“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem: ‘Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit has a man of all his labor which he takes under the sun’?”
Oh how dark the valley when the sun has set behind the mountains or covered by thick, storm clouds.
“Doom, despair and agony on me.”
That’s really what King Solomon was evidently feeling when he penned the dismal words in today’s Manna. The Hebrew word “hebel” is used here for “vanity” and also means “emptiness, transitory, something unsatisfactory, etc.” and comes from “habal,” which means “to lead astray.”
Thus, it’s the picture of hopelessness and desperate despair that settles over one like a “fog of forsakenness.”
And, in Solomon’s case, it was brought on by his sinful idolatry and immorality.
The Scriptures clearly state the heart of this son of David, who was the wisest man to ever live (other than Jesus), was “turned away after other gods—and his heart was not perfect (Heb. ‘shalem’—‘whole, peaceable, complete, friendly, etc.’) with the Lord his God. . .” (I Kings 11:4). This was because of “ his strange (Heb. ‘nokriy’—‘foreign, adulterous, alien, outlandish, pagan, etc.’) wives, who burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (v.8).
Sin always has a way of hiding God’s Face from us and distorting our view of things. It causes us to lose perspective and chips away at a once-vibrant faith, replacing it with doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, etc. Such was certainly the case in Solomon’s life.
Repeatedly throughout his writings in Ecclesiastes, Solomon uses the words “vanity,” “vexation of spirit” and “under the sun.” Wisdom (1:12-18), pleasure (2:1-3), great accomplishments (2:4-17), hard work (2:18-23; 4:4-12; 6:7-8), popularity (4:13-16), religion (5:1-7), wealth (5:8-17; 6:1-2), children (6:3-6), future expectations (6:9-12), self-control (7:15-18), etc., are all dead-end streets when they become an end in-and-of-themselves.
True wisdom is found in the Lord and our right relationship with Him (James 3:13-18; Eccl. 7:15-29; 9:13-10:6). But, when we stray from Him, as Solomon did, we end up “sowing to the wind and reaping the whirlwind” (Hos. 8:7). We’ll take our eyes off of the One Who made both heaven and earth and begin to see everything “under the sun” instead lifting them “higher than the hills from whence our help comes” (Ps. 121:1-2).
It’s interesting that Solomon addresses himself as “the Preacher” at the outset, even though he was a king. Scholars are unclear as to why he would have done this; but, one thing was/is clear—his message here is both a word of warning and wooing: A warning against following in his latter footsteps and a wooing to “fear God and keep His commandments—for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13). Or, as Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness—and all these things will be added unto you” (Mt. 6:33).
July 10, 2011