Vanity, vanity

‘Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.’

Ecclesiastes 1:2

Ecclesiastes is one of my favourite books in the Bible.

If you read it, quickly you will discover that the ‘Preacher’ has struggles. He’s coming to the end of his days, and looks back over life and makes observations. Now the Preacher is a man who has walked in wisdom and knows God.

Much of the Bible’s wisdom has been interpreted as a pathway to a happy life – how to maintain economic liquidity, how to raise kids and more. This is no bad thing!

Yet the Preacher has lived that life. Remember what he concludes?

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”istock_writing

Now I consider myself to be at the beginning of a journey of wisdom. And I am not so naive as to assume that as I grow – with God’s help – in wisdom and understanding, that I will be nothing but happy all the time, forever.

The Preacher certainly does not think that all the wisdom he has applied to his life has caused him to be happy.

I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”  And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Ecclesiastes 1:16-18

Of course there is now a problem to be addressed. In my mind at least.

Why pursue wisdom, when there is only vexation and sadness to be had.

Frankly you have to be wilfully ignorant to think yourself wise and presume that the world is a good place. The Preacher looks out at his world and sees many things which cause him to be vexed:

self-indulgence
Wisdom
Work
Injustice
Wealth

What is the point in doing life God’s way, when we all end up the same? From dust we have come and from dust we will return, so why bother? This is the question on the Preachers tongue, and it echoes in my heart.

Though the Preacher makes this observation:

I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.

Ecclesiastes 9:13-16

Wisdom, then is of benefit to others. But for the individual it is a great cost. The pursuit of wisdom and understanding is not one every person undertakes. Wisdom is a gift bestowed by God and a journey I perceive him to be taking me on, the pathway towards understanding of the world and knowledge of him.

Maybe one day, I will be the poor wise man whom is despised, but delivers the city.

That reminds me of a certain Jewish Rabbi who lived and was murdered in 1st century Palestine. Fancy that

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