All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it.
Solomon said the endless cycles of nature are evidence that life is meaningless. But what about human beings? What about all our accomplishments? Beginning in Ecclesiastes 1:8, Solomon talked about the endless cycles of human achievement: “All things are wearisome. . . . The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. . . . Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us” (vv. 8-10).
I am reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s words: “The craft that we call modern, the crimes that we call new, John Bunyan had ’em typed and filed in Sixteen Eighty-two.” There is nothing new under the sun. And if there were something new, it would not satisfy us. That is what verse 8 is about: “The eye is not satisfied.” If new inventions could satisfy us, we would all huddle around our twelve-inch, black-and-white TVs. But we are not satisfied; we always want something new.
Solomon also said there is no human accomplishment that is ever remembered. Look at verse 11: “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.” In a recent survey, less than a fourth of Americans could identify one thing Benjamin Franklin was famous for. That is what Solomon was talking about: even if you achieve something great in life, people are not going to remember it. So Solomon concluded that life on this earth is meaningless.
One of my favorite old movies is “Cool Hand Luke,” which takes place at a prison camp. In one scene, a guard calls over one of the prisoners, Luke, and points to a rectangle drawn in the dirt. He says, “That ditch is Boss Kean’s ditch. I told him that dirt in it’s your dirt. You better get in there and get it out, boy.” So Luke takes a shovel and starts digging. Later the guard comes back, and he asks Luke why his dirt is piled up in the guard’s yard. So Luke shovels all that dirt back into the hole. Then the guard says, “I told you to get your dirt out of Boss Kean’s ditch, didn’t I? How come it ain’t out?” So Luke again shovels the dirt out, and on it goes until finally, about to pass out, Luke grabs a guard by the ankle and begs for mercy. That is what meaninglessness does–it leads to weariness and despair. What is the remedy for that weariness? Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones.” The only thing that can offer meaning in life is a relationship with God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Too Much Pain, Too Little Gain” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Rudyard Kipling, “The Holy War,” in “The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling” (Ware, UK: Wordsworth Editions, 2001), 300; Institute for Citizens & Scholars, “National Survey Finds Just 1 in 3 Americans Would Pass Citizenship Test,” October 3, 2018, https://citizensandscholars.org/resource/national-survey-finds-just-1-in-3-americans-would-pass-citizenship-test; “Cool Hand Luke,” dir. Stuart Rosenberg (Jalem Productions, 1967).
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.