“Everything is Meaningless”

As I worked a little in our yard today I couldn’t help but notice all the stages of life our flowers are in.  It is early autumn here and there are still new buds, fully bloomed flowers and of course dried up flowers whose short life has already been forgotten.  This week during my quiet time I have been studying the book of Ecclesiastes.  There is so much within this book that struck a chord with me.  If God leads me to writing a book some day it may need to be an in depth study of Ecclesiastes. This book of the bible is a strong example of the fact that the scriptures are truly timeless as this book holds the infamous “A time for everything” verses (chapter 3 1-8) for starters.  I am just stating the obvious.  What impressed me more deeply were the questions of a man who lived around 3000 years ago.  He lived nearly 1000 years before Jesus walked the earth.  His questions, his despair, his struggle with how good things happen to the wicked and how bad things happen to good people, his struggles with his own sin, his own vanity, his own pride, his realization that his power and riches left an even deeper longing and pain in his soul.  He began the writing 1:2 with “Meaningless!! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”  How often in just the everyday activities has this been my own thought.  Laundry is never done, there is always a project, always bills to pay, what is cleaned gets dirty again, there are always people bigger, better, and more talented. How often I have thought how quickly people are forgotten.  Within one generation powerful lessons and skills are forgotten.

I can see so clearly that if a person has their eyes, hopes, and dreams set on the
meaningless quickly passing things of this world that it would be so easy to slip into despair.  Why else would we see the ones who seem to have it all, fame, fortune, beauty, and talent slipping into a world of addictions.  Often addicted to vanity with multiple surgeries to try to restore their youth, addicted to drugs, alcohol, sleeping pills.  Many times retreating to a dark cluttered world full of materialism yet left with a feeling of emptiness.  King Solomon wrote of how seeking worldly pleasures and riches left him with meaningless nothing.

Before Jesus walked the earth providing the one and only way to eternal life King Solomon wrote these words.  3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  The rest of chapter three Solomon gives a glimpse of God’s final plan for judgment of every man.  The end of this book Solomon’s conclusion of life’s burdening questions that remain just as strong today as ever is this;  12:13-14 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”  Throughout this book Solomon keeps going back to remembering God.  Having the close relationship with God.  Unlike Solomon we actually know the whole story of God’s plan to come to the earth fully human yet fully God, Jesus, to die on the cross to pay the price of our sin that separates us from Him.  He proved who He is by rising again. To provide the clear path to have a personal relationship with Him.  To provide us the only way to eternal life with Him.  One day we all will be like the brown shriveled up flower as this life will pass quickly.  What has meaning?  What lasts?  Our relationship with God our creator, our healer, our sustainer, our source of true love, the truth, the life, our redeemer, our friend, the only good judge.  What we do in this life with our eyes set fully on God.  What we allow God to work through us and in us is what is lasting.  Loving others and caring about the eternity of others is the only thing that is not meaningless. That is all that goes beyond the grave of this life.

Chapter 1:9-11 he writes “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new’?” It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.  There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.”    It is my own observation in life that Jesus was and is the one and only NEW.  He was Creator and He is Savior.  His impact on this earth cannot be forgotten and cannot be changed.  God’s word can not be destroyed nor forgotten.  The word of God, Jesus, is the “new” Solomon was longing for.  Jesus is what all our hearts long for if we just open our hearts to Him he will fill us with joy, pure and meaningful everlasting joy!!!

4 thoughts on ““Everything is Meaningless”

  1. That was lovely, thank you. Sometimes I think that life become even more meaningless, the more people try to pour things into that abyss. The rich and famous with all their addictions for example, are trying to solve an internal problem with an external solution. They more they try, the more miserable they become.

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    1. Yes and there is nothing that can fill the void other than a relationship with God. When you allow Him to fill your life and your heart it is amazing how life takes on true meaning! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!!!

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  2. When you read the words of Kohelet (the author of Ecclesiastes) in some modern translations you will find that the endless repetition of the word “meaningless” is like Chinese water torture. Work is meaningless, pleasure is meaningless, money is meaningless, life is meaningless, wisdom is meaningless and even death is meaningless. At one point Kohelet tells us he tried to cheer himself up with wine and you understand why he had to plant many vineyards to satisfy his needs. With all this “meaningless” talk its no wonder that the book has been written off as the depressed rant of a bitter old man.

    The word translated as “meaningless” in recent translations is used 38 times in Kohelet’s short thesis but older translations used words such as “vanity” or “futile”. I have been told that it doesn’t make a difference which word you use but I would beg to differ. “Futile” relates to a failure to reach a destination or goal but “meaningless” tells us there is no reason to attempt to do anything at all.

    The word translated as “meaningless” in newer translations is the Hebrew word “hebel”. It is spoken with a soft “h” and “b” which makes it sound breathy. When spoken aloud it sounds likes it’s meaning, for “hebel” simply means “wind”, “breath” or “vapor.” The little word is further defined by the illustration Kohelet uses throughout the book. Futility, he says, is like “chasing after the wind.” This phrase conveys the idea of trying to control something that is impossible to grasp. It’s like a person trying to make a breeze to blow across the hammock he has strung up in the shade but the wind refuses to cooperate. In desperation he runs around the yard, flapping his arms and pushing the wind towards his hammock. Finally he sprints for the hammock and lies down, expecting to experience the rewards of his labor.

    The word “hebel” is normally translated by words that reflect the temporary nature of wind, breath or vapor. When you breathe outside on a cold day you see your breath in a form of a vapor cloud. The mist we see has substance but it cannot be grasped. It is there and then it is gone. This is the thought behind Psalm 144:4 “Man is like a breath (hebel); his days are like a fleeting shadow.”

    Oddly enough, when the modern translations work with “hebel” outside of Ecclesiastes they use English words such as transient, fleeting, perplexing, fruitless, unbeneficial, profitless and futile. All of these accurately portray the transitory nature of wind, breath or vapor and fit with “chasing after the wind”. Yet within the confines of Ecclesiastes they exclusively used the word “meaningless”.

    So why were the words more consistent with the concept of ‘hebel’ abandoned for one that isn’t? Quite simply, the modern translations are a product of their times. Translation is not done in a vacuum but within the mindset of the person(s) doing the translation work. In the last few hundred years the prevalent attitude toward Ecclesiastes has been that it is a nihilistic book which describes a life lived apart from God (under the sun, not the Son) and that its only purpose is to show us how meaningless life without God is. After hundreds of years of this type of interpretation, modern translators naturally thought the word “meaningless” fit the theme of the book the best. Unfortunately, that choice put a final nail in Kohelet’s coffin and Ecclesiastes, for all intensive purposes, has become “the lost book of the Bible.” It is good for a few quotes to hang on the wall but other than that, no one really reads it for what it is worth.

    I believe that Ecclesiastes is our truest and best wisdom on the art of work. The teachings of Kohelet can bring balance to your working life and to your relationships. It is a book of ancient wisdom that we have considered meaningless for far too long.

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    1. Thank you! The very best way to truly study the Word of God is to go back to the Hebrew meanings of the words and to cross reference different translations! I love how consistent it is with the New Testament teachings after Jesus came to earth and to the same life questions we have now. God and His Word are truly timeless! Where are you from?

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