4Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 5The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.As we have noted in the previous studies in Ecclesiastes, this book is an account of Solomon's search, through human wisdom, for meaning in life. In verse two, Solomon summarized the result of his search: "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" In verse 4, Solomon begins the substantiation of his conclusion. First, he points out that man's existence is fleeting, as compared to the perpetuity of nature: "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever" (vs. 4). Since we "come" and "go", how could there be any lasting meaning for us here? "[T]hough the earth abideth, yet, because man abides not on the earth to possess it, therefore his rest and happiness cannot be here."
And then, even though "the earth remains forever", it itself is not getting anywhere: "The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again" (vss. 5-7). In the natural processes of the earth, there is much labor, but no results. The sun, the wind, the sea, just get back where they started. No progress is made. No goal is being neared. Just the same things over and over. Solomon sees this same monotony and lack of progress in the fleeting lives of people: "All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing" (vs. 8). Have you felt this same "wearisome"ness? You desire something; you strive to achieve it; you succeed; and then the next day you are bored with life, once again, and desire something else. We often say, "If I had such-and-such, then I'll be happy." God gives us "such-and-such", and then, are we happy? No. The cycle begins again. "The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing." The "eye" and the "ear" are relentless taskmasters: never satisfied, always asking for more. We must face this fact: there is no satisfaction in the things of the world.
In the previous issue, I pointed out that, in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon reaches his conclusions through worldly means, and that, elsewhere in the Bible, God has addressed these same matters and has given us godly alternatives to Solomon's worldly results and conclusions. This is the case here. Solomon found life "wearisome" because he discovered that the "eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing." The problem with Solomon's tactic is that he was seeking satisfaction in the things of the world, in what his eye could see and ear could hear. In speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus addressed this: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14). God has purposefully made the things of this world unsatisfying so that we will seek the things above, so that we will thirst for the living water, the water that Jesus gives us. His water not only satisfies our thirst, but becomes in us a spring of living water, "a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
9What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.Solomon also finds a parallel between our lives and the workings of the world, in that, in both, the same things happen over and over: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Oh yes, there are "new" inventions, "new" gadgets, "new" toys, but there is nothing new of lasting importance: there is nothing new (from the viewpoint of human wisdom) that can shake Solomon's conclusion that "everything is meaningless." In man's search for meaning, for spirituality, the same philosophical fads are rehashed over and over. "New" age thought is not really new, but is a compendium of elements from Hinduism and Zen Buddhism. As men search for new ways of looking at life, they stumble onto the same philosophical thoughts and arguments that have been pondered and hashed out for centuries. What they find may be novel to them, or hip and cool for a time, but it is not new: "Is there anything of which one can say, `Look! This is something new'? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time." (vs. 10).
For some reason, we aren't satisfied with the old. We feel we must find something "new". We think: "There's got to be something `new', that no one else has thought of, that brings satisfaction." In their rebellious nature, young men feel they must reject what the old people are doing; they must reject the tried and true. But this rejection of the tried and true does not bring anything "new". It just causes them to cover the same ground that the rebels of the past covered. 'Round and 'round they go, until they end up where Solomon did, saying, "Meaningless! Meaningless!... There is nothing new under the sun."
But wait, there is an alternative, God's alternative. We can find something new, but it comes from the old: We can find new-ness from the Old Rugged Cross. Through Jesus Christ, we ourselves can become "new". We are promised: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (II Cor. 5:17). Only He who created us in the first place can make anything "new". And He has promised us "new" life through His Son, for through baptism into Christ Jesus, we are buried with Him, "in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Rom. 6:4). Do you want something new? Are you tired of the some old "meaningless" life? Turn to God. Trust in Jesus. Seek new life in Him. He will give your life "new"ness and meaning. He will press you into His service, giving your life purpose. May the Lord be praised!