Take time to introduce yourselves to one another (over drinks or snacks if possible). Then ask group members to answer this question:
Over the course of the coming term, we’re exploring the ancient book of Ecclesiastes. Though Ecclesiastes comes from a very different culture and time to ours, it touches on some of the most profound issues of humanity.
Ask for volunteers to read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 to the group, praying a short prayer that, however much they’ve come to know God, they’d know him better as a result of your time together.
You can download this video to watch offline.
Suggested questions to help your discussion.
Having described what it’s like to be as a human in a world of constant change, the Teacher now turns his eyes to God.
Unlike animals, who live only for the moment, humans are able to reflect on the past and contemplate the future. This is a great blessing – and part of the ‘homing device’ within our hearts for God. Yet the Teacher emphasises here the frustration of it too: we can never comprehend the whole story in which we have a part.
As Derek Kidner puts it, we’re like a short-sighted person, “inching their way along some great tapestry or fresco… We see enough to recognise something of its quality, but the grand design escapes us, for we can never stand back far enough to view it as our Creator does, whole and entire, from the beginning to the end.”
The Creator has made everything ‘beautiful’ in its time – probably in the sense of ‘beautifully fitting’ rather than beautiful in themselves. There is an elegance in seasons succeeding seasons. We can’t yet see this, but (one day) we will.
Verse 14 is the most important verse of this section. The times that God has set are permanent and unchangeable. No human being can hope to alter the course of things by sheer effort.
Indeed, says the Teacher, God’s purpose in setting the times is to make us aware of our helplessness. God’s times make us aware of our total dependence on him – and should make us stand in awe of God. After all, God is wholly other from us, his creatures. God is infinite; we are finite. He will call the past to account; we have no ability to do so. He controls the times; we are subject to them.
Yet he is also the one who know the number of hairs on our head, and cares for us (Matthew 10:29-31). And as he generosity provides good things for us (verse 13), we can let our hearts be spurred in worship and thanks.
In the movie About Time, time traveller Tim Lake comes to this conclusion (you can watch it here):
We’re all travelling through time, together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable life.
Ask someone to pray in the light of your discussions for the group.
Read Colossians 4:5-6. Verse 5b can be translated “make the most of the time” – a possible allusion to Ecclesiastes 3. God wants us to make the most of our present season.
Pray in groups along these lines. Pray for any other specific prayer requests that group members have.
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