From the Cradle to the Coffin; Living a Vaporous Life for God’s Glory
“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 1:14
Many people believe when King Solomon described life by using the word “vanity,” that he was suggesting life was meaningless. But this is a rather poor interpretation, and could not be further from the truth. The Hebrew word for vanity (which appears thirty-seven times in Ecclesiastes alone) is “habel.” It means “vaporous” or “breath.” Solomon was comparing life to a vapor because life is fleeting and vaporous. To illustrate this truth, let us consider a person’s breath on a cold winter’s morning.
Life is brief – When you exhale on a cold winter’s morning, you see your breath for one split second, and then it is gone. It appears to vanish as quickly as it arrived. This is similar to a person’s life. It is only for a moment; just a blip on the timeline of human history. Elderly people, when reflecting upon their life, frequently express how quickly it seems their life has passed by. And how true this is; for the journey from the cradle to the coffin is a rapid journey. Solomon’s father, King David, expressed this truth when he said to God “Behold You made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath.” James echoed some of the same sentiments of David and Solomon when he wrote, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Life is unpredictable – When your warm breath collides with the cold air, the pattern of your breath can formulate into any shape and can go in any direction. Your next breath will produce a different vaporous pattern. Similar to Solomon’s description of the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:6), your breath seems to wisp around any way it wishes. Likewise, your life is unpredictable. Because life is very transient and elusive, there is not some recognizable distinctive pattern. From man’s perspective, life is filled with the unexpected.
Life cannot be grasped – Have you ever tried to catch your breath? It cannot be done. In the same way, you will never be able to master life. Solomon says that trying to understand the riddles of life is like striving after the wind. It is a burdensome task that cannot be accomplished (Ecclesiastes 1:13). The description of “chasing after the wind” might be beautiful poetic imagery to reflect upon, but in reality the action itself is a vain endeavor marked by endless futility. No matter how passionately you try to master your life, you will fail to grasp it and will always come up empty handed. There are just some things that are beyond your comprehension that you will never understand.
Our lives are easily forgotten – Like a vanishing breath on a cold winter’s morning replaced by another, “a generation goes and a generation comes” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). People live their lives day in and day out, and when they are gone, so is their life story. Solomon says, “There is no remembrance of earlier things; and also of the later things which will occur, there will be for them no remembrance among those who will come later still.” Do you know anything about your great-great-great grandparents? You probably do not. No worries, your great-great-great grandchildren will not know about you either.
Since life is fleeting, how should you respond? First, accept these truths about life and realize how limited you really are. Humbly yield your life to God. Seize the day by enjoying the gifts from God’s good hand; gifts such as food, drink, and labor (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:12, and 5:18). Be content with your lot in life (Ecclesiastes 3:22, 5:18). Be joyful in doing good (Ecclesiastes 3:12), and enjoy your spouse (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). And by all means, prepare for eternity. Simply put, life on earth is brief and soon you will draw your final breath, so enjoy God and give Him glory.
– Pastor Eric