"Vapor of vapors, . . . everything is vapor."
The word often translated "vanity" or even "meaningless" occurs 38 times in the book of Ecclesiastes, and simply means vapor or breath. It's a fitting description of life in a fallen world. Like trying to grab hold of a puff of smoke, so everything in this world that we try to take hold of in order to find lasting significance is ultimately fleeting and fruitless. There's no substance, no lasting gain. Corporate empires built from a lifetime of hard work are handed off to the next generation and crumble in a few years. Stock markets fall and investors falter, and the money we trusted in disappears. Activities that bring one pleasure today seem slightly more dull tomorrow. We study our whole lives to unravel the mysteries of life, only to face the same event as fools: death.
Life is vapor. It doesn't last, and it doesn't amount to much in the end.
The book of Ecclesiastes resonates with the longing and sadness of our hearts as we come to terms with the fleeting and fruitless realities of life under the sun. But it doesn't leave us there. Rather it lifts our eyes above the sun, to see life from God's perspective, and to give us wisdom for living out our days with reverence, joy, and hope in the God who alone can supply a gain and significance that lasts, having secured it through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.
Click here and scroll down for the Ecclesiastes series audio and notes.