That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one might say,
"See this, it is new"?
Already it has existed for ages
Which were before us.
There is no remembrance of earlier things;
And also of the later things which will occur,
There will be for them no remembrance
Among those who will come later [still.]
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 (NASB)
Hymn: "I Know Whom I Have Believed" D. W. Whittle (El Nathan), James McGranahan
Ecclesiastes is generally seen as a pretty depressing book, and for good reason. The author takes a grim view of the state of the world, the value of basically anything done in this life, even the way God allows judgement and blessing to flow. The book is legitimately dark and difficult. But I submit that this is not entirely because of the things the author sees, but because they are allowing themselves the limitation of earthly wisdom. Consider the opening of the book, quoted in part above.
Where the author bemoans that there is nothing truly new on the Earth in chapter one, he does so through the lens of verses 8 and 11. The fundamentally unchanging nature of mankind and the world are, from the perspective used by the author, tiring in their repetition and empty in our forgetfulness of them. But is an unchanging nature inherently tiresome and empty? It is, after all, the unchanging nature of God that allows David to boldly proclaim:
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, [bless] His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
[So that] your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Psalm 103:1-5 (NASB)
It is on God's unchanging nature that both His faithfulness and judgement rely. He makes promises throughout scripture, both for the joy of His people and the condemnation of those who oppose Him, and it is on the solid rock of His nature that these promises stand. Even that which appears as new in scripture, like the awesome grace of God to remove sins from undeserving people in the New Testament, is seen in the very same psalm.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive [with us,]
Nor will He keep [His anger] forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:8-12 (NASB)
God is merciful and unchanging in his mercy. He made known His lovingkindness and desire to bring fallen man into relationship with Him from the beginning. And in the process, He actually opposes the author of Ecclesiastes. For where it is true that, under earthly wisdom and through earthly means, the essential nature of fallen mankind is unchangeable, God is able to change it. He promises to put a new heart into His people, to inscribe His law into our very being, making us a reborn people with a basic nature built on His righteousness rather than our sin.
The Earth has nothing better to do with stability than to grow bored with it, and forget it only to discover it again. But we can hope and take joy in the stability of God, and in His unwavering promise that we can yet be made new.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation