Pickup or Scatter

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…Ecclesiastes 3:5a.


I’ve spent the last couple of days chewing on this and I can get no further than I was when I began.  The logic here might be deeper than I’m grasping but it seems such a straight forward statement that the surface truth doesn’t need much explanation.

Still, what does stand out for me is the fact that we gather stones to build walls for houses, forts, cities and pens.  We scatter them when we want to get rid of those things or hinder someone’s progress.

In everything there is a season for these actions.

So we scatter stones for different reasons, gather them for a myriad of uses.  Solomon is presenting the contrast not for the sake of being snarky or informing everybody about a deep topic but to remind us that there is a time for the commonplace.  If there’s a time to gather as well as scatter stones, then it stands to reason those who neglect such a possibility about something so basic miss part of their purpose in life.

Have you ever hung out with someone who only lives for their “higher” purpose, whatever they think that is?  They neglect mundane living to concentrate on these “higher” things for the goal of being like their god or some such thing.  Solomon pulls his readers back to earth and redirects their attention to the sink of life where the dishes need to be washed and the floor swept (which reminds me, I have some that need washing right now).

There is a time to get the rocks out of the walkway, roadway or whatever “way” they are blocking.  There is a time to get the rock out of my shoe, off the hardwood floors—out of the food.  These places are not meant for the rocks or stones because they hinder progress in travel or eating.  It’s not like the stones are bad in this illustration just not appropriate for the time.  Yet when we build a house, a road, a fence, a well, or a host of other things that require strength and structure, stones are the materials to use.

On another rabbit trail, alters in the OT were made of piled stones, not cut or shaped like we see in popular paintings.  It’s odd (to us), of course, that God forbid the Hebrews to use shaped stone when they built an alter but that is exactly what He did.  There’s something prosaic in the nature of shaped stone that speaks of honoring the human builder (who’s probably trying to impress God with His beautiful artwork) instead of the God who made them in their haphazard shapes and sizes.  Cut stones are usually uniformly shaped and fit together without spaces; whereas those scattered on the ground are rough edged, full of sharp protrusions and without our earthbound sense of “perfection”.  God preferred this shape to the delicate rendering of mankind.  There’s a message in that for us.  It could also be that since the Hebrews were instrumental as slaves in Egypt building the pyramids and other grand architecture that God wanted to disconnect their understanding of holiness with the heathen practices of their oppressors.

Where we mess up on this important dimension, though, is the uniformity issue.  The chance to look alike or similar becomes almost irresistible to some people—no, most people.  We can’t seem to get it into our heads through what has been made that God actually desired variety rather than uniformity.  It’s not like similarity falls outside His design, because species of animals or plants all conform to a basic look all the while maintaining an uncanny individuality.  This should educate us to diversity within uniformity, but it doesn’t!  I mean, even twins, who look so, so, so much alike can be known and recognized for their individuality once the characteristics of each is clear.

So God preferred uncut stone for the alters humans would build for Him—whether out of some profound lesson for our tendency towards bargaining with Him or convenience for the poverty stricken among them—or both, I don’t know.

What is important to know, is that the commonplace holds a priority in everyone’s life.


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One Response to “Pickup or Scatter”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Hmmm a time to tear down altars and a time to build them? A time to scatter stones rather than throw them?

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