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?
This is about our existence on earth. It is very practical in purpose and very temporal. The first words of this book called Ecclesiastes gives us the identity of the author. It has long been accepted that Solomon wrote the book. His first words underscore the final point he makes in chapter 12.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Vanity is an oft-used word in Ecclesiastes. It signifies something that is basically pointless and without value and nothing of worth when used regarding things, events, or attitudes.
Isaiah 40:17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
It has all the substance of the wind.
Isaiah 57:13a When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them
There is no profit in a thing of vanity.
Jeremiah 16:19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
Although there are other uses of vanity in regard to speech as being deceitful and a lie, for our purposes here we can say that a thing of vanity is a thing of no value, a pointless effort at a thing of no value.
The Book of Job taught us that God is in control of every event, even ones we find painful or disastrous, from the most seemingly insignificant event on earth to the greatest, most majestic display in the heavens. God’s sovereignty is absolute.
Solomon in Ecclesiastes teaches us that everything besides God, everything besides God, is vain and empty, devoid of meaning compared to Him.
Jesus told us about the value God places on the things we humans hold up and esteem; from our education to our wealth to position, social status, your movie stars, your football teams, your musical celebrities, your governments, and your career.
Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
Your Democratic Party, your Republican Party, your Harvard and Yale, your United Nations, your Prosperity Gospel, your Replacement Theology, Your Calvinism, your Southern Baptist Convention, your Vatican, your Baptist distinctives, your Hollywood, your Nashville, your Armies, your Navies, your European Union, and, yes, your White House, the Halls of Congress, and even the beloved Red, White, and Blue are all manure, just so much dung, a Biblical word.
Philippians 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…
They are totally meaningless and without value and like your job, your 1200 square foot rancher in the ‘burbs, the overpriced jalopy you drive, your television, your computer, and even the little WWJD paperweight on your desk are all just so much junk.
Compared to God there is nothing of value in your life. Period. Nothing.
Job taught us that God is all powerful, even to the destruction of your flesh, the death of your family, and the loss of every penny you have in the bank or stuffed under your mattress.
Solomon teaches us that everything, in comparison to God, is worthless and has no value. Think about those propositions for a thousand years or so.
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.
Generations come and go but the earth goes on and on. The sun comes up, the sun goes down, over and over. The wind travels in the paths that it takes and the rivers run into the sea which is never full, and is evaporated and goes again to where it began in a process called the Hydrologic Cycle. Mankind looks, he studies, he ponders, and he imagines and still does not completely understand it and his eyes are never satisfied with what they see nor the ears with what they hear. The more curious we are, the more inquisitive, the less satisfied we become. Or, as Matthew Henry said, our senses are never satisfied.
Vacations, art, entertainments like movies and television, sporting events, our favorite foods, never satisfied, never sated, never filled. Always more, always more.
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.
What was, will be. That which has been done shall be done again, as well. There is nothing new under the sun. Everything we do, each day, has always been done by people before us. It has been said that the news never changes, only the names attached to the events do. No one can say, “this is new.” It’s already old. We don’t remember our ancestors and how they lived, much like us, with different toys and tools, but in the same way, and no one will remember us.
After you die and the generation that knows you dies, it will be as if you never existed. You’ll be completely forgotten except as a name on some record somewhere or on a decaying tombstone in a cemetery. I know the names of my male forbears back to the sixth generation, when the first Widdowsons came from Plumtree, Nottinghamshire, England. I don’t know what they laughed about, what their favorite food was, what made them angry or sad, or what their greatest fears were. They are like vapors of smoke the wind blew away, for all the long, hard years they worked, loved, bled, laughed, hoped, and cried.
James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.