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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 uninterrupted, though. The FBI, for instance, reported increases in the violent crime rate between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2014 and 2016.


2. Property crime has declined significantly over the long term. Like the violent crime rate, the U.S. property crime rate today is far below its peak level. FBI data show that the rate fell by 50% between 1993 and 2017, while BJS reports a decline of 69% during that span. Property crime includes offenses such as burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft, and it is generally far more common than violent crime.


3. Public perceptions about crime in the U.S. often don’t align with the data. Opinion surveys regularly find that Americans believe crime is up nationally, even when the data show it is down. In 18 of 22 Gallup surveys since 1993 that have asked about national crime, at least six-in-ten Americans said there was more crime in the U.S. compared with the year before, despite the generally downward trend in national violent and property crime rates during most of that period.


Pew Research Center surveys have found a similar pattern. In a survey in late 2016, 57% of registered voters said crime in the U.S. had gotten worse since 2008, even though FBI and BJS data show that violent and property crime rates declined by double-digit percentages during that span.


While perceptions of rising crime at the national level are common, fewer Americans tend to say crime is up when asked about the local level. In all 21 Gallup surveys that have included the question since 1996, no more than about half of Americans have said crime is up in their area compared with the year before.


The times they are a-changin’ – but not in the way you may think.

This is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous times in history from a standpoint of faith – and we all battle as we try not to succumb to our sad realities, tied to our misery and cynicism.


Cynicism: contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives


Why don’t we trust people? Why do we so easily follow after silly conspiracy theories about why the world is the way that it is? Why do we lavish ourselves in self-loathing – I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, people don’t like me, I’m not thin enough, I’m too skinny, I don’t make enough money – and on and on and on and on.


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.


Revelation 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."


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 natural world].


Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.


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.


2 Timothy 4:6-7

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.


Ecclesiastes 4:15

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


1 John 1:7

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.


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.


Matthew 6:19-21

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


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.


2 Timothy 4:8

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.


Ecclesiastes 6:1

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


Matthew 5:3-12

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


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]?


Jeremiah 29:11-13

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.


Faith. We have faith. Hope. We have hope. Love. We have Love. There is nothing new under the sun, but there is something new within us.

#sermons #ToddBookout #ecclesiastes