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.

Details

What the LORD said through the prophets was fulfilled in Jesus Christ

Read: Matthew 2

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written.” (Matthew 2:5)

And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15b)

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled. (Matthew 2:17)

And he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:23)

Reflect:

It can be hard to re-read such a familiar passage in the Bible carefully, without my attention drifting. But when I think of the author of this gospel, Matthew (the disciple also known as Levi, who had once been a tax collector), I realise that this was a man who paid very close attention to his Rabbi’s story.

Matthew had the skills and talents necessary for being a tax collector: he could pay attention to fine detail, he could remember facts and analyse interconnections. He must have had an analytical brain, must have thrived on minutiae, or at least so it seems from his writing.

For Matthew, the most important details of Jesus’ birth and babyhood are found in the connection between the events themselves and Old Testament prophecies. Matthew finds four occasions in Jesus’ early life, five if I count the “virgin will conceive” reference (2:22-23), where the prophets predicted what Jesus’ life fulfilled. And it is not as if Baby Jesus could exert control over any of these events from the womb or his mother’s arms. The prophets’ words all came true by the sovereign will of the Father.

Isaiah, Micah, Hosea and Jeremiah spoke as the LORD spoke through them. They spoke (unknowingly) of Jesus.

Crux:

What the LORD said through the prophets was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are Sovereign: You make plans, you speak promises; you bring your plans to fruition and your promises to fulfilment. You are the Omnipotent God.

Thank you for your promises through the prophets that help me to see your plan and recognise your Son. Thank you for gifting Matthew with the talents and skills necessary to chronicle Jesus’ life and ministry. Thank you for equipping him to research and record the ways and occasions Jesus fulfilled the prophets’ words. Thank you for revealing yourself in the words of the prophets, in the words of Matthew, and in your Word, Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the skills and talents you have given to me. May I be faithful in using them to proclaim your glory, the glory of your Son. May I know the truth of your word as well as the details of your word, and be confident and capable to share this truth in speech and in writing. May I be faithful in obedience to your word so you are glorified by my words.

May you bless everyone who hears or reads my words with a better knowledge of you and a deeper love for you, for your glory.

Amen.