Nothing New Under the Sun

“What has been is what will be. And what has been done, it will be done. There is nothing all new under the sun. There is a word that says, ‘See this! It is new!’ But it has already been forever. It is what has been before us. There is no mention of the first things. Also, of the last things there will be no mention of amongst that which is at the end.”

(Ecclesiastes 1:9-11)

Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun. This is one of the most powerful pieces of wisdom that is uttered in this book. How often we look around us and say, “this generation is rebelling against God!” And, while indeed that is true, it has been true of every generation throughout the history of mankind. As a pastor, it is easy to lament that people aren’t reading their Bibles as much as they ought to be or that they are not attending church as faithfully as they should be, but is this a new conundrum? One of the things that I appreciate about reading theologians from ages past is that they complain about the same kinds of things as we do. J.C. Ryle, for example, complained that in the age of technology people had grown Biblically illiterate — how true that is of our age. Yet, Ryle was writing this 150 years ago.

One might tend to find that discouraging — we have not made much headway in reforming the corporate soul of man over the past 150 years or more, and perhaps that is so. But I take it as a word of encouragement that the problems I face within my own congregation are not new and unique to me, but they have been engaged by ministers in every generation that has gone before me. And, if the problem is much the same, and the nature of man’s sinful heart is much the same, the solution, too, needs be much the same. And the phrase, “there is nothing new under the sun,” reminds me that I need not invent a solution that is unique to my day and time, but must faithfully labor with the Truth as my forebears did.

Our problem as church leaders is that we are often poor historians and we do not know the solutions with which our forebears labored. Every time a new challenge raises its ugly head or a new heresy raises itself up in the church a slew of new books get written to address said matters. And while I do not object to new books, I often say to myself, “Wasn’t this heresy addressed in the Council of Nicea or by Irenaeus or another?” In most cases, the heresies have been refuted for more than a thousand years, but they keep on raising their heads because we don pay attention to the words of those who have come before us. How often there is no mention of first things. As others before me have written, “We must drink from the fountainhead if we are to nourish our souls and reform our lives.”

So, yes, we will face challenges due to sin in our lives and sin in the life of our society. And, as technology advances, it will be used to promote and facilitate the sin of man’s heart. But be encouraged, there is nothing new under the sun. The Gospel is still as relevant today as it has ever been and the word of God will still cut men’s souls to the quick. And the faithfulness of a man shepherding God’s flock is still measured not by attendance but by his faithfulness to the Word of God — despite what some “church growth” mentors might happen to say. Church worship is not a gimmick, it is the place where God’s people gather together to draw near to God in accordance to His Word. Anything apart from that or in addition to that becomes a show. So, be of good cheer weary pastor or weary Christian, Christ has overcome this world where there is nothing new “under the sun.”

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