Do you feel weary? Tired? Like life is wearing your down?
As we continue our study of Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, which is about how life is fleeting, read verses 8-9. In verse 8, the Teacher says life is “wearisome.” That word can be translated as “striving,” meaning that life is often a unending of process of striving. We have periods of rest and relaxation, some of us moreso, some less so, but for most people there are always dishes to do, laundry, yard work, employment, cleaning, meetings, money to be made, bills to paid, and on and on, and it never stops. This wearisome, striving reality of life causes the Teacher to write a line which has become famous, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
When I read this, I wondered if the Teacher would change his mind if he could spend some time in 2020. I know there are numerous inventions that are astounding, from the contact lenses I wear in my eyes every day, tiny little slivers of plastic that give me perfect vision, to nuclear reactions, where hidden power inside pieces of radioactive metals is unleashed to generate amazing levels of energy. But the there is another invention that I think will go down as the greatest revolution in the modern era.
We were with friends a few weeks ago having a campfire in their backyard, and all of sudden their daughter noticed a very unique site in the sky. It was what looked like a line of shooting stars in a perfectly straight formation traveling across the sky, one right after the other. They just kept coming. 20, 30, 40 of them. If you see one meteor, that is awesome. But this was something else. You know what it was? A Starlink train.
Not a train you ride in, but a succession of small satellites that are being launched in groups of 40 or 50, with the intent that SpaceX will create a network of satellites over the globe, providing high-speed internet access for everyone on the planet who wants to pay for it. Global connection. Every month or so SpaceX launches more, and before the satellites reach their regular orbit, if you’re at the right place at the right time, you can spot them. A couple months ago a Starlink train just happened to be flying over Lancaster right at the time of our campfire.
The idea of sending little satellites into orbit is itself wild enough that I think the Teacher would be impressed, but to think that those satellites could provide internet communication to the whole globe? Not to mention everything that is available on the internet, from data, live TV, games, news, pictures, and email, and on and on. It is astounding.
I would say to the Teacher, “Now come on, Teacher, that is something new, right? That really blows your mind, doesn’t it? That changes things, right?” I might try to prove my point even more by saying, “Teacher, when you lived in the world 2500 years ago, things rarely changed. Centuries would go by with very little technological advancement. So you have to admit that in the world of 2020, and especially with the internet, this is something new.”
I think the Teacher might think about the Star Link Train awhile and say, as he does in verses 10-11, “It isn’t new. It has existed long before our time, we just didn’t know about it before. And we knew that there were going to be things that were appeared new to future generations, but you know what, those things won’t be new forever, and they too will be forgotten by even later generations.”
And I will sit there, silenced by the truth of it. The internet will be forgotten by future generations. Something else will take its place. Or Jesus will return and none of it will matter. Therefore, the teacher’s point remains. It is very similar to the axiom, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Just what is it that stays the same in the midst of all the change?
The fact that life is fleeting. We’re born, we live, we die.
In order to have a healthy view of life, the Teacher is telling us the truth that we need to see all of life as fleeting. Temporary. Brief. A breath. So how is that not depressing? First of all, it is not depressing because it is reality. Truth is liberating. We can be free to live hopefully in the here and now because we do not have to grope for an impossible future that is not within our grasp.
But there’s more! The truth that life is fleeting is not depressing for the Christian, and we’ll talk about that more in the next post tomorrow.