Ecclesiastes 1:1–11 (NKJV)
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
3 What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
6 The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
7 All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
8 All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 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.
10 Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who will come after.
The Preacher, Solomon in this case, begins the book of Ecclesiastes with a declaration of despair, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” While this is not encouraging, and may even seem a little depressing, this is the place in which Solomon finds himself, after searching the world over and trying every experience possible, in a place of discouragement!
He then goes on to describe the things that prove the vanity of this world. A man’s toil does not profit him. Generations rise and fall, but the earth keeps rolling on. The sun rises, but it will also go back down, the same thing every day. Winds swirl around, returning to where they began, with no apparent progress. All the rivers run into the sea, yet it never fills up, the job is never finished. Work never ends! You never see enough, you never hear enough.
What has been will be again, and what is done will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun. Even though we may think that something today is new because it is new to us, it has happened before, and it will happen again.
How hopeless this seems! Yet there is truth to it. Sometimes life is like watching re-runs on television. You may see something the second time you did not the first time, or maybe pick up part of the story line that did not make sense in the first viewing. But even at that, the show gets old after a while. However, the key to happiness and fulfillment is knowing that–while there is nothing new–a man or woman can be new in Christ, and can experience these repeating actions in a way that glorifies God and leads other to that same newness in Christ. The repeatable action I wish to embrace, long for, and see happen again and again, is the redemption of a soul through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s one re-run I will watch any time.