In October of 1965, Peter Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” was recorded and released by the American folk-rock group, The Byrds. Less than two months later, the song rose to the Billboard Top 100 charts. If you’re not familiar, the song’s lyrics—except for the title refrain and the final line—are taken from the King James Version of Ecclesiastes 3:1–8. Since most associate the book of Ecclesiastes with King Solomon, who lived in the 10th century BC, The Byrds’ hit probably holds the distinction of being the number one song with the oldest lyrics.
Seeger turned the Teacher’s poem into a plea for world peace. After quoting the second half of verse 8, “a time of war, and a time of peace,” he added, “I swear it’s not too late!” It’s not too late for peace; that line resonated with record-buying youth just as the Vietnam War was escalating. I think those young music lovers could see in the Bible’s poetry that there’s something beautiful about the turning of time. Clearly, they also wanted the war to end; they longed for a better time.
“To every thing there is a season and a time
for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, KJV).
When the Teacher wrote these words, his goal was different from Peter Seeger’s. He wasn’t an ancient folk singer encouraging us to give peace a chance. But he did understand what it feels like to long for better times. The writer of Ecclesiastes saw that everything—birth and death, planting and uprooting, mourning and dancing—is beautifully appropriate in its season (v.11a). In God’s sovereignty over His creation, every one of these activities has its proper time. On the other hand, the Teacher knew that God has set eternity in the human heart (v.11b). God knows that we all long for more because He created us to long for Him.
Everyone is hoping and dreaming about something bigger and better than what we see in our time. We want to see the big picture, the big story in which we live as players. We’re wondering, What’s the grand purpose behind it all? But we are limited. From a merely human point of view, the only answer is that it’s all meaningless, “a pursuit of the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
That’s why we must, in our broken times, fear the Lord. We must lift our eyes away from our broken circumstances and fix them upon Jesus. In this world, we will have trouble, but we can be of good cheer because our Savior has overcome the world; ultimate peace is found in Him (John 16:33). In Christ, God has prepared for us things that no eye has seen nor ear has heard (1 Corinthians 2:9–10). Though the story He’s writing is bigger than we can comprehend, we can grasp it by faith when we cling to the one who sees the end from the beginning, the one who holds time in His hands.
Written by Jared Kennedy