4A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. 6The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. 7All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
(Ecclesiastes 1:4-7 ESV)
Yesterday we read the opening lines of the book of Ecclesiastes in which the author, King Solomon, set the tone for the rest of the book by wondering what was the point of life.
For when we look at the natural world around us we see that nothing really changes. The sun rises, and the sun goes down – it moves. But in the end is just ends up back at the place from where it rose. The wind goes around and around returning back to where it started. Water in streams and rivers run to the sea yet it, too, returns to the place from where it started just to flow again.
The natural elements simply repeat their same actions day after day, year after year. They move but make no progress. They end up right back where they started.
Notice that King Solomon seems to understand that the winds travel according to a certain pattern (circuit). This wasn’t known to modern man until weather satellites revealed the movement of clouds, pushed by invisible winds.
Such, too, is the life of man. Our daily routine is the same every day. We awake. We work. We eat. We sleep. Then we start all over again in a cycle that doesn’t end until we die. It’s like every day is Groundhog Day.
And while we make improvements, life changes but is never really different. Our work is never really accomplished. The only sure result of our work is that it necessitates more work.
Activity should never be confused with progress. Just like the natural elements are in motion but never get anywhere, so too is the life of man. We do things but life on earth is pretty much the same as it has always been. We have different tools and resources than those who preceded us. But our routine, our goals, our fears, our problems are still the same.
We make no permanent change to our lives or the world. All that we produce is temporary. Everything that was once new soon becomes old. At one time you loved your original iPhone. But it soon became obsolete. You worked for years to decorate your house. But styles change and soon it was out of date. In the end all our efforts amount to nothing. All the pains we take to find satisfaction lead us right back to where we started.
We are transient beings. We are only passing through this life [1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:12; Philippians 3:20]. The current generation will pass from the scene to be replaced by another generation. For that reason we can never find permanent, lasting peace on this earth.
This observation left King Solomon unfulfilled. But this is not how God intended our life to be. God created us to have abundant life [John 10:10]. But as King Solomon noticed, what God wants for us and what we actually have are not the same. We’ll find out why that is as we continue our study.
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