Pretty much everyone who’s a student of real history and has enough life experiences would nod their heads with this assessment: To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what 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;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear,
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.
It’s a beautifully rhythmic and memorable piece of writing and an oft-used philosophi-cal statement on life. Given the current (as I write this) Russia- Ukraine war with the speculated potentially dire global conse-quences, this is no- doubt “A time of war.” Yes, Ecclesiastes presents war as a reality, but you miss the point if you isolate those first eight verses of chapter 3 from not only the rest of that chapter, but from the whole book and the seamless gospel of which it is a part.
The point that God, the author is mak-ing, via the preacher Solomon, is that all those “times”, including “a time for war” are of the work of God that He does from be-ginning to end (vs 11b), and as Charles Bridges comments: “The full beauty of the work ‘from the beginning to end’ is only known to the Great Director , who sees the end from the beginning. We can neither unravel the thread of his counsels, nor grasp the infinite precision of his works.”
Life in history, between the eternities, “under the sun,” consists of the repeated “times” or seasons of life. But those sea-sons are not under our control but are God’s works that He does from beginning to end. Apart from lifting our eyes to God and standing in awe of Him because of His works (3:14), all our pursuits and pleasures to which we devote our lives slip through our fingers without lasting satisfaction.
Only as we grasp that all of our lives come and go like a vapor and yet all the “times” are part of the all-good works of God, can we live through all the “seasons” of this present life in the joyous hope of all things having been set right and dwelling in the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:13). Because all the “times” of history are part of the fabric of God’s unsearchable counsels, and the “end” of His works is the day of judgment (vs.17) of both the “righteous and the wicked” with unerring righteousness.
And what is war but the fruit of lust ( James 4:2) and lust is an evil desire, wicked. When all the “times” are fulfilled in ac-cordance with God’s eternal counsel (see Eph. 1:10-12), then, and only then, will all who heeded the call to believe in God and Him whom He sent, Christ Jesus, realize their joyous hope of the promised land wherein righteousness dwells. There, life will no longer be a vapor but everlasting in such blessedness as we cannot yet comprehend.
As long a humankind lives “under the sun” there will be a divi-sion: Christians who live by faith in the God of Scripture in all “times”, and everyone else. We Christians know as truth that in every one of the “times,” all things are working together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). That’s true in times of war when it’s especially imperative for Christians to hold fast our confident hope with unshaking grasp.
If we are not abiding in God’s Word, if our minds are not remain-ing focused on His covenant promises, we too might conform to this ungodly age’s response of fear or resignation or even to their lustful pursuits of the opportunities of this “time of war” for self-gratification. Don’t we see, as we are in a time of war, wicked grabs for power, authority, control, and ill-gotten wealth. In this “time,” do we not see, among unbelievers, the pride and arrogance that refuses to be in awe of God for His works (Eccl. 3:14) but set themselves up as gods (of course, even in “times of peace” lustful behavior is evident under the sun)
But as we are, by God’s grace, Christians, and show ourselves His disciples by abiding in His Word, we are set free by the truth ( Jn 8:31); free from the condemning judgment coming upon the wicked when the works of God come to their appointed end; free to serve righteousness, free to serve Christ, free from being enslaved to wicked lusts, and being equipped to do the works of ministering the gospel (Eph 4:12).
The time of war, or in any of the “times,” as we are enabled to be doing God’s calling, is not a time to withdraw from doing. The works of God in time of war also serve His purposes to gather a church that will be full only because of and when His works in history have ended. Christ Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations remains in effect until the end of this age. War, as history bears out, brings not only fear, but sufferings and hardship across all the aspects of lives even far removed from the actual conflict. Families may be torn apart, household economies hurt, and persecution intensified.
War often reveals political leanings and commitments and exposes worldviews. War is an opportunity for the gospel because those who are not Christ’s disciples have no hope amid war’s disruption and destruction. They desperately need the gospel to find the only comfort in life and in death, and to have the joyful hope in all the “times” of life, even in the midst of war.
May we who are Christ’s disciples not be fearful in this time of war, no matter how disruptive and destructive and extensive it may yet become, even as we pray for its victims and for peace.
In time of war, it is perhaps one of the most needful of times to ask God to lift up our eyes from how it seems to our sight; to ask God to lift up our eyes to see by faith the promised victory of Christ Jesus.
As King Jehoshaphat prayed before the Lord when Judah was in a time of war: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the Kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” And he ended that prayer as should we: “Our eyes are upon You” (2 Chron.20)
May our eyes be upon God and in awe of Him for His works which are for the sake of His glory in Christ’s Church.
May we witness our awe of God for His works even in time of war. May we who are Christ’s witness our comfort of being at peace with God as eternal citizens of Christ’s everlasting King-dom, the only safe haven from war under the sun.
Rev. George Horner