Some things ARE new...in a been there, done that world
I listened to a podcast the other day of a sermon by Erwin McManus called "Been There Done That." Erwin is pastor of Mosaic, a church in California, of which I've heard good things. The sermon is great, and if you get a chance, I would recommend listening, especially if you've ever wondered about the book of Ecclesiastes and Solomon's sometimes depressing commentary written therein. (Click the link, then click on the sermon with the Been There Done That title.) One of the striking comments Erwin makes in the sermon deals with the following verse - a verse we often hear quoted, sometimes as an excuse for mediocrity, as an excuse to not give our best at being creative because everything we could possibly attempt has been done before, so there is no use even trying. That's how the verse makes us feel, but it's not the message we were meant to receive.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."
Erwin said, "Solomon got it wrong." Erwin went on to point out things that come later in the Scriptures, many to do with Jesus that indeed are "new under the sun."
Solomon's own father David said in Psalm 40:3 "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God."
Isaiah said, years after Solomon died: "You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, 'Behold, I knew them.' (Isaiah 48:6-7)
And later in chapter 65: "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind."
Ezekiel also talked about new things coming: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Jesus talked about new wineskins (Luke 5:36-38), a new world (Matthew 19:28), new teaching with authority (Mark 1:27), a new covenant (Luke 22:20), and a new commandment to love one another (John 13:34). Emphasis added to verses.
All of these things had been hidden from Solomon's wise eyes because God had not yet decided to reveal them. And based on the wisdom Solomon did have, he taught us a lot (see Proverbs, for example). But Ecclesiastes was written near the end of his life - a life of much self-indulgence - and the end result gave him a mixed set of emotions, vacillating from good advice about fearing God one moment to despairing of anything good the next.
I think we can all relate to Solomon and this book. Some might say that a Christian can't or shouldn't think such thoughts, but I disagree. Christians can struggle with every issue common to man and books like Ecclesiastes helps us to actually see them in perspective, if we understand where Solomon was coming from.
Erwin is right. Solomon did get it wrong. There is a lot new under the sun since Solomon's day - Jesus Christ being the utmost and highest, who gives to all who will come to him the promise of a new life. Paul adds that when we know Jesus, we become a new creation, no longer the same.
We look forward to a new heaven and new earth, and in the meantime, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;"
If Solomon had been listening to his father David, he would have realized that we are happiest when we engage in creating new things to the honor and glory of God. While I sense that Solomon knew that - he built new buildings and brought new wealth to the entire country of Israel - he forgot that newness starts at a heart level. His father indicated as much when he said, "I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you...Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!" (Psalm 144)
Our God, who makes all things new!