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The Scriptorium

Vanity and Striving

Ecclesiastes 1.13, 14

Ecclesiastes 1.14, 15

14I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all isvanity and grasping for the wind.
What iscrooked cannot be made straight,
And what is lacking cannot be numbered.

The Story: From the beginning of his story, Solomon here jumps to (near) the end. He began well, seeking the wisdom of God, to understand and rule according to the divine economy. His efforts paid off, and Israel become the envy of all the nations (cf. 1 Kgs. 10). However, as we read in 1 Kings 11, Solomon got off track at some point, and he continued to veer into the path of self-indulgence apart from God (see on, chapter 2). Thus, even as successful, loved, honored, and wealthy as he was, apart from God nothing had any meaning or permanence for King Solomon. And nothing that he could yet do or fix (“crooked”, “lacking”) would have made any difference. Under the sun, the satisfaction men seek is always fleeting (vanity) and elusive (wind). Everything is weariness and leaves men still searching for something more than what this temporal, material age can provide. Or as Paul would say, men, as long as they remain strangers from God, are without hope in the world (Eph. 2.12).

The Structure: Ecclesiastes is thus a book of contrasts. Solomon wants his son to think very carefully about the path of self-indulgence and self-serving he is about to embark upon. He’s been there, done that, and it left him with nothing but longing for something all the pleasures and riches of this world could not provide. Men hope to attain a certain measure of wholeness and restoration through temporal means and material ends; yet no one will ever be as successful as Solomon was. And still his life “under the sun” was empty. Here is a warning also for those who confess faith in God: You may be sound in your convictions at this point, but if you do not ground yourself in the Lord and guard your way against the temptations of the world, you may end up groping for meaning and happiness at the end of your days, with no satisfaction to give peace to your soul. Real disciples will confirm (not earn) their salvation daily, by seeking the wisdom and rule of God in every area of their lives (Matt. 6.33; Rom. 14.17, 18).

What would those who know you describe as evidence that you are daily grounding your faith in the Lord and guarding your way against the temptations of this age? What is involved in your “confirming” your salvation day by day?

Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Vanity of Vanities: Ecclesiastes 1,” simply click here.

T. M. Moore

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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