God in His mercy has not told us when our lives will end. It may end in a mere whisper of a day, a year, or perhaps longer. Instead, He’s given us hope to carry on, to live our lives to the fullest. May we all live for Him as if each day may be our last—joyfully, expectantly, fully, rather in an elusive vapor.
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Vanity, breath and vapor
“Look at me,” the majestic, bull elk seemed to shout as he stood on a small mountain in the Dakota badlands. With chest out, head high, and antlers gleaming in the sunlight, he got my attention. He reminded me of a half-clad Adonis, posing with his sculpted biceps for all the world to admire.
In such cases, the word vanity comes to mind. But the word has two definitions. The one most familiar is: “Too much pride in your own appearance or achievements.” The Hebrew meaning, however, means: “vapor” or “breath.” In other words, in the Biblical context, the word means “the quality of being pointless or futile.” The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes used the word often.
Evidence points to King Solomon as the author of this often-misunderstood book. I avoided reading Ecclesiastes until I learned the original meaning of the Hebrew word and understood Solomon’s true meaning.
Solomon had the reputation for being the wisest man on earth. Noted for his great wealth, he entertained leaders of many countries and had great understanding of the natural world. He was highly regarded by all for his wisdom, his wealth, and his care for everything and everyone.
Yet, his downfall came from marrying foreign women whose worship of gods other than the God of Israel enticed him into idolatry. Perhaps he repented of his sin and then wrote his book of wisdom as a way to alert future generations about the dangers of futility.
Actually, Solomon’s book does speak of futility but only as such thoughts exist without God. Life apart from God, he writes, is “utter emptiness.” Much of what he writes, in fact, is edifying and beneficial, with the underlying mood of joy. The Hebrew words for “gladness” appear numerous times. Those who fear and worship God should experience the joy that comes in receiving His gifts.
The Hebrew word vanity speaks of life as “quickly passing” rather than as “meaningless.” Ecclesiastes ends with words we should all heed. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl. 12:13)
Lord, thank You for wise Solomon’s reminder that our life is like a vapor to live with joy and meaning. Help us to experience Your joy as we look beyond the fleeting days ahead to a time of blessed eternity with You . In Jesus’ name, amen.