Reading the Word
Ecclesiastes 1:3–11 (ESV)
3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 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.
7 All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 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.
10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.
As Solomon reflects on the meaning of life, he observes the world around him. He asks, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” What is to gain from all of our efforts? The world goes on and on in its constant cycle. The sun rises and goes down and then it does it all over again. All of nature does its thing over and over again. There is nothing new. In fact, Solomon says, “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.”
If we stop to consider life and the world around us, we can easily come to the conclusion that it is all meaningless. Everything is just an endless cycle. Day after day and year after year, things come and go, including people. And the things that happen today will be forgotten tomorrow. What is the point?
Remember that Solomon is asking his questions about the meaning of life from a humanistic perspective. Life without God leaves us with a life that is ultimately meaningless. We are here today and gone tomorrow and all of us are soon forgotten. It is because God does exist that we know there is hope and purpose to it all. What a wonderful truth!
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