To every thing there is a season

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Aside from the title – “Turn, Turn, Turn” – Pete Seeger wrote 6 words.   Solomon wrote the other 173.  Yet , today, it’s probably the Byrds’ cover version that’s more famous than either!

There has never been a chart-topper with older lyrics than this song.  Yet, of all Scripture, why have these words from Ecclesiastes 3 endured so well and found such universal appeal?

“1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which 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 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 to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Well just listen and you will hear the wistful melancholy which was surely inspiring Solomon 3 millennia ago…

Here is a song to sigh for!  There is a sorrowful beauty – a kind of tragic loveliness to life under the sun.  It presents itself as a protest song.  The six added words from Seeger are these:

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

But this is anything but a protest song.  Both Solomon and Seeger have given up any protest against the natural order.  This is a blanket acceptance of all the turning seasons of life.  Instead of railing against death, the song essentially asks us to give up and simply smell the flowers.  We will discover that indeed they flourisheth – even if only for a time.

Solomon resigns himself to the circle of life (which is ultimately a circle of death) but at least he realises that God “hath made every thing beautiful in his time.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:12)

And so why wouldn’t the world sing along with Solomon?  Here is the ultimate philosophy for those bound within the turning seasons.  Embrace it all – love and hate, peace and war, birth and death.  Acknowledge its inevitability.  Enjoy what you can.  Accept it as your lot.  And sing.

But there are other songs to sing.  Isaiah envisages a world transformed by the Messiah.  (Read Isaiah 35 here).  Isaiah’s is the true protest song.  He protests even against the final enemy, death.  He dares to hope that, through the victory of the Messiah, the natural order itself will be overturned and the captives set free.  Through Christ, the Messiah, the wilderness blossoms. The blind see. The deaf hear. The lame leap. The whole natural world is turned right-side-up.

When we merely exist for life “under the sun” we may sing beautiful laments.  But only fleetingly.  Here, though, is the song of one with eyes fixed on the Messiah:

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:10)

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