All Things Are Restless

W. Terry Varner
September 4, 2016

Solomon’s searches in secular wisdom and knowledge for that which satisfies man’s needs is drawn from man’s experiences of life known to all in Ecclesiastes 1:8-11. His conclusion is that secular wisdom and knowledge, as we know from personal experience, produces restlessness and not stability.

Restlessness in life. “All things are wearisome [restless], more than one can say [describe]” (1:8, NASB). Another way of stating this verse is—human desires are never satisfied! “The eye never has enough seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing” (1:8). Doesn’t restlessness permeate lire? Does it yours? It is too bad that it is so universal and is an intruder into life. I would argue that Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were not restless or thought of life as wearisome.

Is human life ever satisfied? I have traveled to many places in my short life, but, at my age, I long to see so many other places, countries, food, customs, et al. The eye is never satisfied. When it comes to hearing, my ears are not “full of hearing,” What does Solomon mean? Quite simply, man is always alert to new ideas, concepts, thoughts, events, opportunities, et al. Look at life around us—television, radio, newspapers, cell phones, and magazines all cater to the hunger of the ear; i.e. for the latest or newest. Solomon argues that the eye and the ear of man never tires because human desire is never satisfied; consequently, human desire is restless.

Nothing new under the sun. Solomon’s secular research revealed that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again” (Eccl. 1:9, NASB). He claims it is “vanity of vanities.” Useless, empty, and meaningless is an awful description of life. Though we long to hear and to see something new, nothing new shows up. Life is a rehash of what has been before. Although we might think something is new, it is not, as “there is nothing new under the sun.” The old is played again and again, over and over again.

But, someone objects to this understanding of these passages by retorting, “Solomon never had television, internet, iPhones, space travel, etc. These never existed until a few decades ago.” Solomon counters, “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! There is something new?’ It was already here, long ago; it was here before our time” (1:10, NASB). We illustrate with the Stonehenge in England. The rocks weigh tons. Where did they come from? Who erected them? How do we explain the huge geometric patterns that cover acres of ground in South America? These patterns cannot be seen except from the sky. They are mysterious and happened centuries ago. Obviously, these patterns were made by intelligent man.

Why things among us seem new. Solomon’s secular research gives the answer, “There is nothing new under the sun.” We ask, “Why do they seem new?” Man’s memory is both faulty and limited. The pyramids of Egypt were built by the ancient Egyptians. How did they erect the pyramids? Where did they get the stone to build them? How did they transport the stone to the site? All of this has long been forgotten. Egyptians have lost this knowledge of their past. Is it possible the technical knowledge we proudly “worship” will centuries from now be somehow forgotten and the remains of our technology will puzzle future generations?

As Solomon searched secular wisdom and knowledge for what life is about and for that which can satisfy, he found “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity (1:2); i.e. “Nothing.” However in the end, Solomon does tells us what gives life meaning. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13, NASB). The need for all to be obedient to the gospel of Christ is evident.