Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
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.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.
My previous post, Vexation and Sorrow in Knowledge, dealt with King Solomon coming to the conclusion that setting your heart to understanding all of the things done by man is a sorrowful deal. Here in these opening verses of Ecclesiastes, he tells us that all is vanity.
The words vanity and vain as used by Solomon is not the same as our common everyday use of the words. Solomon isn’t saying everything is about conceited people with exaggerated ideas of self-importance. Vanity and vain as used in the context of the Bible by Solomon means producing no results, useless.
Solomon is saying in verses two through eleven that he has learned the balance of the universe and there is nothing a man can do to change it. To think that you or anyone else has the power to change that balance is vain like the other definition, which is having or showing an excessively high opinion of one’s appearance, abilities and worth.
To me, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”, encompasses both definitions of the words. It’s pointless to think you, man, will change the laws of the universe and if you really do believe that, well that is having an excessively high opinion of your abilities and worth.
Solomon tells us of all the unstoppable forces of life. Generations come and generations go. The sun rises and the sun goes down. The wind blows and comes back around from a different direction, and streams run into the sea but it never fills up. What has been will be and what has been done is what will be done. Everything will eventually be forgotten and most importantly there is nothing new under the sun.
Being the fastest, the smartest, the wealthiest, the most powerful, the prettiest, the best at anything, is all vanity. In the terms of the universe and God, it means nothing. Life will move on without the best, without the worst and without all things in between. There is nothing any person, people or government can do to change that.
So why then are we here? Why has God given us this gift of life if we are so insignificant in the overall picture? That is a question I continue to ask myself each and every day. The closer I get to the end of this gift, the more I study and ponder the question.
It was a question that King Solomon dwelled on for much of his life. He had riches and power beyond all men during his life but he realized how it meant nothing when it came to the forces of life, the forces of God.
His answer to the question was this:
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
Enjoy every moment of this gift that God has given us. To ponder and seek understanding of what man does brings vexation and sorrow. You will realize there is nothing to be done to change it. What has been will be.
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