Seasons of Change: Study on Ecclesiastes 3 & 4

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

Eccelesiastes 3:1

In 1906, the world stood on the brink of war. While the world’s nations formed alliances and set the stage for WW1, the Holy Ghost was also on the warpath, baptizing souls and moving like a fire. It was a time of change.

Jennie Wilson, called the Fanny Crosby of the West, said it write when she penned the famous words,

Hold to His hand, God’s unchanging hand.
Hold to His hand, God’s unchanging hand.
Build your hopes on things eternal.
Hold to God’s unchanging hand. 

Jennie Wilson

It is said that the only constant is change. In other words, the fact that things change is the only thing that will never change. In the natural, to a certain extent, this is true.

Life is a great journey that’s filled with millions of moments. In each moment, we take a step toward something different, toward the person that we are becoming. But this journey is divided into larger chunks that Solomon calls seasons.

In Hebrew the word is Zeman and it means “a definite or appointed time.”

This is important because we often fail to realize that our life is divided into specific times for specific purposes in which God wishes to focus on a specific aspect of our natural or spiritual growth.

We often feel that the stage we’re at in life or what we’re doing will be forever. So we cling to things. To people. To our habits.

But if we’re not careful, we can end up limiting God and failing to achieve His purpose. Remember, God is involved in everything that involves you.

Like a score of music, there are specific moments where certain instruments must play certain parts. To continue to play the drums in a time where they are to be silent and a harp is to be quietly playing will only frustrate the listener. So is it in our life. We must recognize when God is changing things and embrace those changes.

Our natural life follows this pattern. Most kids think it takes forever to grow up. But that changes by the time we hit adulthood and our middle years. In young adulthood we think we’ll be strong and healthy forever. In midlife we’re often tempted to look back and wish we could be what we once were.

But again, God has a season and time for all things. We should not look back at what we were. Instead, let us look at what we are becoming. Remember that the road of life has bright spots and areas of shadow. We must pass through all of it successfully to make it to our destination or Heaven.

In Ecclesiastes 3, the Bible shows us that we must recognize the beginning and end of things, but if you’ll look carefully every verse shows us the opposite of what has been done. There is a time to get but also a time to lose. A time to hate and a time to love. Everything is the undoing of the other.

Why?

Often in life we face circumstances where we feel that our current actions are getting us nowhere, that we’re undoing or regretting the very thing that we once desired. But we need to realize that it’s all part of the stages of God. Part of making us more like Himself. As I said this morning, He is pulling us into in the image of Messiah.

Let me share a small testimony to make this a little clearer. As you all know I love to teach and dedicated almost 13 years of my life to my profession. Earlier this year, the Lord clearly showed me it was time to leave the field. I couldn’t understand and went into prayer. The Spirit directed me to the Bible and then began to show me a lesson I’d like to share with you.

I saw, as it were, a man planting vegetables in a garden. In the right season, all was well. There was a good harvest. But that same man planted vegetables–I believe it was pumpkin–in the wintertime. The ground was frozen, hard to break through and there was only a scraggly sprout that managed to spring up and die.

The question came to me: What made the difference? The answer was quite clearly the season.

Then the lesson became clear.

God operates in our lives accomplishing specific tasks at specific times. But when that season is over, He may make us tear down what we have built, not that it was wrong to build it but because now He wants us to move on…to do something different for Him. Remember, everything is for an appointed time (a season).

I hope this is speaking to your heart.

We so often limit God without intending to do so. We are like Martha who expected God to only raise the dead at the end of the world when He was ready to move at the season when she most needed it!

To be successful as a Christian, we must recognize what God wants from us at that time and be ready to accomplish it. But let us always remember that the God who told Philip to leave a revival and leave at a moment’s notice to do His will, is the God who may have a different path for you to follow than the one you’re currently walking.

The Lord Jesus came in the season of Redeemer to save those who were lost. But now the season has changed and He is coming to condemn the world, not save it. He is in sync with the Father’s plan and His mindset is perfectly in harmony with the Father’s will. Can you say the same?

When God changes dynamics in your life, when He chooses to allow trials to linger instead of giving you the quick victories you once had, when He asks you to give and then give some more without showing any indication that He’s about to bless you in return—is your mindset ready to adapt to whatever He has in mind at that particular season in your life?

Just remember that He does all things well and He is accomplishing a purpose. As the scripture goes on to say:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV

The purpose of each season may be hidden from us but it is enough to know that God has a purpose for each season of your life. So don’t get upset when things change in your body, or you’re not able to do what you once could. Give thanks instead for what you still can do while remembering that God has a purpose in allowing one season to finish and another one to begin.

He is God and He is in control.

Toward the end of Ecclesiastes 4, we see that God’s principle of seasons also applies to nations as well as individual lives. For example, Solomon gives a picture that is very similar to what actually happened to his own kingdom in verses 13-16. He writes,

13 Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. 14 For he went from prison to the throne, though in his own kingdom he had been born poor. 15 I saw all the living who move about under the sun, along with that youth who was to stand in the king’s place. 16 There was no end of all the people, all of whom he led. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

Eccl.4:13-16

Now, if you think back for a few moments to what was happening in Israel around this time, you’ll see a powerful life lesson from this chapter.

Jeroboam was a young man who was raised by his widowed mother Zeruah. King Solomon saw his leadership qualities and put him in charge of the labor forces from northern Israel (Ephraim and Manasseh). Jeroboam realized that many in northern Israel were unhappy with the southern rule under Judah because of the heavy taxes they had to pay for Solomon’s ongoing building campaigns and his forced labor requirements.

It’s important to realize that Solomon (an old and foolish king as he refers to himself) had only become disconnected from his people’s realities after he got away from God (see 1 Kings 11:1-13). God warned Solomon that his kingdom would be lost due to his spiritual infidelity—that the season of united Israel’s prosperity was almost over.

The prophet Ahijah told Jeroboam that he would rule over the majority of Israelite tribes (1 Kings 11:29). This came to the ears of Solomon and he tried to kill Jeroboam who fled to Egypt then returned when Solomon was dead. Jeroboam publicly challenged Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and won the northern kingdom (see 1 Kings 12).

As Solomon predicted, Jeroboam’s reign was not a happy one. The two kingdoms broke into civil war and ultimately, Israel’s apostasy led to the Babylonian destruction.

But there is a lesson that I’d like to underscore today, and it is the fact that sometimes our attitude toward God can determine the outcome of a season in our life. Solomon’s reign began with a season of unparalleled prosperity but his loose attitude toward the Word (not taking advice as he says) led to an financial ruin, spiritual apostasy and the destruction of his empire.

In your life, always keep a close eye on your attitude toward the Word. A season of spiritual plenty can turn to a season of famine if God’s commands are ignored, even slightly. Also, if you’re in a spiritual dry season, check your attitude toward the Word. Humbling yourself before God can unlock the floodwaters from on high.

As the nation of Israel’s fate was turned based on one man’s attitude, so can the outcome of a specific season in your life be affected.

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand. 

Jennie B. Wilson, 1906

In all things, hold to God’s unchanging hand and cling to the cross in every season.

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