Is There Anything “New” under the Sun?—Part II

October 3, 2014

Yesterday we considered the human drive toward newness. The writer of Ecclesiastes helped us to see that “under the sun,” that is, in the realm of purely human experience, there is nothing really new. People think they’ve found something new to entertain, feed an addiction, or eat; but chances are pretty good that even a primitive form of that thing has been around for a very long time.

To this restless searching, God—through the voice of Isaiah—asks the pertinent question: Why do we waste our money on stuff that does not satisfy (53:2)? God implanted in human DNA a yearning for something unreachable. Read carefully the Garden of Eden story (Genesis 2). Why would God include in Paradise one lousy tree to which Adam and Eve were barred access? Note that this limitation is pre-Fall, telling me human beings were never meant to have it all.

Until Eve started conversing with the snake in Genesis 3, she and her husband apparently were fine about not having it all. Why would God have considered this limitation an essential part of his created order? Because God hoped that when human beings encountered feelings of longing, of need or expansiveness, they would turn to him! God has always been completely equipped and empathetic to give us whatever we need. Adam and Eve apparently didn’t realize that a sense of need for their Creator was something they needed! If they were to “have it all,” that sense of incompleteness or need for God would disappear, and in fact it did after the Fall.

So where does this leave us? First of all, realizing that humans of every generation have tried just about everything to feel satisfied. There’s nothing new under the sun. Second, that God is the One who can and will satisfy us at the core level, if we would turn our longing and affection in his direction. The pointed question that opens Isaiah 53 resolves with God’s declaration:

2          Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
                        and delight yourselves in rich food.
3          Incline your ear, and come to me;
                        listen, so that you may live. (Isaiah 53:2b-3)

The key to feeling satisfied, emotionally and spiritually, is in our listening to God, delighting in his fare, and trusting him with our lives.

Listening to God means feasting upon his Word, “eat[ing] this book” as Eugene Peterson put it. It means seeing the world through the filter of God’s revelation in Scripture and relying on the Holy Spirit to apply it appropriately in our lives. We must be careful not to read into Scripture our current experience but to welcome Scripture to interpret our current experience instead. This is crucial to a proper exercise of spiritual discernment. If our process of figuring out what God is saying to us is unhitched from Scripture and relying on a rogue Spirit to tell us something novel and clever, we are going to end up on the wrong side of things or headed in the wrong direction.

Delighting in God’s fare means receiving what God has given in joy and repentance. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), loves us and feeds us and clothes us (Matthew 6:25-27), forgives us and seeks to rebuild our life from the inside out (2 Corinthians 3:18). The only adequate response for that is to receive God’s great gift of abundant life (John 10:10b) with gratitude and good stewardship and live a life that is ordered by God’s Word. It means being satisfied with what God gives and rejecting the notion that we can do better on our own.

Trusting God with our lives means relinquishing the right to call the shots. It means realizing that we are God’s in life and in death; and living without fear, anger, dread, or frustration is something God’s Spirit works in us. Trusting God is the fulfillment of our faith, the completion of the process that begins with knowing God, embracing to his Word, and saying “yes” to him in all things. When one puts Jesus at the center of one’s life, all the other things that have distracted or dissatisfied us no longer drive us. We are truly free to enjoy being a beloved son or daughter of God.

I hope it is obvious by now that reimagining God or reinventing the spiritual wheel are unnecessary and untoward actions for Christians to take. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God’s Word is eternal and true (Isaiah 40:8). This isn’t to say that the world in which we live, “under the sun,” isn’t changing. But because it is, we must hold tight to the One who never changes. I love the slogan that has been a part of Fuller Seminary’s ethos for years: “The unchanging gospel for an ever changing world.” Seems to me, as Presbyterians (for instance) embark upon the 1001 New Worshiping Communities journey, that we encourage a renewal of our commitment to the unchanging gospel, because that is ultimately what our culture is hungering for.


2 Responses to “Is There Anything “New” under the Sun?—Part II”

  1. emd5542 Says:

    Would expect many an AMEN to this particular blog, one of your very best but perhaps not what the many want to hear.

  2. David in Doha Says:

    Naegeli, I’m so glad you are well and back to blogging! This post seems to nail it squarely, thanks!

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