Day 2: Nothing new under the sun (1:9)
“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” (1:9).
One way to view history is to see it as cyclic, i.e. history repeats itself. There are other ways to view history of course (arguably at least as valid) but that is the view of the Preacher. There really is nothing new under the sun as today’s text will affirm, and all what takes place now has in some way happened in the past.
The Preacher gives three examples of what we might describe as the cycle of nature. The sun sets and the sun also rises. The wind blows and, as it were, comes around and blows again. And then there is what we know as the water cycle – water flows from rivers, streams etc. into the sea and yet the see is not full. We now understand the science behind all these repeated phenomena, but what is important here is these observations provide an entrée into his gloomy outlook on life. “Everything leads to weariness – a weariness too great for words. Our eyes can never see enough to be satisfied; our ears can never hear enough” (1:8 GNT). As far as the Preacher can make out, there is nothing new “No one remembers what has happened in the past, and no one in days to come will remember what happens between now and then” (1:10 GNT). The sobering thought is it is likely, that for many of us, our grandchildren and those who come after them, will not spare us much thought or even remember us, and if you want evidence of that fact then consider how we view our not-so-distant ancestors and, as for learning the lessons of history, in the main that does not happen – bringing us back to our text.
Having set the scene, the Preacher introduces one of his main pre-occupations – the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, but it does not have the same bright ending as when he discusses the subject in Proverbs. Having stated “I determined that I would examine and study all the things that are done in this world” (1:13 GNT) (something many after him have set out to do, although it is unlikely with the same success, for he points out “I know what wisdom and knowledge really are” (1:16: GNT)), revealing his disappointment that “everything done in this world, and I tell you, it is all useless. It is like chasing the wind” (1:14 GNT). The sober ending to this is the observation he can do little to rectify the faults that are all too apparent and “the wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know, the more it hurts” (1:18 GNT) – and yet the question is begged (but not here – yet): is it better to be wise than foolish; to have knowledge than to be ignorant?
Prayer: We give to you Lord the pain we feel when we truly see what is going on around us and where it is leading. May we not despise wisdom or knowledge and neither to exalt it as the be all in life and may our eyes be ever fixed on you.