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Ecclesiastes 03

Ecc 3:1 . . A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.

This next section smacks of fatalism and predestination, but actually it only speaks of events that are quite normal and commonplace under the sun.

Ecc 3:2a . . A time for being born and a time for dying,

Those two events are open ended and their precise moments aren't chipped in stone. Every person experiences a birth, and each will experience a death too. Birth and death are like appointments. As soon as a women senses that she has conceived, she knows it's only a matter of time before she gives birth to a child so she has to begin planning for its arrival. Same with death. We all know we're going to die some day; it's just a matter of time.

But the problem with death is its stealth. We're young only till somewhere in our mid thirties and then to our horror begin to gradually wither. One of the biggest surprises of Billy Graham's life was age. He always believed he would die some day, but Billy wasn't prepared to get old first. His is not an unusual case. Most of us readily anticipate death; but seldom anticipate losing form and function.

Ecc 3:2b . . a time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted;

Farmers are constantly cultivating, planting, harvesting and then tilling what's left after the harvest to prepare for the next crop.

Ecc 3:3a . . a time for slaying and a time for healing,

A rabid dog has to be put down. But when your pet is hit by a car, you take it to the vet.

Ecc 3:3b . . a time for tearing down and a time for building up;

My dad worked many hours with his bare hands building us a home when I was a kid. He sold it when I was 11 years old. Twenty-three years later, all of dad's hard work was torn down and hauled off to make way for an RV storage lot; and the property denuded of trees and scraped bare by bulldozers. It's like we were never even there.

Ecc 3:4a . . a time for weeping and a time for laughing,

Sometimes people laugh and weep all at the same time; like at a wedding.

Ecc 3:4b . . a time for wailing and a time for dancing;

In a war, the victors celebrate and the vanquished mourn— like in professional sports. The cameras always show the winners elated, jumping up and down, clapping themselves on the back, emoting for the press, and pouring ice water on the coach; but over on the other side, the losers are all glum and silent and dragging themselves back to the locker room.

Ecc 3:5a . . a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,

It would be nice if the Palestinians would follow that and pick up after themselves when they're done pelting Israeli soldiers.

Ecc 3:5b . . a time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces;

Sometimes lovers and friends need to make up and settle their differences before they hug.

Ecc 3:6a . . a time for seeking and a time for losing,

In other words: A time to search and a time to give it up for lost.

Ecc 3:6b . . a time for keeping and a time for discarding;

Today's in-vogue couture is tomorrow's Good Will donation.

Ecc 3:7a . . a time for ripping and a time for sewing,

When doctors need access to an injured patient's body, they often cut clothing off with scissors rather than fussing with buttons and zippers. The very same clothing can be repaired later by needle and thread.

Ecc 3:7b . . a time for silence and a time for speaking;

They say silence in golden, but sometimes it's yellow; know what I mean?

Ecc 3:8a . . a time for loving and a time for hating;

A time for love might be when your friends come over for dinner— through the front door. However, if they sneak in the back way while you're out, and steal your 50" plasma TV so they can sell it for meth; that might be reason enough to dump your friends for new ones.

Ecc 3:8b . . a time for war and a time for peace.

Peace is much to be preferred to war. But sometimes war is necessary to procure and to preserve peace. We live in a big bad world where there are people more than happy to oppress you, abuse your human rights, control your movements, restrict your speech, clamp down on dissent, take away your wealth and possessions, destroy your home, separate you from your family, and put you to work in a gulag where you'll be underpaid, malnourished, constantly hungry, politically indoctrinated, and poorly clothed for the rest of your life.

Ecc 3:9 . .What value, then, can the man of affairs get from what he earns?

In other words: What does the worker gain from his toil? Well . . one thing he does not gain is control over the "times" listed in the previous eight verses because many circumstances in life are unpredictable and out of our hands no matter how much money a person might be prepared to spend.

Ecc 3:10 . . I have observed the business that God gave man to be concerned with:

The "business" of course just being the daily round of life beneath the sun.

Ecc 3:11 . . He brings everything to pass precisely at its time; He also puts eternity in their mind, but without man ever guessing, from first to last, all the things that God brings to pass.

Man is fraught with anxieties; and some of those anxieties are aggravated by uncertainty about the future. Within no sphere is that more evident among Americans than in their thoughts about retirement. Oftentimes people are so concerned about their futures that they fail to enjoy the present; so life slips past them until one day they realize they should have lived life when they had the chance instead of waiting till they retired.

Ecc 3:12-13 . .Thus I realized that the only worthwhile thing there is for them is to enjoy themselves and do what is good in their lifetime; also, that whenever a man does eat and drink and get enjoyment out of all his wealth, it is a gift of God.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with preparing for the future, but surely not to the expense of missing out on life in the present. It's far better to enjoy life as you live it, and thank whatever god it is that you recognize for the pleasures you have at hand right now, not for the ones that may or may not come your way later. I've actually known men in my line of work who stayed on the job as long as age allowed just to get that very last penny of retirement benefit only to die within two years after leaving.

Ecc 3:14a . . I realized, too, that whatever God has brought to pass will recur evermore: nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it—

That frustrates and irritates some people because they would like to make some changes in the universe and change the world to suit their feelings. But the gods aren't budging. They're the ones in control. Man is not the one controlling the scheme of things. Man is a prisoner of the gods' sovereign control and there is not one single thing he can do about it.

Ecc 3:14b . . and God has brought to pass that men revere Him.

Unfortunately Man hates God for being the one in control. They neither fear Him, nor respect Him, nor yield to His sovereign authority. On the contrary, they very much resent God, and want Him deposed.

Ecc 3:15 . .Whatever exists today and whatever will exist in the future has already existed in the past. For God calls each event back in its turn.

What's that saying? History repeats itself? Who would have thought that people 3,000 years ago shared today's evaluation of world events? Modern man's thinking isn't really so modern after all; is it?

Ecc 3:16 . . And, indeed, I have observed under the sun: Alongside justice there is wickedness, alongside righteousness there is wickedness.

Back in the early days of movie-making, good and evil were well defined. The bad guys were totally bad and the good guys were totally good. Today, the difference between the good guys and the bad guys is blurred. The people we consider to be on the side of right, are often very immoral. They're dishonest, they sleep around, they steal, they break into people's homes, they don't respect private property, they bicker and quarrel, and they are exceedingly insubordinate with their superiors. The difference between the good and the bad is no longer black and white; but relative. The bad guys are badder than the good ones, but the good guys themselves are bad too.

The current on-going pedophilia scandal in the Catholic community is a glaring example of wickedness in the same place as righteousness. With alarming regularity we see more and more criminal cops in the news— cops who should be upholding the law, not breaking it— and should be protecting people, not intimidating them, breaking their arms, electrocuting them with stun guns, shining blinding lights in their faces, and shooting them full of bullet holes. To every bad cop I would like to say: Wearing that badge doesn't make you right; it just makes you a bully with a gun and a canister of pepper spray.

Imagine the chagrin of a San Diego municipal judge back in the 1980's when one day, to his utter shock and dismay, a hooker he frequented appeared in court as a witness to testify in a case he was hearing. Upon taking the stand, the hooker greeted the guardian of jurisprudence and expressed amazement that one of her Johns was on the bench.

Ecc 3:17-18 . . I mused: God will doom both righteous and wicked, for there is a time for every experience and for every happening. So I decided, as regards men, to dissociate them [from] the divine beings and to face the fact that they are beasts.

When you get right down to it: when you strip away people's accouterments; what's left is really little more than human wildlife. In point of fact, to call a human being a beast is an insult to the animal kingdom because people are capable of doing things that are lower than an animal. I've yet to hear of an animal getting drunk and beating his wife; nor have I yet to hear of an animal betting the family's entire week's food budget on one pony at Belmont; nor have I yet to hear of an animal rolling a car into a lake with their kids inside in order to keep a boyfriend.

Ecc 3:19-20 . . For in respect of the fate of man and the fate of beast, they have one and the same fate: as the one dies so dies the other, and both have the same life-breath; man has no superiority over beast, since both amount to nothing. Both go to the same place; both came from dust and both return to dust.

Some people are inclined to think it is arrogant of Man to suppose he's the only form of intelligent life in the universe. But what is Man anyway but an unsanitary primate with a 3-pound lump of flabby organic tissue sufficing for a mind? We should want more of his ilk in the universe? I don't think so. Man is hardly more intelligent than an orangutan; and ten times more immoral. And besides; he's made of clay. And you know what happens when clay is all wet? It gets stuck on itself. But death is the great equalizer.

Beasts die and people die too; so people really have no advantage over a cow in that respect. True: a cow won't die rich, but then the rich take nothing out with them when they die; same as the cow: so who's really better off in the ground? the bovine or the rich man? Neither: they're equals in that respect.

Ecc 3:21 . .Who knows if a man's life-breath does rise upward and if a beast's breath does sink down into the earth?

Solomon has a point. Who today has a red-phone line connected to the afterlife? Nobody. People pride themselves on their faith in holy books like the Bible and the Koran; but really don't know for certain whether or not all of the writings in either book are actually true; do they?

Solomon never met anyone who came back from the dead with a tale to tell about the afterlife. How about you? Who have you known personally who died, was buried, and then later came back?

As brilliant and as intellectual as Solomon was, he was just as much in the dark about life after death as everybody else. Can you prove beyond a shadow of all sensible doubt that there exists another life for human beings after death? No, you can't; and you won't know for sure until the day comes when you actually make the trip yourself.

Ecc 3:22 . . I saw that there is nothing better for man than to enjoy his possessions, since that is his portion. For who can enable him to see what will happen afterward?

Is that really such bad advice seeing as no one really knows for sure what happens after we die? What if all those super pious ascetics practicing a life of strict self denial discover later after death that it was all for nothing? Wouldn't that be tragic? It is stupid to suffer self denial when no one really knows for rock-solid sure whether or not it counts for anything.

NOTE: Seeing as how Ecclesiastes is one man's world view, rather than a specific religious dogma, then it's no surprise when we encounter things in here from the point of view of common sense quite often.

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