Ephemera

Everything is ephemeral – except the one eternal God

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Read: Ecclesiastes 1:2

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

Reflect:

This is the motto of the Teacher, the echo and refrain throughout Ecclesiastes. The Hebrew word translated “meaningless” is hebel, which literally means vapour or breath (not to be confused with ruach, which means breath, wind or spirit). Hebel conveys the idea of transience, emptiness, futility, vanity; whatever is insubstantial or worthless.

In Isaiah 57:13 and Jeremiah 14:14-15 and 16:19 (and elsewhere in the prophets and wisdom writings) hebel is applied to the ephemeral nature of idols, especially as compared with the eternal might of the LORD God.

At first, it seems as if the Teacher’s motto is a statement of utter despair, frustration and pessimism. I’m left wondering if this Teacher, this wise elder, is nothing more than a grumpy old man.

However, this idea of everything in the world being transient or fleeting is consistent with  multiple passages of Scripture which testify to a contrast between the ephemeral nature of the life and wealth of people and the enduring nature and value of the word of God. Isaiah compares the faithlessness of people to fading flowers and the temporary life of people to withering grass, in contrast to the steadfast, enduring word of the LORD (Isaiah 40:6-8). James warns the fall of the rich is like the destruction of a blossom’s beauty under the scorching sun (James 1:10-11).

Further on in his letter, James uses the exact same vapour/mist analogy as Ecclesiastes’ Teacher when he says (4:14), “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” I think the message of Ecclesiastes and the motto of its Teacher may fit surprisingly well with the wise teaching of James, who also warned (4:4) that, “friendship with the world means enmity against God.”

What is meaningless? An ephemeral life lived with no regard for the eternal God.

crux:

Everything is ephemeral – except the one eternal God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are eternal, immortal, everlasting, enduring. You have existed forever and will exist forever more. You are the Alpha and Omega, the Living One. I offer praise to you.

In contrast, I am ephemeral. My life is fleeting, my desires futile, my efforts insubstantial, my achievements transient. I am a mist, a vapour. I humble myself before you.

Thank you for Peter’s assurance (1 Peter 1:18-19, 23) that you bought me with the imperishable blood of Christ, that I am born again of the imperishable seed of your Word. Thank you for Paul’s promise (1 Corinthians 15:42-44) that my body will be raised imperishable, in glory and power, a spiritual body. I treasure my hope of sharing eternity with you, my eternal God.

Amen.

Alive

The LORD’s people are alive forever

Read: Deuteronomy 32

On that same day the LORD told Moses, … “There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:48, 50)

Reflect:

What did the LORD mean when he said, “You will die and be gathered to your people”? How was Moses to be “gathered”? Surely in death he would be separated from his people, the Israelites who would enter the Promised Land without him. So how can I understand this prophetic speech by the LORD to Moses?

It is necessary first to understand that Moses’ people were not only the Israelites who travelled with him. They were also the Israelites who had gone before. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their wives Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel, together with Jacob’s concubines, Zilpah and Bilhah. The twelve sons of Jacob and Dinah, their sister. The 70-odd descendants who went down to Egypt and the tens or hundreds of thousands who left Egypt when the LORD opened the sea before them. These were Moses’ people.

And when the LORD gathered Moses to them, he did so to a living people; people who had died yet were (and are) still alive. As Jesus said (Matthew 22:31b-32), “Have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” God’s people are alive forever, because Jesus paid the price for our eternal life with his blood.

crux:

The LORD’s people are alive forever.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are immortal, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, who was and is and is to come. LORD, you live forever.

Thank you for the gift of eternal life in perfect relationship with you, which you have given to me through your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you for your promise that I shall spend my eternity with you, in the radiant splendour of your Son, with all my Christian brothers and sisters, through faith in Christ.

Thank you for Peggy and Daryl, who share this flight with me and will also be alive forever in your presence.

Amen.