One of the well known phrases from Ecc: “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). Is a fancy way of saying, “I’m bored.” Imagine a child confronting his mother, “Mom, I have nothing to do, There’s nothing new under the sun.”
You may be a person that suffers from bouts of depression, and still be a full man or woman of faith. That’s reality. You may be totally confused about what God is doing in your life, but still be a child of God. If you are in a period of life where you see the glass half empty – you’re in good company, so did Solomon, the wisest man in the world.
When I started this series three weeks ago, it was noted the transitions of life often bring crisis. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to laugh, a time to cry… the seasons of life, the ebb and flow… the life situation of a young person different from a middle aged person (like me) and an elderly person. I thought this whole idea of transitions was captured pretty well in an e-mail a few weeks ago from Nettie Bos:
On the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years."
The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?" And God saw it was good.
On the second day, God created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."
The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years? That's a pretty long time to perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?" And God, again saw it was good.
On the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer's family. For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."
The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How about twenty and I'll give back the other forty?" And God agreed it was good.
On the fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."
But the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that makes eighty, okay?"
"Okay," said God, "You asked for it."
So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone. Life has now been explained.
If you feel the need to thank me, you can find me on the front porch.
I think Solomon is preaching from the pulpit of the front porch? You read in these opening words about the comings and goings of nature, “generations come and go…” This is all about transitions, life is never the same yet it is patterned and starts over again.
“There’s nothing new under the sun” the teacher declares. Read into that phrase: boredom, apathy, depression, frustration, discouragement. It would be great if becoming a Christian came with a Midas touch: everything you touch turns to gold. But that’s not reality. A life of faith does not mean perfect peace and harmony.
Today’s scripture can be divided into two sections, two reality checks that everyone has to work through at some point: life is fleeting (Ecc. 1:1-7) and life is disappointing (Ecc. 1:8-11). Don’t tell me these thoughts have never occurred to you.
Life is fleeting (1:1-7). the temporary nature of life. In Ecc. 1:1-3 (READ), we meet the author, That can only be Solomon (1 Kings 1-11). God appeared to Solomon in a dream offering Solomon whatever blessing he desired. Solomon asked God for wisdom to lead the nation. God honored Solomon’s request, granting him wisdom, and wealth and fame.
Solomon is considered the wisest and perhaps richest man that has ever lived. He had a fleet of ships that would bring gold to him every day from far off lands. Tragically, Solomon married a foreign woman, which was forbidden by God because of the temptation to be led astray spiritually. Ironically, it was this unwise decision to gain favor from different nations by taking foreign wives that diverted Solomon’s eyes from the one true God. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Surprisingly!, this diverted Solomon’s devotion, so that it is often said of him that he had a divided heart.
In Ecclesiastes, what conclusions does this rich powerful genius come to after living a life with everything at his fingertips? We would expect Solomon’s sermon to be entitled “Seven Habits of Highly Successful Kings.” No. In Ecc. 1:2, Solomon concludes: ‘Meaningless, meaningless’ No lasting value.
The point Solomon is making is that you live for seventy or eighty years and then you’re gone (read Ecc. 1:4). Life is short. In the corner of the Nooksack cemetery is a headstone for Bruce Alexander. About 15-20 years ago I found it. I’d be surprised if anybody else has purposefully gone to see Bruce’s grave since I went. Here is a napkin holder that belonged to him, it is inscribed “Bruce.” He died in a mining accident 70-80 years ago as a young man. Never married, no children. Bruce was the only child of Ethyl and Artie Alexander. In the early 1960’s, after Artie died, Ethyl married my grandfather, she became the only grandmother I really knew. That would make Bruce my step-uncle. That’s the story of Bruce Alexander. My mother has his picture, the step brother she never knew… “generations come and generations go…” Life is fleeting. [blow up balloon and let go?????]
Furthermore, life is monotonous (read Ecc. 1:5). “under the sun,” it’s used 29 times. a description of what life is like if the heavens are shut off from man. If a bowl were placed over the earth, masking the heavens what would life be like? Washing dishes, cleaning sinks, scrubbing toilets, washing floors, always more to be done. Chasing toddlers, mediating fights, grocery shopping. I’ve noticed mealtime comes everyday... There is always more to do: mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage, doing the taxes... All of these responsibilities come at you day-in and day-out. Sally and I are firmly in the sandwich generation – balancing our own lives plus helping on each end…
The patterns, the monotony of the Sun (Ecc. 1:5), the Wind (Ecc. 1:6 the Rivers (Ecc. 1:7). The world around us is trapped in a cycle of motion. It is forever moving, but it accomplishes nothing. “Hurry up and wait” A sense of loneliness and abandonment comes out of Solomon’s words.
Life is fleeting, and Life is Disappointing (Ecc. 1:8-11). In these next four verses, Solomon demonstrates everything and everyone in life will ultimately disappoint us. There are three basic reasons for this: There is no satisfaction under the sun, there is nothing new under the sun, and no one is remembered under the sun.
No satisfaction. (READ Ecc. 1:8) The Rolling Stones song, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Take God out of the equation and this is what you get. Always wanting MORE.
Nothing new (Ecc. 1:9-10). You’ve heard the Proverb: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Young people think old people don’t understand them, then they get old and realize they were wrong! The forms may change, computers and cell phones and electricity may have changed the way we do things, but nothing has changed. There is no lasting satisfaction in computer games…
Not remembered (READ Ecc. 1:11). We need not look any further than the sports page to have this verified. One injury is all it takes to become forgotten. Household names can be discarded quickly. Rod Perry, local lover of cemeteries, tells me it takes 40 years for stories to be forgotten.
Does this make you feel empty? That’s what Solomon is seeking to accomplish. This is a reality check. An overwhelming sense of emptiness points us to God. Ecc. is a jolt of reality, a reality check, forcing us to search for what is most important. We must learn to value emptiness. As we acknowledge our sense of meaninglessness, we are motivated to search for more. Meaning is not found in riches, not in wealth, not in status, but in God. We must eat, but there are more important things than eating. We must wash the dishes, we need to earn a living, yet there is something more. We must learn to value emptiness for its positive potential. Like an empty stage, waiting for a performance. An empty cup, crying out to be filled. Even as Christians we experience overwhelming feelings, depressed by the meaningless of life, the fleeting nature of life, the disappointments of life. An empty heart can lead us to search for God-given ways to fill it.
Let’s take a peak at the end of the book. This is where all of Solomon’s words are headed: Read Ecc. 12:13-14. Do you know the best way is to live under the sun? Live in the Son. The good news: God has not left us “under the sun.” If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, life is not “under the sun” it is in the SON. He brings purpose, peace, and significance. He gives you the opportunity to live an abundant life (John 10:10). Apart from the Lord Jesus life under the sun is disappointing. Fleeting. It is cursed! It is meaningless! It needs to be liberated! We will be fully liberated in eternity, yet we are on this old earth.
While we wait, the best way to live under the sun is to live in the Son: “Fear God and obey His commandments.” When we do this, our fleeting lives begin to count for eternity. Depression is real, discouragement is common, yet the disappointments we experience in this life are bearable. A spark of faith, a yearning for eternity, is enough. That’s all that God promised: Christ says, “Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). When we can’t get no satisfaction under the sun, we can find satisfaction in the Son. The emptiness of life, the fleeting nature of life, is an invitation for God to fill you with his spirit. When we can’t find anything new, we remember Christ has created a new covenant, and new life. When we feel like no one will ever remember us, we can take confidence in the truth that God remembers us, and one day we can overcome this world and receive a new name that Christ Himself will give to us.
A reality check: Life is fleeting, life is disappointing. The only true meaning you will find is life in Jesus Christ. In the middle of apathy, frustration, disappointment, may that God given yearning for eternity be enough to keep you focused on the goodness and graciousness of Jesus Christ. Amen.