We are enamored with newness. Our culture wants “new” things, new iPhones, new iPhone carriers, new news, new ways to communicate new things (facebook and twitter), new things to do and see. But the Preacher slams the door on newness when he writes there is nothing new under the sun.
The Preacher, as the author of Ecclesiastes calls himself, wraps up his introduction to his book with this thought. Actually, in some ways his introduction (1:1-11) could be called his conclusion, because he starts the book with the results of his quest, which the rest of the book is concerned with describing. Part of that conclusion is this thought, there is nothing new under the sun.
As I wrote in a previous post in this series on Ecclesiastes, under the sun is used by the Preacher to indicate his perspective, or the context of his quest. He is trying to discern the meaning of life by considering life without taking God into account. Is there any purpose or meaning in life apart from God? Verses 1-11 of chapter 1 summarize his answer, and part of his answer has to do with newness.
Some my try to debate his contention. There are new things?! Inventions are not new or unique, email is just a different way to communicate, like letter writing and the printing press and the parchment and cuneiform. There are no new inventions, no new leaders, no new ideas, no new events. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. (Ecc. 1:10) Nothing is really new. No thing really changes things and makes life better. Nothing lasts. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after. (Eccl. 1:11)
Nothing is new under the sun, but God. In the beginning God created… says Gen. 1:1. He made something new, and life began. Adam and Eve sinned, though, and the world was cursed. Life under the sun became absurd. But God continued to work in the world to show us that he could make things new. God “re-created” through the flood with Noah. Sin was still present, though, so God chose Abram to father a new nation. Moses brought the people into a new land, he brought them back to the land from the exile, all events that pointed toward the fact that God alone could do a new thing.
All these events were just types that pointed toward their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God sent his Son to inaugurate a new covenant, to give new life, to make us a new creation. And one day there will be a new heavens and a new earth. We can count on it because God told John so: And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5)
The Preacher is right, but only under the sun. The dark picture that he paints only serves to heighten the brightness of the light that is revealed in and through Jesus.
Part of an ongoing series on Ecclesiastes