new life fellowship

serving jesus christ the king

September’s Verse

Which number 1 hit has the oldest lyrics?

It’s The Byrd’s version of Pete Seeger’s
"Turn! Turn! Turn!”—which takes its lyrics from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (3:1-9), written by King Solomon 3000 years ago.

Seeger wrote it as a folk song, The Byrd’s made it rock, and it has been covered by a variety of artists including Bruce Springsteen, and Belle and Sebastian; appearing too in the film
Forrest Gump.

Perhaps you remember how the song opens:

To everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

There is much misunderstanding about these verses, with their repeated refrain “a time to…” often interpreted that there is a time and place for everything, that life balances out. This view is a little too sentimental and idealistic, paying scant attention to the context and lyrics.

The context is a contrast between the relentless, heartbeat-like pounding of the phrase
“a time… a time… a time” and “But God has set eternity in the hearts of men” (3:12). Solomon is saying that our lives are bound by time, yet there is that inner awareness that we were made for much more than time. So the lyrics aren’t a piece of joyous optimism—there have been hard times, but good times are around the corner—instead they are a melancholy reflection on the brevity of life.

But Solomon doesn’t stop where Seeger and others stop quoting him, he goes on to hold out hope. And that is what this month’s verse is all about:

“I know that everything God does will endure forever” (3:14)

If God has set eternity in our hearts, and all he does lasts forever then there is hope for us. But we need to recalibrate our lives and get our focus off the things that are bound by the limits of time—job, wealth, health, status, etc—and get our priority set on the things that last forever. That means the things that God is doing—he is in the business of building a kingdom where one half of the lyrics—sadness, war, hatred—will be banished forever, and the other half will be seen in glorious technicolour, without the threat of time running out.

Do you feel that creeping sadness that comes when you realise that all you have done in life is passing away—then set your hearts on what God is doing, for there you will invest in something that lasts forever.