Nothing New Under the Sun

April 4, 2012 at 9:45 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 66 Comments
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The common expression, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” is from the Bible.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

When God spoke the universe into existence, He created all the “matter” that exists today. Scientists have been able to discover that matter is made up of molecules. It’s kind of strange to think about, but these molecules have been around for a long time. The molecules that make up the water you drink today might be some of the same molecules that made up the water that Julius Caesar drank over 2000 years ago. Some of the cells in your body might be made up of some the same material that used to make up King Solomon’s body.

There is a joke about a group of scientists who came to God and said, “Well, God, we don’t need You any more – we can finally do what You can do. We can ‘create.’ We have invented a machine that can create anything we want. All we have to do is add dirt-”

“Hold on a minute,” said God. “Go get your own dirt.”

You are breathing air right now, and scientists have discovered a great deal about that air. They understand the elements that make it up and the way it behaves under certain circumstances. But no scientist provided the air you are breathing right now. You are breathing God’s air. He created it and He provides it, and He deserves the credit and the thanks for it. If He decides that your next breath is your last one, no scientist will be able to prevent that. There have been great advances in the field of cardiology, but your heart is not beating right now because a cardiologist created your heart or gave it the ability to pump blood. Your heart is beating under the power and supervision and control of God, and it had better be beating to His glory. He could stop it in an instant.

“Life is vanity” was the perspective of Solomon “under the sun.” “Vanity” is a key concept in Ecclesiastes. It is sometimes defined as “emptiness” or “vapor.” It is something that is insubstantial although it is still noticeable, like “wind.” In our day it is sometimes linked with the idea of arrogance or pride. We say that somebody who is “vain” is “stuck up,” or somebody who thinks she’s “all that,” with the implication being that she’s really nothing. There was a popular song by Carly Simon when I was a kid called “You’re So Vain” that exemplified this idea. Vanity can be something that causes a lot of consternation, but doesn’t amount to anything. One commentator on the Book of Ecclesiastes defined vanity as “what’s left after you pop a soap bubble.”

According to the “under the sun” viewpoint of King Solomon:

1. Life is vain because of its monotony. (Referring to the ordinary repetitiveness of life, not the board game where you collect $200 for passing “go.”)

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Ecclesiastes 1:10

How many days in your life do you really remember in detail? Probably a small percentage. You probably remember your wedding day, the days your children were born, the day you hit a game-winning home run, but overall you only remember a small percentage of the days of your life, because so many of them are so much alike. Even fewer are the days of your life which stand out in the memory of other people. However, we do remember some “historical” dates – dates on which famous people did important things. This is one reason why man – even man “under the sun” – is different from the beasts. We have personal histories.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that, although we are part of a “life cycle,” the life cycle always ends in death. They say that the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. [I would add two others: (1) If I leave my car windows down in a parking lot, it will rain before I get back; (2) If I change from a slow-moving lane of traffic into a faster-moving lane, the cars in front of me in that lane will immediately stop.]

The Lord Jesus miraculously broke into the “life cycle” of this planet – and into human history. He made it so that resurrection is possible. Life doesn’t have to end in death. You can be “born again.” Your life was put in motion with your first birth, but with a new birth you can start over – with a new destination.

According to Ecclesiastes, “under the sun:”

2. Life is vain because of the limits of wisdom.

Solomon was the wisest man in the world, but he could not equal God’s wisdom. In fact, Solomon’s wisdom was even God-given. The human race has been around for about 6000 years, and it is questionable whether we have really come up with any real solutions to any real problems – at least without a willingness to create even more problems. We desperately need God’s wisdom.


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