Nothing New Under the Sun (2)

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Nothing New Under the Sun (2)

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ecclesiastes 1:4-11




                 Tonight, we continue our study of Ecclesiastes.   This a letter where Solomon, endued with wisdom from God, sought to answer the question, “Why are we here?”.   This is a book of profound wisdom that helps us understand this question and others, such as “Where are we headed?”

In our last lesson, we began a study of the text and noted how Solomon began by saying, “All is vanity” –vapor or breath, of fleeting substance. He could look at the world – the cycle of nature and the nature of man and see this.     The first thing he observed (vs. 4-7) is how the world continues in its very consistent way. He gave 4 examples from nature – the earth abides forever (it is stable and predictable in its laws), the sun rises and sets (“like clockwork” – in fact, we set our clocks by the consistency of this), the wind goes in a circuit, the waters run into the sea and return (via evaporation, etc.).  When we addressed this, we noted how we can depend on its boring repetition to live life and do what we do.

Next, he addressed some things about mankind that show vanity if all there is, is this life. That is what we want to address in this lesson.

  1.   The exasperation of man (8) – All things are full of labor
    1. Full of labor – wearisome.   For us to survive in this world, we have to work at it.   NOT just all of us as a whole, but EACH of us individually.   Every day, there are things we have to do.   Life is more about routine than spectacular.   We have to prepare our food, clean ourselves and our environment, take care of the yard, maintain the house, etc.
      We have to go to work – and spend most of our lives working, for many just to survive. WE come home for a few hours and usually get into a routine.   Then we go to sleep for ¼ to 1/3 of the day.   Retirement, as I understand it, is a fairly recent thing.
      For most, life is about doing what you need to do to live.   And hopefully doing it with a little dignity.
    2. Man cannot express it. Communication!   We are incapable of putting into words how futile things are, at times. Have you ever experienced a time where you cannot describe it?
      Furthermore, there is so much about this world and ourselves that we just do not understand. We are learning more, but we are also learning there is so much more we do NOT know.
      This is true spiritually as well – consider Romans 11:33 – the depth of the riche of the wisdom and knowledge of God.   How unsearchable are His ways and judgments.
      Psalm 145:3 – Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.
      This can be exasperating who desires to know.
    3. They eye is not satisfied…the ear not filled – a description of it never being enough.
      Consider our need for contentment – 1 Timothy 6:6, Philippians 4:11 – we must learn to be content regardless of what state we are in.   But are we?
      This is not just about not being content (though that may be involved), it’s an observation. Even when we see something beautiful, we want to see it again or more of the same.
      When we hear something beautiful, we want to hear it again. Or it may simply be the fact that we always want or even NEED to hear more – to keep learning.
      How many would love to have heard everything they needed to hear concerning God’s word. Revelation says 7 times, “He who has an ear, let him hear.” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, etc.)
      Even Jesus said it – Matthew 11:13.   Spiritually there is always more to learn and if we are not careful, we can become frustrated that we don’t know enough.   BUT, we know we will never hear everything we need as long as we live. We keep learning (2 Peter 3:18).
      This statement is just another way to describe the ongoing cycle of life. Only this deals with each of us as individuals.
    4. Are you in a rut in this life? Sometimes, because of the mundane nature of life – doing what needs to be done day in and day out, going to work and doing the same thing over and over, etc. Continually tired, bills returning month after month, etc. Do we find ourselves in a rut that begins to drag us down.
      HOW ABOUT SPIRITUALLY? Do we find the day in and day out routine of being a Christian (assuming we are doing what we should) to become a rut?
      That is life, and it requires effort and a constant “renewing of the mind” to stay ahead of that – Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23.
    5. NOTE: Because the world keeps turning, you need to keep working.   Just because it is boring, you can’t just stop.   Galatians 6:9
  2.   There is nothing new under the sun (9-10)
    1. That which has been is what will be, that which is done, is what will be done.   And there is nothing new under the sun.
      Solomon has described how nature keeps working.
      He has briefly mentioned man, which will be his focus throughout this book, noting that routine of life.
      I would like to add to this, the NATURE of man has not changed, nor will it as long as this world remains.   Ever since Adam, man has been sinful and often driven by his own selfish motives. Mankind has been rebellious against God. There have always been false teachers and prophets (2 Peter 2:1).   Man still thinks the same way and in general does the same types of things.
      Consider the proverbs we will study in this book (and in the book of Proverbs). General sayings written nearly 3000 years ago, yet they apply as much today as they did then.
      WHY IS IT, that a book completed nearly 2000 years ago still applies to us today? Why can we still learn from and apply it as the word of God?   Because it comes from a constant source (Hebrews 13:8). 1 Peter 1:23-25, James 1:17 – His word endures forever, there is no variation or shadow of turning with Him…
      The tragedy is that man thinks it is outdated and wants to change it!
    2. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.
      One might say, what about the invention of cars and airplanes?   What about computers and our technology?   What about advancements in science and learning?   So much has changed in the past several millennia (ever since God created Adam).
      While the means have changed, they are still dealing with the same nature of man.
      Airplanes and cars are still about how to get from point A to point B
      Computers and our modern education are still about communicating with each other (and not always for the better).
      Modern day appliances and conveniences are just different ways of taking care of chores and tasks. And isn’t it interesting that even with these so-called time saving devices, we have less time now than before?
      EVEN most ideas, including philosophies, are not really new.   When man supposedly comes up with a new doctrine or interpretation of a passage of scripture, usually it has been said before in different words. It has simply been repackaged with modern terminology.
      The world is still against God, men are still selfish and filled with the works of the flesh. Men are still creating gods in their own image. (Romans 1:20) There is still crime being committed and thus the need for laws, etc.   (1 Timothy 1:8-11)
  3. There is no remembrance of former things, nor of things to come (11)
    George Santayana (1863-1952) was a Spanish philosopher who is credited with the saying, “Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”
    But Solomon alluded to the idea in the book of Ecclesiastes in this text.
    When the average person dies, who he was is forgotten.   And even if one is famous, or has accomplished some “great thing”, eventually he relegated to nothing more than a mention in the history books. And far too many don’t care about history and ignore it.
    We CANNOT ignore the truth that man seems to fail to learn from the past and makes the same types of mistakes and errors (not necessarily mistakes) over and over again.
    And Solomon even notes that this will continue if there be future generations.   And it’s NOT going to change!  Consider Jesus in Matthew 24:37, “As in the days of Noah, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” While dealing with a specific event, the point is man is the same.
    But we don’t have to be that way!   If we are wise, we will learn from the past and NOT repeat the same errors our forerunners repeated before us. 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 – an example.  THEN note vs. 13, it doesn’t have to be that way.

And thus we can see the challenge of the routine of life.   Life has routine and that can be a good thing (think about it – you don’t have to learn everything over and over again).   But we don’t have to let the routine nature of life keep us from moving forward and living with purpose. Let us learn from the wisdom of Solomon, that is, the wisdom of God, that we are here for a REAL reason. Let us be reminded of “the conclusion of the whole matter” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)     Why are YOU here? Think about it!