Repetition is an important tool in the Bible, and we see the word vanity used five times within verse 2, twice in superlative form to strengthen it even more. “Vanity of vanities” which makes it the greatest of vanities. We define vanity as an excessive pride; pride is something that God hates. The author states that all is vanity. All. Meaning the entire lifecycle of each one of us – the revolution of the earth in days and years to death, and all generations thereafter as created in utter vain without the potential for eternal life provided through God’s grace. This paints a dim picture! The book of Ecclesiastes is about the necessity of God in our lives, the emphasis in the first few verses is on the pointlessness of everything if God is not a part of our lives. We live, we die.
I heard a sermon where this was said “Those who live once, die twice. But those who live twice, only need to die once.” We go through the same life as everyone else here on earth, but when we are saved in Christ it is not a pointless endeavour! We become born again and we rise to live in relationship with God, where those who didn’t come to know him as saviour are rejected to a permanent end. These verses paint such a dim picture, and I can’t help feel sad for those who are lost never to be found. I never really thought through these dire circumstances, but I can now see where the passion of those who work to spread the word of the Lord can come from. It is like watching everyone walking toward the edge of a chasm they don’t see, and we as believers in Christ can help point them towards the bridge; this is the weight of the Great Commission. It is flooring to reflect on how much of an edge I teetered on before coming to know the Lord personally.
The majority of these passages really highlight the cyclical nature of life, beginning to end to beginning, etc. with nothing really changing from generation to generation. The phrase we use now for trends is apparently biblical in origin, “Everything old is new again”. Nothing is new “under the sun” unlike the Lord above who is newer, and more appealing, and more glorious every day. The fleeting pleasures of the world may have temporary satisfaction, but eventually everything gets old. Technology gets outdated, recipes get tired after eating the same thing too often, routines get repetitive, and lust dissipates. Our bodies, cars, homes, and minds age and break down. The only constant we can have in life that will never fall to these circumstances of times is the Lord God. He is always shiny and marvellous and new. In a recent sermon the pastor put it this way “God increases in strength, increases in glory, and increases in value in a way beyond our measure.”
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 2 Cor 5:17
The writer of this book is contested, but widely believed to be King Solomon, son of David. If Solomon is, in fact, the writer, he was arguably the wisest man on earth as he was blessed by God. Yet in all of Solomon’s wisdom, he comes to the realization that without the knowledge of the Lord, his pursuit of earthly wisdom was pointless, and didn’t provide all the answers to life he wanted and needed. In fact his wisdom just allowed him to more clearly realize the futility. There are many things in life I feel that I could be better off with, but the wisdom of Solomon proves that the only thing that having more of will improve my life is more of God. Loving and desiring to increase my worldly wealth only draws me further from Him (1 John 2:15-16).
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? 4 One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. 5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. 6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. 7 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. 8 All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. 10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. 12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. 16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.