Summary: The Vanity is seen by watching Nature. Ecclesiastes 1:4-8
I. THE VANITY SEEN BY WATCHING NATURE. 1:4-8
1. Judy Garland sang a song, I’m always chasing rainbows, it comes to mind as you study these verses.
I'm always chasing rainbows
Watching clouds drifting by
My schemes are just like all my dreams
Ending in the sky
Some fellows look and find the sunshine
I always look and find the rain
Some fellows make a winning sometime
I never even make a gain, believe me
I'm always chasing rainbows
Waiting to find a little bluebird in vain
2. Living life confined to under the sun is like always chasing rainbows – in vain.
3. Vanity of life is seen by Watching nature.
Trans: We have looked at the Subject of this book, now for the rest of the book we will look at the Sermons.
A. The Permanency of the earth. 4
4 A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever. – this reminds us that our lives on earth are transitory and very brief. I suppose that’s why when someone dies we say “they passed away.”
1:4 A generation comes and a generation goes, but the earth remains the same through the ages. (NET Bible)
The notes on the NET Bible are interesting:
Comes - tn The participle ?????? (holekh, “to walk, to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). The root ?????? (halakh) is repeated in this section (1: 4a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 7c) to emphasize the continual action and constant motion of everything in nature. Despite the continual action of everything in nature, there is no completion, attainment or rest for anything. The first use of ?????? is in reference to man; all subsequent usages are in reference to nature – illustrations of the futility of human endeavor. Note: All the key terms used in 1: 4 to describe the futility of human endeavor are repeated in 1: 5-11 as illustrations from nature. The literary monotony in 1: 4-11 mirrors the actual monotony of human action that repeats itself with no real change.
Goes - tn The participle ???? (ba’, “to go”) emphasizes continual, durative, uninterrupted action (present universal use of participle). The term is repeated in 1: 4-5 to compare the futility of secular human accomplishments with the futile actions in nature: everything is in motion, but there is nothing new accomplished.
Remains - tn The participle ??????? (’ omadet, “to stand”) emphasizes a continual, durative, uninterrupted state (present universal condition). Man, despite all his secular accomplishments in all generations, makes no ultimate impact on the earth.
Ages – 19 tn The term ?????? (’ olam) has a wide range of meanings: (1) indefinite time: “long time, duration,” often “eternal” or “eternity”; (2) future time: “things to come”; and (3) past time: “a long time back,” that is, the dark age of prehistory (HALOT 798-99 s.v. ??????; BDB 761-63 s.v. III ???). It may also denote an indefinite period of “continuous existence” (BDB 762 s.v. III ??? 2. b). It is used in this sense in reference to things that remain the same for long periods: the earth (Eccl 1: 4), the heavens (Ps 148: 6), ruined cities (Isa 25: 2; 32: 14), ruined lands (Jer 18: 16), nations (Isa 47: 7), families (Ps 49: 12; Isa 14: 20), the dynasty of Saul (1 Sam 13: 13), the house of Eli (2 Sam 2: 30), continual enmity between nations (Ezek 25: 15; 35: 5), the exclusion of certain nations from the assembly (Deut 23: 4; Neh 13: 1), a perpetual reproach (Ps 78: 66).
4 One generation goes its way, the next one arrives, but nothing changes—it's business as usual for old planet earth. Ecclesiastes 1:4 (MSG)
We may look out our window and see a rainbow but deep inside we know that it’s a chase that never ends. Judy Garland said it well:
Why have I always been a failure?
What can the reason be?
I wonder if the world is to blame
I wonder if it could be me.
That is under the sun living! Keep in mind living “under the sun” is living life without being focused on God, in other words, this is what life is like when we view it from a merely human perspective.
In the overall scheme of things, nature appears to be lasting while man is leaving, not long after he arrives. Man is like a brief visitor waiting for his transitory hospital bed. Have you noticed that life is lived between two hospitals? You check into one when you’re born and before you know it, you’re checking out permanently in another one. Two things appear close together – the brevity of life and the certainty of death. Everybody is coming and going but the earth remains the same. Our emptiness is illustrated by the songs we sing.