What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1, verse 9.
This is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. There is nothing new under the sun. It’s the verse that gave lie to everything that happened in the 1960s, on Jersey Shore, and in my day to day life. There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing about our lives is truly original and that can be a sobering thought, almost a negative one if you think about it. It’s also a hopeful mirror into which we can gaze and know that God has our back at all times.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. Explain that to the generation that has iPhone’s and iPad’s and instant global communication the likes of which have never been seen before. Stop me if I’m wrong, but the people of our day want instant information and seriously believe that things that are happening now have never happened before. This is the fastest time in history when so many of us are interconnected and instantly available. Sounds a lot like Babel (or babble) to me because doesn’t every generation’s improvements on the previous generation’s innovations simply build on what has been done before? I mean, last week there was the news story about the man in Australia who’s going to build a replica of the Titanic (and call it, originally, “Titanic II”, which is a little like “Bambi II” or “the Kardashian family”). He’s going to build a new ship that looks a lot like the one that sank 100 years ago and this time, God-willing, sail it into New York harbor. Will Kate and Leo be aboard? Tune in later. Been there done that; let’s hope for a different outcome to the trip.
But the point remains: there’s nothing new about the idea. It’s a sequel. In fact, most of the world in which we live is a sequel, and (in my opinion) all of American pop culture. If you noodle that thought long enough, it can really get you down. Wrapped up in it is the notion of true hopelessness. Even our most brilliant innovators are really just building on old ideas, re-made concepts, or what has been forgotten long enough to make it seem new. If there’s really nothing new to be expected, then what’s the use of living? Think that thought on a day when life has you down and I’ll guarantee that you won’t walk away from the thought with a smile on your face.
…And yet if you think about it, there’s a degree of comfort in knowing that, now that we’re living in the post-modern era, nothing is really new. Even as we invent brand new technologies, those new things are based on old ideas, on things that worked and have been made to work better; nature is improved upon and manipulated to better serve the needs of people. Through it all, people are crazy if they think that God isn’t at work. The obvious proof of Him is all around in the nature He created (and maybe in the talent He bestows on people to use nature). If you don’t believe that, look at the world outside that regenerates itself every season. Each season does something new that is built-on in the next season. This has been going on for many centuries in the same way as it always has. It’s comforting to know that the seasons come and go, and as our world seemingly changes, God simply is.
Besides, just because it isn’t really new doesn’t mean it isn’t new to us. There’s so much you and I haven’t seen or done yet, and so many possibilities in what we can do through faith. Christ said he makes all things new, and in Him all things are new every day. Every day is a fresh start, an untried moment. Even as the things that happen in our lives can be replays of past actions, how they will mix and mingle in infinite possible ways is the fun part. Infusing them with God’s Spirit, the three-in-one presence of Him, bonds meaning and love into all those possibilities. That’s not only a comfort: that’s a whole new ball game.
I have a box of recipes, documents, and bric a brac that belonged to my great grandmother. I never met her; she died eight years before I was born. Yet in the closet in my office sits a box full of things she compiled during the First World War. There are those recipes, and newspaper clippings, and original Liberty Stamps and other things that have been sitting together for nearly 100 years. It’s my intention to make these things into a book, maybe even a cookbook, and publish it in five years, to coincide with the centenary of the US’ entry into that war. In doing so, I’ll tacitly acknowledge that this isn’t a new idea, that there’s really nothing about it that’s new under the sun. I’ll simply take the good things left to me by someone who never knew me and repackage them into something useful that other good people might just find interesting. It’s an example of how what has been will be again, but thank God that He simply is and allows this dynamic to play out in our lives. Thank God He does so and uses that to point out our constant need for Him who was and is and is still to come.