Circle of Life (Ecclesiastes #2)

Text: Ecclesiastes 1:3-11

Mankind is stuck in cycles. Even nature seems to be caught in endless cycles.

Labor never ends (vs 3)

  • “Hanio was struck all over again by the huge amount of energy required to live a life filled with so much meaninglessness.” ― Yukio Mishima, Life for Sale
  • This doesn’t mean work is bad
    • It’s good that a man bear the yoke in his youth. Work is good. Work is necessary and laziness and poverty are the alternatives to work, in a fully functioning culture. America is not this way now.
    • And the LORD said if a man won’t work to take care of his own he’s worse than an infidel because even godless people take care of their families.
  • This means that accepting labor as a reality of life is one of the keys to contentment
  • Nehemiah said of the people he gathered to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem that the people had a mind to work.
  • Paul said to Titus, Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.
  • This doesn’t mean work can’t be enjoyed
    • Whether you enjoy your work or don’t enjoy your work, it is the inevitable lot of mankind to labor. But that doesn’t mean labor can’t be enjoyed.
    • This is why Solomon says later on that it’s good for man to learn to enjoy the work of his hands. Solomon’s wise conclusion on labor is that it is inevitable and inescapable so you ought to learn to enjoy it.
  • This doesn’t mean don’t do a good job
    • Someone may say, Well, it’s all vain so what’s the point? Good question.
    • Colossians 3:22-25
    • Whatever you find to do, do it with all your might because there will be no more opportunities to work when you’re dead (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

Generations come and go (vs 4)

  • Since sin entered this world, mankind is in a race against corruption. Some begin this race more hobbled than others and are quickly overtaken. Some run the race relatively unscathed until they’re overtaken later in life. Some are hobbled halfway through the race and are overtaken midway through.
  • Everyone follows this path: whether you’re the greatest inventor of all time, whether you’re the wealthiest person of all time, whether your name is Monroe Dunaway (M.D.) Anderson, or whether you’re the healthiest soul that ever lived. Live, die. Live, die. Live die. This is the view God has of man generation after generation.
  • The earth abiding forever is not meant to be taken as a scientific statement. It’s the perspective a man has of Earth in his brief life. It was here before him and it’ll be here after him.

Sun is going in circles (vs 5)

Wind is going in circles (vs 6)

  • Solomon knew about the jet stream before it was “discovered”.

Water is going in circles (vs 7)

  • Solomon was familiar with water cycles before historians think it was discovered. The earliest record of the hydrologic cycle is in the book of Job.
  • The Europeans think Bernard Palissy discovered the closed water cycle in the 1580s.
  • Water is stuck in a closed-loop system.

An individual is never satisfied (vs 8)

  • Feast of Tabernacles when the Hebrew people would dwell in temporary booths and be reminded of the transient nature of these mortal bodies.
  • Eye not satisfied with seeing.
  • On your phone, it’s the endless scroll. It was originally created by software engineer Aza Raskin to eliminate loading separate pages over and over again.
  • An endless buffet is one thing, but your stomach is only so big. Your stomach has some temporary limit, it can be measured. But your eyes and ears have no such limit.
  • 1 John 2:15-17

History is going in circles (vss 9-11)

  • Someone said the only thing men learn from history is that men don’t learn anything from history. But I don’t know that learning from history would change much. Sometimes that idea seems like saying we’ve never learned anything from medicine because people keep dying. Well, we’ve learned some things about medicine, but we just can’t permanently outrun corruption. We’ve learned, but there’s nothing lasting we can do about it.
  • Forgotten things like the cemetery trip in Cuero. Dusting off an old civil war soldier’s headstone. Or things like where folks research forgotten individuals.
  • I had a Greek professor who taught at a seminary in Italy for years. He used an Italian phrase for this vanity, un buco nell’ acqua – a hole in the water. This is what the physical part of you and matter is reduced to over time.
  • The Assyrian libraries were incredible. It’s ironic that you wouldn’t know it now because the Assyrian nation is basically nothing. Maybe a couple hundred thousand in the world identify themselves as Assyrians. But in ancient days they would conquer nations and gather the documentation and literature found in that nation. The philosophy was that if they could identify the patterns in humanity, they could possibly understand where they are in the cycle of history. Then, either attempt to change the future or learn to operate at a high level within the cycle.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the time is short, meaning, if nothing else, you don’t have much time in this life.
  • James 1:11