God’s Timing and Purposes – Ecc. 3:1-8
Pastor Vicky Moots, Kingman, Kansas
Ecc. 3:4b: “…a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” “Mourning” means “to express deep sorrow.” The most common use of the word “mourn” is to grieve the loss of a loved one who has died, but it can also apply to our grief over the loss of anything that is important in our life. A person who has had an amputation of an arm or a leg may mourn the loss of that limb, or a woman who has had a mastectomy may mourn the loss of her breast.
Israel mourned the loss of the Ark of the Covenant when it was taken in battle by the Philistines. When Eli, the high priest, heard the news that the Ark had been taken, he was so grief stricken that he fell over backwards and broke his neck and died.
It was more than 20 years later before the Ark was able to be brought back by King David. The time of mourning was over, and now it was a time to dance, which is exactly what David did, as we read in II Sam. 6:12,14: “…So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness…And David danced before the LORD with all his might.”
In Ex. 12:12, 29,30, we read about a time of great mourning for those who failed to apply the blood of the lamb to the door posts of their house as had been instructed by God: “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment…And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt…and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.” However, for those who obeyed God it was not a time of mourning. The blood of that first Passover lamb was their protection, as we find in v. 13: “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you…”
The death of the lamb not only spared them from death and a time of mourning, but became their ticket to freedom out of the land of Egypt and bondage, because after that plague of death, Pharaoh hastily sent them away. This is confirmed in v. 51: “And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the LORD did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt…”
However, by the time they reached the Red Sea, Pharaoh had changed his mind and pursued after them with all of his army. Now they were again faced with death, for they were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. But God miraculously rolled back the Red Sea so that they could pass through it by faith to the other side on dry ground without drowning.
Paul tells us in I Cor. 10:1-2 that their passing through the sea was a spiritual type of baptism, a picture of death with Christ and resurrection on the other side. They did not go over the sea or around it, but through it. We must go through death with Christ before we can have victory. Death brings mourning, but resurrection brings victory.
When the Egyptians tried to pursue them through the sea they were drowned because they did not do it by faith. It is only by faith that we have victory over death (Heb. 11:29). We read further in Ex. 14:28,30: “And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them…Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore.” God brought victory.
Then came the time for singing and dancing instead of mourning, as we read in Ex. 15:1-21. Verse 1 says, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously…” And in v. 20: “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.”
Perhaps you are currently going through a difficult time of mourning, feeling like you will drown in a sea of tears and heartache because of a loss that you have experienced that seems overwhelming, but by faith, God can bring you through it to the other side and give you victory. David proclaimed victory over his time of mourning in Ps. 30:11 when he said, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.”
Sackcloth was a course, black cloth made from goat’s hair, that was often worn in Bible times together with the burnt ashes of wood, as a sign of mourning. Notice that David did not say, “I” put off my sackcloth, but “thou” put off my sackcloth. God is the one who removed his black, emotional garment of sorrow and clothed him with gladness, the joy of the Lord, for He is the One who heals the broken heart. Only God can change our time of mourning into a time of dancing.
Don’t hang on to your grief and sorrow and mourn for your losses forever. Give them to the Lord, as we are instructed in I Pet. 5:7: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” We do the casting, and He does the caring and the carrying. It’s time to let go of our sackcloth and ashes. The Lord is willing to do for us what He promised to do for Israel in Isa. 61:3, which is a prophecy concerning their restoration, for He wants to restore us also: “…to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…” So, let’s give God our sackcloth, and grab our timbrels, and dance and shout for joy!