- WA Edler
All is Vanity - Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (Part 4)
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. 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. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
What Solomon is saying in these verses is that nothing changes. All of the toil at which man toils under the sun doesn’t really change anything. Generations come and go and yet the earth remains. The sun rises and sets forever, the wind keeps blowing around in circles and rivers keep running into the sea, the eyes are never satisfied and the ears are never finished hearing. All of this activity on the earth is hebel, purposeless, ultimately changing nothing.
This is something that humanity often forgets. If we just fight this one last war it will change everything for the better. If we just have a different system of government then everything will be perfect. If we just change this one thing then it will solve everything.
But Solomon reminds us that nothing really changes. Wars are fought and won but there are always other wars to fight, different governments lead to different problems and the problems of this world are never really solved. Just like the sun and the wind and the rivers continue on their never-ending cycles, nothing really changes in this world. Vanity of vanities all is vanity.
Now, maybe you’re thinking, ‘But things have changed.’ We don’t live in caves and run about spearing wooly mammoths anymore. We don’t put leeches on people who are sick to suck out the bad blood anymore. We live in a democracy and not under an all-powerful monarch anymore. Things have changed.
That is true. But the fundamental problems of the world have not changed. We have better technology, we have better system of government and people live longer and are healthier than they were in the past. But people still die, all of our medical technology cannot ultimately overcome death. And people still have sinful natures, all of our technology and government programs cannot overcome human sinfulness. So, while the context and technology have changed, the fundamental problems of this world haven’t changed since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
And when we understand this it helps us to understand where our ultimate hope really is. Our hope is not in this world. I would love for Haiti to come out of poverty. I would love to see Haiti be a place where people can live in peace and prosperity. But even if that happens it will never be perfect because this world is cursed with sin and death. Even if Haiti becomes the richest nation on earth, it will never escape that curse. So, our ultimate hope cannot be in this world because this world will always disappoint.
And that again points us beyond this world. Because while this world is affected by sin and death there is another world coming. The new heavens and the new earth are coming and in that world there will be no more sin, no more death, and no more suffering. And its real. This is not just a nice story or something made up. Its real and those of us who have accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation will see it with our own eyes. Amazing! That a day is coming that we will actually live in a world without sin and without death forever. That is where our hope should be, that is where our treasure should be, not in this world that will always disappoint.