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Sermon – 3/7/04
Ecclesiastes 1:10 - The
n And Now

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Then And Now

Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new?’ It has already been in ancient times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:10)

We recently visited a relative during the time immediately before and after her surgery.  We stayed at her home, which contained delightful works of art, including a print called “Daybreak,” which appears to depict ancient Greece, approximately 4000 years ago.  The artist was Maxfield Parrish, who painted for hundreds of magazine covers during the first part of the 20th Century.  The original of this one is in “Alma Gilbert's Original Gallery” in San Mateo, California, USA.

In the painting, two young girls are on a stone porch at the edge of the Aegean Sea, with a pair of shaded Doric columns behind them, supporting the porch roof.  Steps down to the nearby Aegean are implied, but not seen.  Looming in the background are rocky, mountainous islands, one partially in front of the other, separated by water.

The adolescent girls are on the porch, one looking down at the other, in rapt conversation about some topic of the moment.  The one who is standing seems to have just emerged from a dip in the Aegean Sea, while the other, dressed in a loose fitting garment, is lying on the porch looking intently up into the face of the other girl.  Their culture and choice of clothing is not like now and their lives differ in many ways from ours.  The Classical Greek language they spoke is essentially gone from this world, as it was at the time of Christ.

And yet, except for superficial differences, the two could be teenagers in today’s world.  Change the setting and clothing, and this could be a moment in Central Park, New York, or near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or in Beihai Park, in Beijing, China.

In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon, the king, author and musician, said “There is nothing new under the sun,” and that threw me off for some years.  Computers and airplanes seem very new, suggesting that just about EVERYTHING is new on earth.  But there is more to life than just our gadgets, trinkets and toys.  The mechanisms we use may be very helpful and can even save lives, but Solomon was not talking about our outward circumstances; he was depicting the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, of all time.

Just like those girls could have lived anywhere, anytime, the mind of man has not changed since the beginning.  In the picture, the two were gossiping intently about something or someone of great interest, and you will find others like them chattering intently to one another in places around the world.  Today they might gossip about a movie star, whereas in ancient times, the subject may have been an interesting member of the royal family.  Whatever you may think of “early” people from many thousands of years ago, their thoughts, hopes and dreams are understandable to those of any time.

People are pretty much the same everywhere – We only think we’re somehow special.  The so-called “differences” are based on mere superficialities.  As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun…” and “It has already been in ancient times before us” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).  We especially need to learn from those in the past, because their attitudes and choices eventually brought them down.  We can fall also.

The other evening, we watched a televised debate involving a U.S. Senator, a pastor, a movie actor and the Mayor of San Francisco.  They argued with one another and fielded questions from callers about the subject of “gay” marriage, a current concern in the United States: Should “gays” (homosexuals) be allowed to marry?  Logical arguments were given by all, which probably did not change the minds of any who were watching the debate.

They were all worried about whether or not such marriages are fair to this group or that and they had other considerations.  None seemed to grasp what is really at stake, which is no less than our destruction in the 21st Century.  It is very much like a car passing a sign next to the road that says, “Bridge Out Ahead,” and the occupants of the vehicle fail to understand the sign.  Such is widespread homosexuality (the “gay” lifestyle).  It is a “signpost” and we must read it and understand it, or we will not survive.  This “sign” is not understood by many, but it is clearly discussed in Romans Chapter 1.

After greetings and an introduction, the Apostle Paul quotes these famous words: “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  The author then examines those who LACK faith in the Lord.  He notes they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (verse 18), indicating that many perceive the Lord is real, but CHOOSE to reject Him.  The discussion continues, noting that such persons gradually sink into some form of what may be called “idolatry” (Verse 23), substituting things in this world for trust in the Lord.

It’s at this point we pass the “signpost,” for as Paul notes, “Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves… For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful… God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting...” Romans 1:24-28.  As a world community, we have ALREADY fallen in the sight of God.  We have been selfish, arrogant, superficial and vain, and this confusion about marriage is a sign that we are in trouble.  By allowing the “gay” lifestyle (homosexuality) to emerge as a rampant force in certain parts of the world, GOD is SHOWING us our need to repent.

The Lord’s patient and clear warning through the Apostle Paul continues for several chapters, with a concluding statement in Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death.”  It is very evident: We face utter destruction!  And yet, in the same verse, the solution is clear: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  When we trust in Him, we are saved.  Solomon asked, “Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new?’” Actually, yes: When we look to the Lord, WE ARE made new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Those in ancient Greece didn’t read the signpost and eventually, as an empire, they were no more.  Many others, like Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-28), have followed a similar path to destruction.  Will you look to the Lord?

Thank You, Father, for sending us Your Son, Your Gift, that in Him, we can be saved.  I am a sinner Lord.  Please forgive me, fill me with Your Spirit, and change me as You intend.  I trust in You now and receive You.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
Tel: (562) 688-5559
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)


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