Views of Life; False and True
Ecclesiastes 1:7
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; to the place from where the rivers come, thither they return again.

What outward things are to us, depends very much on what we are ourselves. Take a landscape for instance. What various thoughts it suggests to different people. To the farmer it suggests land for pasture, the sportsman looks at it from another point of view, the artist sees in it the varying lights and shadows. It suggests to the poet great thoughts or feelings, to the devout man the power and love of God, and so forth. The writer of this book from which our text is taken is in one of his bad moods; he is disheartened and weary of life; nature seems to reflect the sadness of his soul Rivers running into the sea, and not accomplishing anything, all seem to proclaim the vanity of life, the emptiness of life. "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full." As a statement of fact, it is correct. And what is the sea better for them? They make no visible change in it, they do not even make it less salt; as far as an unthinking person goes, it seems sheer loss. "But the sea is never full." And so we might think it is with man. Humanity, struggling and suffering, only to pass into the sea of nothingness. Egypt was a great nation at the time of Moses, what remains now? Some pyramids and a few mummies. In our sadder moments we are inclined to cry, "Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain?" After all, this is not the true lesson of "All the rivers run into the sea." The joy of mere living is worth the labour and is reward enough. Every little brook expresses gladness, irrespective of the end it accomplishes. Life is worth living and full of joy. In moments of health and activity we feel like that, but this will not always satisfy. Here is where the true lesson of the "Rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full" comes in. Why is the sea not full? The remainder of the verse answers the question. "Unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again." Solomon accepted the explanation of the mystery given in his day. We know the true reason. It is because the water is continually evaporating, the sun drawing the water up into the clouds, descending again, and giving beauty and fertility all around. Thus the rivers fulfil their true end. They lose life to find it again in new and more beautiful forms — not one drop is lost; every brooklet has its share in the beauty of the earth. Nothing is spent in vain in God's universe; He is a workman who never wastes a particle of force or matter. This thought is comforting and helpful. "Life is a brief span — trivial and vain," nay; no life is lost — its effect remains. No self-sacrifice, no deed of kindness is ever utterly lost. All goodness — every deed done, adds to the permanent stock on earth. It increases the heritage of truth and right which we hand on to remote ages. Thousands of years ago a man left his home and went, to live among strangers, he gave up his country and his kindred. His life was not lost, he became Abraham, the Father of the Faithful. Yes; the rivers of life run into the sea, but they are not lost. No life lived faithfully is utterly lost. It must be so, for Christ is at once the great explanation and pledge of this truth. His Cross seemed the end of all hope; yet the Cross was the triumph of His life — the beginning of everything. Without it there would have been no Resurrection, no Ascension. God brings gain out of loss. Christ has given us the assurance we shall live for ever; living to-day we shall live on for ever. The little rivers of life run into the sea of eternity, but they are not lost. Towards what sea is the river of our life flowing on unceasingly? In every continent the rivers are flowing on. There is a watershed in life, down either side our life may run. In which direction does our life run? Towards God — or away from Him, into darkness.

(J. A. Campbell, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

WEB: All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.

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