There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

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ECCLESIASTES 1:1-3:22 | 2 CORINTHIANS 6:1-13 | PSALM 46:1-11 | PROVERBS 22:15

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We start a new book in the Old Testament today, one said to be authored by King Solomon titled Ecclesiastes.  This is an interesting little book full of aphorisms and maxims, not unlike the book of Proverbs.  The fundamental theme is that there is nothing new under the sun; it has all been done before.  To begin with, Solomon says:

8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
   there is nothing new under the sun.

He goes on to contemplate the meaning of life and the universe, and with regards to the goal of acquiring knowledge has these words to share:

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

Not only does Solomon write off knowledge, but he does the same for many other concepts that are often considered prized, things such as pleasure, one’s toil or labor, and even wisdom:  it is all in vain, he says.  After affirming the futility of all these things, Solomon goes on to list in clear and crisp terms the nature of the universe where nothing is constant and everything is cyclical.  He puts it this way:

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Turning next to our reading of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we find Paul being direct and detailed in listing out the many hardships of his ministry to the church in Corinth.  He lists these only so they would perhaps be inspired to carry on and be strong in their new-found faith. 

Paul says this: 3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find in Psalm 46, some much-loved and oft-quoted verses.  David, the poet-king of Israel offers these comforting words that transcend all time:

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

And further down, another dear verse that has long comforted many a believer, I am certain.  David serves as the mouthpiece of the Almighty when he says: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs where parents are encouraged to use discipline and instruction to teach their children the right way.  “The rod” is to be taken figuratively, not literally.  This is my personal opinion, and one that I would wish to advocate and practice.  Solomon, the wise king of Israel says:

15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

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