Is it All Vanity?
“Vanities of Vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is Vanity.” (ESV)
Ticking of the clock;
Time falls away unceasing.
Life is Vanity.
The preacher cries out to all who will hear, “Vanity! It is all Vanity!” That is to say, “It is all fleeting! The struggles are frustrating! The purposes are perplexing! Oh, man of the world under the sun, all is fleeting, all is frustrating, all is perplexing, all is temporary!” The preacher’s words fall like a gavel in judgement. Man hears these words and tries to shout over them with whatever distractions can be found. Can my sports team serve as cotton-stuffing for these wounded ears? Can the job distract my mind enough not to contemplate the truth? Can my family love me enough to take away the pain of such knowledge? Will these medications dull the feelings welling up from deep within my soul? Oh, what must I do?
As they look into the mirror and see another wrinkle form on their brow, the words ring true. As their older generations pass away and are replaced by the younger, the words ring true. As they see another act of evil go unpunished, the words ring true. As they witness and read of natural disasters that destroy homes and lives, the words ring true. As they see their accomplishments fade, the words ring true. Oh, what a dreadful reality those without the promise must face daily. What pity and sorrow I feel for them! They have been deceived, and thus, their souls wander amidst a valley filled with dry bones where there is no Living Water to call these bones to life once more. They thirst but deny the Fount of Christ.
The Thesis Statement
Verse 2 serves as the thesis statement for the entirety of Ecclesiastes. It is the main idea for which the rest of the book provides support. Solomon having had his fill of worldly living has drawn this conclusion and proclaims it out to the assembly. Everything that follows balances on this statement.
First, let us look at the definition of vanity within the context of this scripture. It is drawn from the Hebrew word Hebel which does not have a direct English translation, so it has several different words that can be used in its stead to get the same point. Vanity is frustration, perplexing, temporary, futility and is often associated with a mist or vapor. It is a common repeated theme within the Book of Ecclesiastes because it’s a dreadful view of the world, and to acknowledge the painful, sometimes we must repeat it to properly sink in. For his sermon, this is but the first strike of the hammer on the nail. It has breached the thick board but hasn’t sunk in enough to secure it.
The thesis is this: Life is fleeting, futile, and it’s struggle and striving without everlasting purpose.
Is this true?
It depends. Within the current day, a new phrase has entered our lexicon “their truth”. It identifies that while there is no ultimate truth, it’s the truth that the individual holds to. It’s a master course in mental gymnastics, but I am going to use it for the purposes of this discussion. For the world, it is their truth. It is not the truth.
For the world that denies God, absolutely. There is no ultimate purpose to life outside of what you make it and unfortunately, that comes with a heavy dose of denial. We must deny that the success will be forgotten, that our gains will turn to dust, and that in death, it all ceases to matter because we enter into oblivion.
However, God’s promises and purposes don’t rely on whether the world believes in them or not. They have accepted their truth and denied The Truth.
For those without Christ, there is no one to call out to. They have the philosophies of hedonism, post-modernism, utilitarianism, egalitarianism, paganism, and so on. They have so many vacuous gods that they erect as they strive to put meaning to the meaningless. Parties, dances, investments, families, jobs, nature, hobbies, sports, entertainment, books, philosophy, and technology are erected like totem poles in their souls balancing precariously in the inner sanctum of their soul until the quakes of life topple them over. They grasp at anything nearby in hopes that the deep hunger pains gnawing at their soul and aching for the Bread of Life will be satiated. In the end, that pursuit reveals itself as vanity.
In providing His Son, He gave man purpose. We have a reason to strive forward. Life isn’t fleeting for those in Christ, we have eternal life. The daily struggles are certainly temporary, but they serve as part of the good work that God has begun in each of us claimed by His Son. Although, we can feel confusion, and the pain of daily striving can wear us down, He hears us. We can cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers us from His holy hill. Our souls never hunger, and our souls are never dry. Our cups run over with His goodness. He renews our strength and mounts us up on eagles’ wings. We find refuge underneath His everlasting arms.
In Christ, with Christ, through Christ, and for Christ, our existence is not and will not ever be vanity.