The Circle of Life

If you remember the 1994 Disney movie, The Lion King, you probably remember its theme song, “The Circle of Life.”  In the movie, there is a quote from king Mufasa to his son, Simba.  They’re talking about this circle of life and how the lions eat antelopes.  Mufasa tells Simba that the lions eat the antelopes and when the lions die, they become the grass and the antelopes eat the grass and so they are all connected in the great circle of life.  Sounds like a pretty dim view of life’s purpose, if you ask me.
That’s what Solomon was writing about in Ecclesiastes.  He says that “everything is meaningless” (vs 2).  In fact, he uses the word “meaningless” four times in verse 2 alone.  As I read through Ecclesiastes 1:1-11, it seems like Solomon was having a crisis of purpose.  He was asking the big questions of life that we all ask at some point in our lives.  Why am I here?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life?  What did God put me here for?  Why was I created?  Is this all there is?  Isn’t there anything more to life than working for 40 years, retiring and then trying to hang on until I become food for antelopes?
That’s what the book of Ecclesiastes is all about.  It is about a king’s search for meaning and purpose.  He points to nature in verses 4-7 to show that life goes on each and every day and nothing stops the sun from shining, the wind from blowing or the streams from flowing.  The earth keeps spinning each and every day regardless of you and me.  The earth is not worried about our purposes and vain pursuits.  Solomon points to history in verses 8-11 to teach us that everything that is has been before because “there is nothing new under the sun” (vs. 9).  You can strive and struggle and work and toil to make a name for yourself, but when you’re history, no one will remember you.  Try putting verse 11 on a Hallmark card:

No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.​ – Ecclesiastes 1:11 (NIV)​

As we study Ecclesiastes together, we’ll get a pretty bleak picture of life until the very end.  That’s when Solomon comes to the conclusion that life is not about worthless and vain pursuits and he shares with us the secret of life.  Here’s a hint, it’s not about us.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (NIV)

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 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.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

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