Thanks for joining us. Today we study a Bible passage encompassed in the lyrics of a 1960’s classic rock song. Could it be, “Ebony and Ivory living together in perfect harmony side by side on my piano keyword, oh Lord, why don’t we?” No, because that 1982 song is not the Word of God, but a nice sentiment nonetheless.
The correct answer is The Byrds’ 1965’s hit, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” based on Old Testament verses from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. So here is some ancient 1965 pop culture: The Byrds performing their big hit on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Ah, a throwback to a world filled with peace and love. Err, not exactly, because “Turn! Turn! Turn!” morphed into a Vietnam War protest song and three decades later, was the soundtrack for the 1960’s Washington, D.C. anti-war demonstration scene in the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump.”
(If you want more “Forrest Gump” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” check out the entire song with movie footage. Amazingly, I attended the filming of the Lincoln Memorial scene because my friend was an associate producer. And, when Tom Hanks addressed the crowd, I stood next to director Bob Zemeckis as he watched the action. Thanks to you, C.N.)
Now, back to our “show business” Bible study where the Lord shows you His business.
The “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Ecclesiastes’ passage conveys a passive acceptance of the cycle of life lived according to God’s purpose. But, before we read the passage, here is an NIV Study Bible footnote that beautifully explains why these verses resonate in our heart, mind, and soul:
“The Teacher shows that we are subject to times and changes over which we have little or no control, and contrasts this state with God’s eternity and sovereignty. God’s sovereignty predetermines all of life’s activities.”
That footnote of truth reminds me of my favorite question: “How do you make God laugh?” Answer: “Tell Him your plans.” So, with all that wisdom swirling around, time to read from Ecclesiastes:
“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
Furthermore, let’s acknowledge the song’s final embellishing words, “And a time of peace, I swear it’s not too late.” Although the song ends at verse 3:8, the passage continues until verse 3:22. Also significant are the three verses that follow verse 8:
“What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3: 9-11).
Bible scholars believe it was an elder King Solomon who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes and, at the time, reportedly the smartest man in the world. (Nevertheless, the king engaged in some foolish behavior and disobeyed God.) Today we delight in Solomon’s wisdom as he reflected upon the world, humanity, and lifespan between birth and death.
Of utmost importance to Solomon were faith in God and his belief that He had ordered the life of humankind according to His purpose. Therefore, we need to listen when the “smartest man” tells us that we would find meaning in life when we cheerfully accept the hand of God, who guides our life.
That concept is also at the heart of Judeo-Christian thought and, later, famously summarized by Paul in Romans. (Also supposedly, the smartest man in the world during his time) who wrote:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Now, more wisdom from King Solomon — a philosophical gem worth pondering:
“I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14). And, in some translations, “that people will stand in awe of Him. ”
Circling back to The Byrds’ lyrics, one must give credit where credit is due. In the late 1950s, folk singer Pete Seeger initially adapted Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 but added “turn, turn, turn” between the verses. And after “a time of peace,” he included, “I swear it’s not too late.” Here is a recording of Seeger.
Then in December 1965, The Byrd’s turned Seeger’s song into a number one hit, and eventually, an iconic early rock classic. Today, given the state of the world, the song is just as meaningful and relevant. And, due to a decline in Bible literacy, chances are some readers are unaware that the song’s lyrics originated from the Old Testament.
If you are curious about what prompted me to write this Bible study, here is the answer: My husband and I heard the Byrds’ song on the Sirius XM Classic Rock channel — where memories are sparked because we know the words to every song. Upon listening to Turn! Turn! Turn! I immediately felt a strong calling to remind readers about its Bible-based lyrics.
Today, everyone can be uplifted by this magnificent song that touches hearts and comforts those enduring challenging times. The lyrics reinforce how He is with you, and there is “a purpose under Heaven.” And to that, I say, Amen! Amen! Amen!
Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. Myra is also Executive Director of SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to Shroud of Turin education. SignFromGod was a proud sponsor of the Museum of the Bible’s two opening events for its high-tech exhibition about the Shroud of Turin, open through July 31. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.
Cross-posted at Townhall and Substack.