Daily Bible Insight: Ecclesiastes 1-3
2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
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.
Ecclesiastes 1:2-7 (KJV)
Do you remember the smell of your first brand new car? Do you remember the nice sheen on the body and the sparkling tires? It looked good from the inside out didn’t it? In our text today, we see that Solomon is examining the futility of man’s labor and sinfulness against God’s everlasting Creation. When we examine the text even further, it goes on to say that, nothing can ever be brand new. What? “That car was brand new, I don’t care what anybody says,” most people would answer. However, that car was made out of metal, which was made out of elements, and who made elements? God did. So, the car really wasn’t all that new was it? Let’s read what God has to say about this.
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 1:8-11 (KJV)
Here, God is allowing Solomon to see the grief that sinfulness caused across the planet. In verses nine and ten, Solomon is basically saying that every invention or idea that man comes up with is not brand new; it existed from previous thoughts and assertions that yield a better explanation, and thus a new thing in our eyes. In God’s eyes, nothing that we make will ever be new, because God is the Creator of everything. The only person that lived on Earth that can make things new is Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Jesus says in Rev. 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” Jesus Christ is the only person who can make things “new.” When the Bible talks about new, it talks about a transformation from the inside out. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reads, “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” Let’s use the Great Flood of Noah as an example. When the Flood occurred, God transformed the Earth from the inside out with those powerful, raging waters. Genesis 7:10-11 reads, “And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were upon the Earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” The Earth as it is today is not the same as the Earth Adam & Eve lived on. The Flood has literally changed the entire geological composition of the Earth. God made it anew! Let’s go back to Ecclesiastes for a moment. Verse 11 reads, “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.” Here, Solomon is saying that after the Flood, the way that the Earth used to be was forgotten and the people after Noah’s generation believed this was the way the Earth always was. If we look closely, again, God made the Earth new. Go back to Genesis 8 with me. Verse 21 reads, “And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the Earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
The Uselessness of Pleasure
Have you ever experienced a time in your life where you thought that pleasure could cure your present state of loneliness, or that pleasure could give you joy? Perhaps we’ve all been there at some point. However, today’s verse states that the only person who can fill the “void” in our hearts is Jesus Christ alone.
I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.
2 I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it?
3 I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-3 (KJV)
Here, Solomon is investigating whether mirth, or amusement, will supersede God’s wisdom. Notice how Solomon says in verse 1, “…I will prove thee with mirth…” Thee refers to wisdom here, since he says in the preceding verse, “For in much wisdom is much grief…” Solomon puts pleasure in the place of grief, to see if pleasure will relieve him from the toil of his labor. In verse 1, he says, “and, behold, this also is vanity.” At the beginning of the chapter, Solomon decides to tell us the outcome of this “test of folly” (v.3) So why read through the whole chapter if we already know the outcome? Solomon gives us a peek at what some of us are doing our own lives right now, engaging in the pleasures and deceitfulness of sin to fill or even replace the “void: in our hearts caused by sin. In these verses, we realizes that only God can fill this void and that everything is useless. It is necessary to see all that Solomon did, so that we may know that all these things are useless. However, we also see that this period of indulgence in Solomon’s life was solely for investigative purposes. Look what he says in verse 3, “I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting my heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men.” So, Solomon did not give himself completely to wine to the point where he lost his wisdom. In all of these “tests” on folly, Solomon maintained his wisdom, and he came to the same conclusion mentioned at the beginning of the book, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” We’ll delve into a lot more detail in further devotions this week.
A Time for Everything
Perhaps you have heard the saying, “There’s a time for everything.” This is yet another cliché that has its origins from the Word of God. Let’s take a look at the opening verse of Ecclesiastes 3:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)
This is one of the very few verses in Ecclesiastes that is meant to be taken literally. Nothing on this Earth happens randomly or haphazardly; God is the God of order and that is the reason why life even exists on Earth.
Let’s read the next few verses:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 (KJV)
Again, each verse here can be taken literally. Obviously, we get the point here that there is a time for everything on Earth. It would be odd if we cried when we were happy or laughed when we were sad. Everything occurs at a particular time. Let’s go on.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 (KJV)
Here, Solomon seems to restate what he says in the first chapter. What does any main gain from working? Here, Solomon is not saying that it’s useless to work; he is saying that toiling only produces fruit for a short period of time and then we have to work again to produce more fruit. Fruit in this context can be money or actual food (which is what we often gain from work). Verse 11 is a very powerful verse indeed. This signifies that God makes everything in His time. This Earth is being sustained by the hand of God and does not exist because of the Sun or gravity or any other abiotic factors. I’m not going to get too deep into any evolution vs. creationism debates here. We’ll save that for the Bible vs. Science article next month. Let’s take a look at the latter half of verse 11. What this means is because of the sinful nature that man possesses, we cannot fully understand the beauty/order of God’s Creation. All we can do is simply admire it and understand bits and pieces of it, but we will never be able to fully comprehend the magnificence of God’s Creation. This is why Solomon says in verse twelve, “I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.” Verse 13 is one of those verses that cannot be taken word-for-word. Solomon is not in any way or form approving of an Epicurean lifestyle (a lifestyle characterized by indulgence and pleasure), he is simply saying that the rewards we have here on Earth last for only a little while, and it is a gift of God to be able to enjoy these rewards in a corrupt and sin-filled world. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21, “ Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Finally, let’s take a look at the last verse of today’s article. This verse can be taken literally. Whatever God creates, it will last forever. Many people use this verse to say that Revelation is contradicting itself when it talks about the creation of a new heaven and new earth, but that is not true. That is the sole purpose of verse fifteen, “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.” Everything that God makes has already been. The Earth that we live on now has existed for thousands of years, hasn’t it. Thus, the new heaven and new Earth won’t be new, it will be a restoration to the way things were supposed to be in the beginning.
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