Ecclesiastes 2 New International Version (NIV) 2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?”
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When most English speaking people think of the word “vanity” (translated from Ecclesiastes) they automatically think of pride and egotism. But vanity in English has a duel meaning, also referring to something that is meaningless and futile. It seems both usages can be applied hand-in-hand, because unbalanced pleasure in the human heart generally leads to egotism. But I think the author was leaning more towards stressing the “futility” of pleasure. He acknowledges that pleasure is actually good and a gift from God. So what he was really trying to convey, I believe, is that when pleasure is the end goal it amounts to nothing at all because it is fleeting as a “mere breath” and is no more. Serving God should be the end goal. He is our Creator and our lives are ultimately in His hands.
According to Ecclesiastes 2:1&2 the enjoyment of pleasure and laughter is vanity. I have in my own lifetime experienced many years of the exact opposite - deep depression and anxiety- unto the point of longing for death to come. I deeply missed the peace and joy that a born-again Christian was blessed with through the blood of Christ. Therefore I count pleasure and laughter as things to be enjoyed and not as vanity. The Lord promises to wipe away all of our tears in glory, with no more death or crying, which truly makes us all long for heaven. We would be most miserable if we could never enjoy earthly pleasures and laughter; however, it must not come before our desire to serve God and seek His will for our lives while still here on earth.
With this book, I believe the beginning is really at the end. Ecclesiastes 12:13,14, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil." This book was probably written by Solomon in his old age. He had received wisdom, more than any other man. He had riches beyond measure, he had family, he was King...and yet he needed to repent and recommit himself to God. He had great loss and great regret. His life was fleeting, almost over. I believe he wrote to leave believers a guide on avoiding the perils and pitfalls that can happen. The book says that life itself is vanity of vanities. The word vanity, (biblically) means brief, a mist, a vapor or a breath. Life is like a vapor or a breath. We are here, then gone very quickly. Verse 1:14, "I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind." Ecclesiastes 6:12, "For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell what will happen to him under the sun?" We should understand vanity to be quickly passing, fleeting. This word is used 38 times in this book. It is only found 34 times more in the Old Testament. Life is to be savored. It is a gift from God. Don't just seek pleasure for the sake of pleasure! God indeed wants us to be happy. But there is so much more than the moment. What's next? Proverbs 14:13, "Even in laughter the heart May sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief." I think this may be a reference to Bathsheba and Absalom. How can the heart be satisfied with a moment's folly? The only lasting pleasure is found in a relationship with God. Never forget that. He is the way. He is the path to true satisfaction. He is the never -ending story. The only never ending Love. Nothing fills the heart like the Love from God. All else is fleeting. Look beyond the momentary feel good of the moment, look to eternity! Vanity in Hebrew is "hebel." All in this world will pass away. Jeremiah uses the same word vanity to mean worthless in his book, 18:15. Job also used vanity to bemoan the brevity of life in Job 7:16. Everything, pleasure included, is from the hand of God. Ecclesiastes 2:24-26. He wants us to have enjoyment. He wants us to spend eternity with Him! This book was written for our benefit, given by the inspiration of God.
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