"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
Ask congregation what they think vanity refers to in Eccl 1:2
lb#h# hebel (heh'bel); from OT:1891; emptiness
One of the best words to use in the place of vanity would be futility. Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon. He was the son of David and was full of wisdom. You can read of his wisdom in Proverbs as he wrote most of them. Solomon not only had great wisdom but he also had great wealth.
He was king over all of Israel. Some of his possessions included 12 deputies to watch over Israel for him, 40,000 stalls for horses & chariots, 12,000 horsemen, 30,000 forced laborers, 70,000 transporters, 3,300 chief deputies in Lebanon, and more gold than you can imagine.
I enlarged my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself, and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds larger than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men — many concubines. Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.
Despite the fact that Solomon had great wealth and could perform many actions that others could only dream of, he knew everything was in vain. It was futile in the grand scheme of things. Solomon, in all his wisdom, knew a man’s works do not lead to anything in the eternal sense. To believe so is to place faith in futility.
What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils?
For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun?
I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.
Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.
And this also is a grievous evil — exactly as a man is born, thus will he die. So, what is the advantage to him who toils for the wind?
He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.
All of these verses speak of the futility of living for the sake of doing things. A farmer has the right to take the best portion of his crops and eat but this will not have a lasting effect. Bungee jumping seems like it might take life to a new level but in the end, you will be left hanging….both literally AND figuratively. To strive after works is to be the equivalent of chasing after wind. Wind cannot be contained. One will never get a firm grasp on the breeze. You can reach for it all you want but it will remain fleeting and will be an effort in futility, an effort in vanity.
For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?
This is a perfect summarization of what Solomon was getting at. He asked a rhetorical question because the answer was obvious. Without God, there is no peace. Without God, there is no enjoyment.
Many people today are searching for the meaning of life. Some believe it is to worship nature. Others believe it is to live life to the fullest and to get the biggest rush you can get. Others believe he who dies with the most toys wins. In reality, it is to bring glory to God and let him refine us into being the righteous men and women He desires us to be.
So, remove vexation from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
2 Timothy 2:22
Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Living for eternal purposes is the only thing that will last. The only eternal purposes are the purposes of God. Without God being the focus, all is vanity. The things of this life will soon pass. Our life will soon pass. Ecclesiastes 11:10 says it is fleeting. Instead of focusing on the latest “rush” in life, try focusing on perfecting our holiness in the fear of God. Pursue righteousness!
He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, And the rod of his fury will perish.
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
This reaffirms the fact that we are to live for Christ and not for the fleeting things of this world. Forget skydiving. Imagine the rush when Christ tells you to depart from him and continues to tell you that you lived your life in vain by chasing emptiness, by chasing hebel!!!
It is okay to do things that bring happiness but it is important to realize that none of this will bring an everlasting joy. Only God can do that and it is through the promise of eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ.