Ecclesiastes - Nothing New Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.

All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.

There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.

Naturalism V Supernaturalism - Concepts from C.S. Lewis’ Miracles

Naturalists: Those who believe that nothing exists except nature.

Supernaturalists: Those who believe that, besides nature, there exists something else.

Nature: Defined by naturalists as “everything there is.” The natural is “what springs up, or comes forth, or arrives, or goes on, of its own accord: the given, what is there already: the spontaneous, the unintended, the unsolicited.

Supernature: That which causes nature to exist.

Under the sun is a phrase unique to Ecclesiastes, at least in the form and context in which it is used. Simply stated, the definition becomes “on the earth.”

If God is in the heavens

And the sun in in the heavens

And the earth is under the heavens

Then the earth is under the sun

And the earth is under God

The debate with scholars and theologians is this. When it comes to Ecclesiastes, what are we to come to understand about the earth? Is it merely under the heavens (sun, God) in a physical sense, literally existing “below”? The term is fairly straightforward. Below, or underneath. Does this mean that Solomon is saying – under God’s dominion? Or, does this posit what theologians and scholars would point to – that under the sun refers to the “natural world”?

When you consider "under the sun" based on the generally negative tone of Ecclesiastes, you see a negative side to the phrase.

When you consider further that "under the sun" would be synonymous with "under heaven" and heaven is the realm of God, you can easily arrive at a connotative meaning of "without God."

But on further reflection, a better understanding would be "the natural world." It must be remembered that this is contrasted to the spiritual world, in the heavens or above the sun.

28 times the term, “under the sun” is used in the book.

Listen to the examples from Ecclesiastes chapters 4-6.

Ecclesiastes 4:1

Then I looked again at all the acts of oppression which were being done [in the natural world]. And behold I saw the tears of the oppressed and that they had no one to comfort them; and on the side of their oppressors was power, but they had no one to comfort them.

Ecclesiastes 4:3

But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done [in the nartural world].

Ecclesiastes 4:7

Then I looked again at vanity [in the natural world]. There was a certain man without a dependent, having neither a son nor a brother, yet there was no end to all his labor. Indeed, his eyes were not satisfied with riches and he never asked, “And for whom am I laboring and depriving myself of pleasure?” This too is vanity and it is a grievous task.

Ecclesiastes 4:15

I have seen all the living [in the natural world] throng to the side of the second lad who replaces him.

Ecclesiastes 5:13

There is a grievous evil which I have seen [in the natural world]: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.

Ecclesiastes 5:18

Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils [in the natural world] during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.

Ecclesiastes 6:1

There is an evil which I have seen [in the natural world] and it is prevalent among men—

Ecclesiastes 6:12

For who knows what is good for a man during his lifetime, during the few years of his futile life? He will spend them like a shadow. For who can tell a man what will be after him [in the natural world]?

The Times They Are A-Changin' – Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round people Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters Around you have grown

And accept it that soon You'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you Is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin' Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide The chance won't come again

And don't speak too soon For the wheel's still in spin

And there's no tellin' who That it's namin'.

For the loser now Will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call

Don't stand in the doorway Don't block up the hall

For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled

There's a battle outside And it is ragin'.

It'll soon shake your windows And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land

And don't criticize What you can't understand

Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command

Your old road is Rapidly agin'.

Please get out of the new one If you can't lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn The curse it is cast

The slow one now Will later be fast

As the present now Will later be past

The order is Rapidly fadin'.

And the first one now Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin'.

The times they are a-changin’- but not in the way you may think. Solomon raises some interesting points for us to think on. His tone, to me, is that of a man who cannot enjoy what he has attained. He cannot marry his massive wealth of a wide array of things (women, money, land, knowledge, wisdom) to his faith, to his hope, and so he is in despair, tied to his misery and cynicism.

Solomon’s family tale is a tragic one. He was born to a father who murdered his mother’s first husband out of convenience. His brother raped his sister and in anger his other brother attempted to overthrow their father. Solomon’s son would nearly throw away the entire kingdom, and he would be the king that sat on the throne as the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel would split.

Solomon asked God for wisdom, not ever truly knowing what the cost of that wisdom would be. And he would journey through life gaining wisdom the way that you gain wisdom.

· Do you learn more from success or failure?

· Do you learn more from something easily attained, or from something hard fought?

· Which means more to you or has more impact on your life?

We live in a time of immense wealth – I’ve taught before on the subject of MORE. We also live in a time of immense safety and security. Believe it or not, now is one of the safest times in history to live, and I’m not just speaking about medicine and hospitals and the prevalence of food. This is one of the safest times in history from an existence of physical violence standpoint as well.

1. Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century. The two most commonly cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. both show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. One is an annual report by the FBI of serious crimes reported to police in approximately 18,000 jurisdictions around the country. The other is an annual survey of more than 90,000 households conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which asks Americans ages 12 and older whether they were victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported those crimes to the police.

Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 49% between 1993 and 2017. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 74% during that span. (For both studies, 2017 is the most recent full year of data.) The long-term decline in violent crime hasn’t been unin