Friday after the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 1-3 (NKJV)
1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
3 What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? 4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. 5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. 6 The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. 7 All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. 8 All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after.
12 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.
16 I communed with my heart, saying, “Look, I have attained greatness, and have gained more wisdom than all who were before me in Jerusalem. My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
2:1 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. 2 I said of laughter—”Madness!”; and of mirth, “What does it accomplish?” 3 I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
4 I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. 5 I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. 7 I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. 8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds. 9 So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.
10 Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. 11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.
12 Then I turned myself to consider wisdom and madness and folly; For what can the man do who succeeds the king?—Only what he has already done. 13 Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as light excels darkness. 14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I myself perceived that the same event happens to them all.
15 So I said in my heart,
“As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, and why was I then more wise?” Then I said in my heart, “This also is vanity.” 16 For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool!
17 Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. 18 Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. 21 For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 For what has man for all his labor, and for the striving of his heart with which he has toiled under the sun? 23 For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest. This also is vanity.
24 Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? 26 For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.
3:1 To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to gain, and a time to lose; A time to keep, and a time to throw away; 7 A time to tear, and a time to sew; A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; A time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. 12 I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.
15 That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; And God requires an account of what is past.
16 Moreover I saw under the sun:
In the place of judgment, wickedness was there; And in the place of righteousness, iniquity was there.
17 I said in my heart,
“God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”
18 I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” 19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. 20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. 21 Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
22 So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
Ecclesiastes is not about nihilism or fatalism. It is about honesty and humility. The world, in its sinful mind, would say that things are pointless and meaningless. The Word of God is not advocating such an empty perspective. It is making the point that our narrow human perspective, which is skewed by sin, tries to attach vain meanings and goals to the works and events in our lives.
However, things are not pointless and meaningless when they are properly understood according to faith! As chapter 3 teaches us, everything has a time and a purpose, and those are determined by the Lord, not by man. It is foolishness for us to seek purpose and fulfillment in the things of creation if we separate them from the purpose of God’s good will.
The unfaithful people of the world try to remake God’s creation in their own image and for their own purposes, but they end up being frustrated. The Lord wants us to repent of this emptiness, not rationalize it or embrace it.
Man was not made for vanity. We have been made, sustained, and blessed by a gracious Lord! The Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—intended for our lives to have meaning and purpose as we serve in His Kingdom. And this is granted to us through faith in Christ Jesus!
We pray: Almighty and Everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and that we may obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.