There is nothing new under the sun
– “History repeats itself.”
– “What goes around comes around.”
– “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Anyone who lives long enough will observe a relentless circularity to life. That was certainly Solomon’s experience. And it bred in him a desperate world-weariness.
Here’s how he began his spiritual journal:
“4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. 6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. 8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4-11)
Solomon’s father saw the heavens declaring the glory of God. For David it was a daily proclamation of the Light of the world conquering darkness. With his eyes opened by the law of the LORD (Psalm 19:7-14), he saw sunrise and sunset as a sermon. It proclaims the Bridegroom Champion taking us from estrangement and into the presence of God. (Psalm 19:4-6). Therefore, with Scripture in hand, the world is seen to be heading somewhere. It is not a closed circle but an arrow pointing to glory.
Yet when Solomon looks at those same patterns he sees futile repetition. He seems blind to the daily proclamation of gospel events. Instead it’s a meaningless cycle.
This is because Solomon is speaking of the world “under the sun.” Solomon’s perspective is purely the horizontal. He is viewing life as though the here and now are all that count.
In the 17th century, Descartes climbed into a stove and embarked on a philosophical method of doubt. Solomon does something similar in the spiritual realm. He shuts himself off from divine revelation. He’s not viewing things through the lens of “the law of the LORD.” Instead he determines to work only with the raw materials he can see, hear, taste and touch. And when you close yourself off from divine in-breaking “there is nothing new under the sun.”
But another son of David stood on the earth. He stood within that cycle of birth and death which imprisons us all. Yet Jesus did something utterly new. He didn’t rot. And He didn’t simply come back from the dead, like Lazarus. He went through death and out the other side into immortal life. He broke through the cycle and opened it out to resurrection life. That is utterly new. And He offers this new life to all.
Life under the sun can only be a relentless burden. But allow the Word to crash down from on high. And allow it to speak of One who came to set captives free. Because of His resurrection He says:
“Behold, I make all things new”. (Revelation 21:5)
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