by William J. Stewart
Our study through Solomon’s “…a time to…” statements continues.
A Time To Kill, And A Time To Heal
As we consider the first clause of this statement, it is noteworthy that the word “kill” here (Heb. harag) is not the same Hebrew word used in Exodus 20:13 (Heb. rasach), where God commanded, “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV). Solomon is not advocating murder. Murder is never condoned in the Bible. Though harag is sometimes used to refer to murderous action (ie. Genesis 4:8), it is often used to refer to deaths resulting from wars (Numbers 31:7-8) or capital punishment (Deuteronomy 13:6-11). It is likely that in this text, Solomon has in mind these times of war.
One of the clear contrasts between the reign of Solomon and that of his father David is the amount of blood shed respectively. The sweet psalmist of Israel met battle after battle (1 Kings 5:3; Psalm 144:1), while his wise son dwelt in times of peace (1 Chronicles 22:9; 1 Kings 5:12). While David reigned in Israel, it was “a time to kill.” It was through David that God’s people attained victory after victory over their enemies. From the days of his youth, beginning with Goliath, the Philistine, David was a man of war.
In the latter portion of Solomon’s saying, we find the Hebrew word raphah, primarily translated as “heal” in the Scriptures, but also rendered physician, cure and repaired. Following war, there is a need for healing or rebuilding. Solomon’s rule brought this needed mending season to God’s elect. His generation received the fruit of the former generation’s labours.
A Time To Break Down, And A Time To Build
Again, Solomon gives an expressing which doubtless has to do with the rise and fall of nations. Of course before an nation is broken down, it must first rise to the top. There are several Bible examples of nations which, though built powerful and great, would eventually fall down.
Jericho was a secure city, fortified against attack by its huge walls. It no doubt was among the most formidable cities of Canaan. When the city was shut up (Joshua 6:1), perhaps her inhabitants were at ease, for who could scale their great walls and overthrow their city? Having watched the daily walks of silence which Israel took around her, the people may have been emboldened, perceiving Israel’s silence and inaction as frustration and despair. But on the seventh day, as Israel faithfully did according to the commandment of God, “…the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20).
Babylon was a marvelous city, securely protected by her walls. To draw a picture for our minds, consider a city comparable to Toronto in size, surrounded by a twenty story wall! Watches were set along the wall, no further than 200 feet apart. It is no wonder that king Nebuchadnezzar was profusely proud (Daniel 4:10-12). But as great as her walls were, they could not save Babylon. The handwriting was on the walls (literally); she was to fall to the Medes (Daniel 5:24-31). History records that the Medes entered the city wall through a waterway, killed the king, and possessed the city. Uninterested in maintaining the great city, the Medes allowed Babylon’s walls to fall and come to ruin.
Two times in the history of Jerusalem, the city which God chose among the Jews, it was broken down. It was an esteemed city, belonging to a proud people—the people of God. Surely nothing could overthrow the place in which God dwelt with His people. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar and his army “besieged,” “penetrated,” “burned,” and “broke down the walls of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 39:1, 2, 8).
The city would remain thus for over half a century, until Nehemiah returned with the favour of king Artaxerxes. It was not “a time to build!” In a matter of fifty-two days, through the diligence of many workers, the reconstruction was complete (Nehemiah 6:15). Of this wonderful rebuilding, Nehemiah commented, “…it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God” (6:16).
Jesus, speaking about the great city, Jerusalem, said, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embarkment around you, surround you and close you in on ever side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44). Again, on account of the sinfulness of Israel, Jerusalem would be broken down, this being fulfilled in 70 A.D..
Friend, as we close our study today, we need to look closer to home than the war time of David and peace of Solomon. We need to see more in the breaking down and building up than city walls rising and falling. These events happen on not only a national scale, but on a personal level – in my life and your’s.
Paul wrote, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). Our sin brings with it death (Romans 6:23; 7:8-11). For every responsible person, there will come a time when sin will deceive and kill us. For all mankind, there is a time to be killed, if you will. But God be praised, there is also a time of healing. Having despaired over his sin and the futility of trying to walk upright apart from the gospel of Christ, the apostle concluded, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Though we have tasted death through our sin, God has supplied the great physician, Jesus Christ (Mark 2:17).
Likewise, there is a time to break down and a time to build for you and I. In Colossians 3, the apostle Paul speaks about putting off a variety of actions and attitudes which are part and parcel of living according to the flesh. We need to break down the walls of sin which have ensnared us. We need to level the fortresses of self-sufficiency, arrogance and ignorance. And then build on the foundation which God Himself has supplied, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). In so doing, we will put on the things which are befitting of a child of God, we will have built our lives upon the Lord, and in Him, we shall stand.