Everything is Meaningless? Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 11 There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.”
Ecclesiaste 1:1-11 «Parole dell’Ecclesiaste, figlio di Davide, re di Gerusalemme. 2 «Vanità delle vanità», dice l’Ecclesiaste, «vanità delle vanità, tutto è vanità». 3 Che profitto ha l’uomo di tutta la fatica che sostiene sotto il sole? Una generazione se ne va, un’altra viene, e la terra sussiste per sempre. Anche il sole sorge, poi tramonta, e si affretta verso il luogo da cui sorgerà di nuovo. Il vento soffia verso il mezzogiorno, poi gira verso settentrione; va girando, girando continuamente, per ricominciare gli stessi giri. Tutti i fiumi corrono al mare, eppure il mare non si riempie; al luogo dove i fiumi si dirigono, continuano a dirigersi sempre. Ogni cosa è in travaglio, più di quanto l’uomo possa dire; l’occhio non si sazia mai di vedere e l’orecchio non è mai stanco di udire. Ciò che è stato è quel che sarà; ciò che si è fatto è quel che si farà. Non c’è nulla di nuovo sotto il sole. 10 C’è forse qualcosa di cui si possa dire: «Guarda, questo è nuovo?» Quella cosa esisteva già nei secoli che ci hanno preceduto. 11 Non rimane memoria delle cose d’altri tempi; così di quanto succederà in seguito non rimarrà memoria fra quelli che verranno più tardi.”
 
     The books in the Bible all have a purpose and sometimes that purpose may seem hard to understand. Solomon opens up the book of Ecclesiastes with an emphatic statement saying 
“everything is meaningless.” The Hebrew Bible says the word “meaningless” five times in this one verse (four times in the English Bible) and it is sometimes translated “vanity”. It is repeated one after another as a superlative. This may seem like a depressing set of thoughts from one who was called the wisest man that ever lived unless you understand why he says it.
     So what is the meaning behind the opening remarks about life? These verses give us three areas where Solomon proves the meaninglessness of life in this world (“under the sun”). First, verse 3 asks what is gained after all of man’s labor in this life? It cannot be transported with us into eternity and holds no value there. Even what we think we have passed on to our children will be passed again to others. Life and possessions are transitory. Second, Solomon continues to prove his point by demonstrating that the activities of nature are nothing more than constant motion that produces nothing: the sun rises and sets, the winds blow, the streams flow to a sea that is never full and then the cycle starts all over again. Nature is certainly a wonder to behold but is wearisome (v. 8) in that it, too, has a limit. Third, nothing in life is ever really new. When something is new, it is only new because there is no knowledge of remembrance of what has been done before. Man simply repeats the same ideas and behaviors of those before and after him-how tiresome!
     Well, there is good news! While life on this earth (“under the sun”) is, in essence, meaningless, eternal life as recorded in the Scriptures over forty times is full of meaning! Only God can truly create new things and make life meaningful for us. The definition of life is not centered on the things of this world. Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven…” So don’t look for the meaning of life under the sun but look for the meaning of life from the One who made the sun.
Pray with me: Lord, I realize that the things of this world were never designed to give me lasting satisfaction. Help me to keep my focus on You to give meaning to my life while I am in this world.
 


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