Christ; and therefore he is styled by Paul in writing to saints in Colosse, "Christ our life." "I am," said Christ, "the truth and the life." "Let Christ," says Paul, "dwell in your hearts by faith;" hence, "the truth and the life" dwell in the heart by faith, by an intelligent comprehension and conviction of the truth. A man of such an understanding has life in him in this sense; and in the same sense it is, that "he believing into the Son hath everlasting life" (John iii. 36); for "my words," saith Christ, "are spirit and life" (vi. 63).
20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
"in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," is,
"in the day of thy eating, all the days of thy life and sorrow, returning thou shalt return into the dust of the ground whence thou wast taken."
Thus, "dying," in the meaning of the text, is to be the subject of a sorrowful, painful, and laborious existence, which wears a man out, and brings him down to the brink of the grave; and, by "die," is signified, the end, or last stage, of corporeal existence, which is marked by a ceasing to breathe, and decomposition unto dust.
Thus, man's life from the Womb to the grave is a dying existence; and, so long as he retains his form, as in the case of Jesus in the sepulchre, he is existent in death; for what is termed being, is corporeal existence in life and death.
The end of our being is the end of that process by which we are resolved into dust -- we cease to be. This was Adam's state, if we may so speak, before he was created. He had no being. And at this non-existence he arrived after a lapse of 930 years from his formation; and thus, were practically illustrated the penalty of the law, and the sentence of the Judge.
For from the day of his transgression, he began his pilgrimage to the grave, at which he surely arrived. He made his couch in the dust, and saw corruption; and with its mother earth commingled all that was known as Adam, the federal head, and chief father of mankind.
Elpis Israel 2.11.
Those familiar clear ringing words that man and beast share a common mortality - a short life ending in a return to the dust. What is his point? The same as throughout the book - the utter folly and futility of ALL human ambition and endeavor. At his highest and at his lowest, natural man soon joins the animals in the grave.**
**Bro Growcott - Fear God and keep his commandments
21 Who knoweth [hath da'as] the spirit of man [ruach bnei haAdam] that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast [ruach habeheimah] that goeth downward to the earth [ha'aretz [see 12:7]?
Another basic lesson a man must master if he is to adjust himself to reality and learn the way of life -- man's oneness with the beasts in physical constitution and nature *
Bro Growcott - This is the whole man
Who knoweth [hath da'as] the spirit of man...
We may answer, "none, but God only;
"He knoweth what is in man, and needs not that any should testify of Him" (John 2:25).
But, from this testimony some one might infer that, as man was made only "a little lower than the angels," and yet has "no pre-eminence over a beast," the beast also is but a little lower than the angels. This, however, would be a very erroneous conclusion.
The equality of men and other animals consists in the kind of life they possess in common with each other. Vanity, or mortality, is all that pertains to any kind of living flesh. The whole animal world has been made subject to it; and as it affects all living souls alike, bringing them back to the dust again, no one species can claim pre-eminence over the other; for "one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other."
Man, however, differs from other creatures in having been modelled after a divine type, or pattern. In form and capacity he was made like to the angels, though in nature inferior to them. This appears from the testimony that he was made "in their image, after their likeness," and "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 13:5), or Elohim. I say, he was made in the image of the angels, as the interpretation of the co-operative, "let us make them in our image, after our likeness."
Elpis Israel 1.2.
The taunt that Christadelphians never quote these words, is without a sting. No reasonable person, on whatever side of a question they may be arguing, ever quotes more than bears on the point they are seeking to elucidate.
But the fact is the orthodox professors are so hard pressed that they gladly clutch at the smallest apparent advantage. The passage does not serve them.
If their reading of the passage be right, it proves that every man when he dies goes to heaven, which they themselves deny, and it teaches also that the beasts are not done with when they quit this sublunary state, as they say they are, but have a place "downward" in the earth in which they continue their existence as "spirits"-beast spirits.
The Christadelphian, Aug 1872
22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?