“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book.” Abraham Lincoln
Scripture & Devotion: Scriptural focus: Ecclesiastes 1:4, 9-10
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
Something old, something new: the bigger picture
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon offers wisdom and insight gained from his experiences, primarily those related to his attempts to find happiness and fulfillment. In poetry and prose, Solomon reminds us that there are many things we humans strive for that will only bring us momentary pleasure. Although he affirms the value of knowledge, encourages people to enjoy the rewards of their work, describes the desirability of relationships, etc., Solomon’s main point (and the overall theme of Ecclesiastes) is that a life apart from God is meaningless.
We modern-day Christians find nothing to disagree with in that statement. And yet, our current world health crisis may cause us to call into question the aforementioned verses about there being “nothing new under the sun”, especially in the midst of dealing with an entity known as the “novel” coronavirus. (For those who think of the word “novel” only as a type of fiction book, the word’s Latin root actually means “new”; the novel was a “new” kind of literature when it appeared, as its forerunners had been mostly episodic, individual tales not bound together by a single main character or a unified plot line.) Although many coronaviruses exist, this particular one had not been seen before in human history; hence, the word “novel” as part of its common name.
The historical record of the past several centuries contains narratives of many pandemics, the most familiar of which was the bubonic plague, the “Black Death” that wiped out more than 40% of Europe’s entire population. More recently, waves of various highly-contagious diseases such as influenza, cholera, malaria, yellow fever, smallpox, polio, and ebola have decimated individual communities in many areas of the world. Sometimes, though, in the midst of our own suffering, we forget what has come before. When it involves our immediate, present reality, it is hard to remember that people in previous times have endured the same kinds of hardships and sorrows that are we ourselves are currently experiencing.
Any challenge that places us under extreme duress has the potential to weaken or to strengthen our faith: a trial of the magnitude of the current pandemic, even more so. At such times, we tend to question God’s purposes, to ask “Where is God in all of this? How can a good and loving God allow such terrible things to happen?” Despite our questions, our fears, our feelings of depression or despair that threaten to overwhelm us, Solomon’s point about the recursive nature of history is oddly reassuring; we can find comfort in the knowledge that our God, the God of all creation, has been present and in control throughout all the time that has preceded our existence, and he will continue to be present and in control throughout eternity. His vision is not limited to the narrow focus of the current era; he sees how events and circumstances fit as part of a bigger picture, the end result of which will be to further his glory. It is our job to trust in his sovereignty, to acknowledge and accept that “generations come and generations go”, and that this is not only as it is, but as it should be. If we truly, truly believe what the scriptures say, we know that not even a global pandemic can separate us from his love, and that, no matter what happens, he is with us now as he has been all along.
Lord, thank You for Your promise that nothing we experience can separate us from Your love or Your presence with us.