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Bible verses about Meaninglessness
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To those unfamiliar with the usage of this figure of speech, "under the sun" may be the most mysterious of the three significant terms in Ecclesiastes. This phrase accounts for much of why Ecclesiastes seems so pessimistic when first read. By using it, Solomon is stating the perspective from which he, and the overwhelming majority of mankind, views life in all of its vain complexities.

He is literally telling us that he is looking at these matters of life where the sun shines. For the most part, and especially at this point within his lecture, his perspective does not include what is above the sun—God. To see things "under the sun" is to look at life's events from a carnal perspective. Life from God's perspective is not in view in such a case.

"Under the sun" is to think and act from an earthly point of view, to look at things carnally. Solomon is leaving God out of the picture for a time as his lecture unfolds. His purpose at this point is to cause us to begin to fear that vanity is all there is to life. All too often, in the busy crush of everyday events, we forget to remember God and His purpose. When we do this, even though we may be converted, we are back under the sun once again, looking at things carnally.

Ecclesiastes is not just about meaninglessness. It also opens the possibility of an "above the sun" perspective of life that can teach us that everything matters in spite of all the vanity we face. By being a means of helping Him to form us into what He desires, vanity can play a major role in God's purpose. We will learn as we continue through Solomon's lecture that an internal disgust of vanity can motivate cooperation with God and produce growth to maturity.

We will also find that Solomon is not at all pessimistic about a life in which God is considered in all things. The truth is that he is teaching why everything matters and that God's children need to be aware of making right choices or life will be meaningless. The gift of life is precious, and the gift of having the responsibility to make many choices in life is wonderful. God's calling and the revelation of Himself and His purpose are gifts beyond calculation. Solomon is urging us to make every effort not to waste the gifts God has so graciously given.

Each of us has only one opportunity for salvation. Life is not vain for us because we are being transformed, created for a different world. This vain and weary world should serve as a reminder to prompt us to turn our perspective to the right one, "above the sun."

Tremendous profit lies in what the called children of God are experiencing. We must choose to direct our lives to follow an "above the sun" perspective so that our lives are not meaningless. The choice lies between chasing the dreams of the unconverted or submitting to what God has revealed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part One)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Vanity is a word that we are familiar with in another form. It appears early in the Bible as the name given to the second person born on earth, Abel. Adam named him "Vanity." In its simplest form, it signifies a breath, which is comparitively nothing. That is what it means—nothing.

A breath has a short existence. We breath in and breath out, and then we take another one. It lasts for just a second. When we carry out the application of this word, temporariness begins to come to the fore because a person's breath is very temporary and quickly replaced by another and another and another. Vanity describes something that is nothing, impermanent, temporary. But that hardly exhausts its meaning.

This phrase "vanity of vanities" is written in the Hebrewsuperlative form. It is similar in its application as "holy of holies." Another one is the "Song of Songs," sometimes called Canticles or Song of Solomon. Modern translators tend to translate vanity of vanities as "meaningless." A single breath has no meaning to it. Some have gone so far as to translate it "absurd." In a way, this fits the context of Ecclesiastes best because absurd means "irrational," an affront to reason, something that does not fit the order and purpose we seek from life.

That is what Solomon means: Life is absurd. Why do we live? All of our life, we spend working, playing, relating, and at its end, what does a person have to show for what he has done? It is absurd, irrational, meaningless.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)


 

Ecclesiastes 2:26   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is it better to receive a gift from God or to work for it in the way Solomon did? The former is preferable. With our understanding and help—if we are "good in His sight"—God can turn what would normally be meaningless and absurd into something that is profitable for us, if we allow Him.

Solomon reaches an overall conclusion here: In reality, the evil people of the world are working for the benefit of the righteous. Eventually, all will come to those God considers good. We must look at this in its full scale. Who will inherit the earth—and not only the earth, but everything in it? The sons of God. Solomon is taking a long-range view of this. The wicked will eventually be seen to have been building and gathering for the work of the righteous. All their works are a vanity to them, but they are God's gift to the righteous.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This chapter marks a decisive change in the book in that it not only becomes much more positive than it has been preceding this, but it also becomes more exhortive.

Remember that the term qoheleth means "the lecturer" or "the preacher." The preacher is now calling on the people who are listening to his dissertation to make a decision. He does not say, "You can make any kind of decision you want," but He weighs his advice heavily in one direction. He says, "I want you to make a decision, but this is the decision I think you ought to make."

It becomes positive in its tone and exhortive in terms of making a decision as to what they should do with the knowledge that he has given them thus far. He strongly urges his readers or hearers to cast their lots with God.

This section begins in Ecclesiastes 11:1 and ends in 12:7. There is a sustained theme of exhortation to hold wholeheartedly to the faith and to decisive commitment to obedience to God, regardless of whether life is adverse or comfortable.

Remember that at the beginning of the book he said that life is frustrating. If God is involved in a person's life, he has the opportunity to remove a great deal of the frustration from his life. His relationship with God will take the meaninglessness, the vanity, out of life. But all the children of God are required to make that choice because both choices are still there.

Not only that, but we know from earlier in the book that the life of the person who is living by faith will also be filled with many of the same kind of adversities that those living in vanity are. He has to live with the understanding that many things are out of his control.

The Christian therefore has to deal with this, and the way this is done is to make a decisive commitment to cast his lot to live by faith. If he does that, then Romans 8:28 will be fulfilled in his life. The difficulties will be there, but because the Christian has involved God in the way that he lives his life, then all things will indeed work together for good to those who are the elect and who love God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 12:8-13   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 8 reminds the reader where Solomon's treatise began. A person's life will end in vanity if he does not take advantage of the life of faith that God has given to him. His life will simply end in meaninglessness.

Solomon advises us to fear God and keep His commandments. He is saying to eat and drink joyfully, but to do it in balance. We should never lose control of ourselves. We need to work with purpose and do it diligently. It is best to enjoy our marriage with our mate. We are to seek wisdom and use it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

 




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