Centuries ago, a wise teacher conveyed his reflection on the meaning of life. In his writings classified as wisdom literature, the Teacher said, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2 NIV) Yes, the time for birth is the beginning of a human being under the sky. But this isn’t an endless journey. There is a time limit that no one can reject, namely the time to die. Among these two phases, humans live a life full of color and dynamics. Humans work, study, have fun, work, enjoy happiness, partying, prosperity, success, but in it there is also pain, loneliness, pain, poverty, destruction, and experiencing injustice. All can come at any time, to anyone, whether they deserve it or not. About all of that, the Teacher who was rich, powerful, and had the potential and opportunity to enjoy everything available in the world, gave his skeptical views: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 2 NIV) Then, about the various things that humans do throughout their lives under heavens, the Teacher concluded pessimistically that all these things are “chasing after the wind.” What does that mean?
HEBEL, HEBEL, HEBEL
Hebel, a Hebrew word which in some copies translates as vanity, meaningless, futility, is a word that is repeated 37-38 times in Ecclesiastes. Hebel, a word that means “through the breath, a breeze, a smoke, water vapor” is a very appropriate word to describe how short human life is. Whether living for 30, 50, 60, 70, 90, or 100 years, all is like a single breath compared to limitless time, namely eternity, where every human being will go.
Hebel is the same word that is also used in Psalm 39: 4-6. “Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah. Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they [b]busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.” (NKJV)
As with the Teacher, the Psalmist also viewed human life as “hebel”. Very short, as a flash of shadow passed. Contemplate … how briefly it can be finally be truly in vain if man only seeks satisfaction and the meaning of his life from what is transitory and temporary! Then, what is the benefit of grandeur and pride under heaven, if in the end all things that are painstakingly pursued and maintained must be abandoned, and not contribute anything to eternity. Up to this point, it is perfectly appropriate for the Teacher to describe it as vanity and chasing after the wind. Then, how should humans go through life so that they aren’t trapped in a vortex of futility and a chasing after the wind?
CHRIST BE THE CENTER OF LIFE
The teacher doesn’t mean to say that human life is meaningless and useless, but that is what will happen if humans live their lives in their own way and do good things according to their own thoughts, without really seeking God. Therefore, let’s return to the Teacher’s statement about the time for humans under heaven: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die.” This statement shows that God has full power and sovereignty over everything, including determining the time of birth and death of everyone, without humans being able to choose for themselves. However, between birth and death there is a period of time in which humans live their lives and in this life humans are given free will to determine their own choices, including those relating to relationships with God.
Praise God the Father, if at one moment we have made the decision to receive salvation in Jesus Christ. It is grace that has transformed our status into a child of God and made a significant difference to our entire life. When we accept Jesus Christ, at that time there is also a displacement of purpose in eternity, namely from death to life, from curse to blessing, from vanity to the divine vocation. Faith in Christ is a step that immediately puts us on the path of grace which provides unlimited power and opens opportunities for us to do noble things that are eternal, according to God’s time and determination.
The power has been given by God, His help is available, but how the outcome depends on how we live our lives, whether we really make Christ the center of our lives or not. Making Christ the center of our lives means making Christ the only foundation, source, goal and motivation, which controls all our thoughts, actions and attitudes in all aspects of life. The sincerity of making Christ the center of our lives will be reflected in every choice of our response to everything that God has permitted to happen throughout our lives. Whether we obey the desires of the flesh or the will of the Holy Spirit, obey our feelings or obey to do the word of God, continue to believe or be disappointed with God, and remain faithful to the end or leave God. In the end, the choice for choice will determine the life we live in, in vain or produce fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Later, we must give accountability before God.
ENJOY LIFE IN THE FEAR OF GOD
” Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14 NIV)
Actually, this whole life journey is a preparation for an inevitable responsibility, which must be faced by each person, personally. Later, there is no reason and defense for every sin and mistake, because God has given us a lifetime opportunity to repent, be changed and shaped by God. Therefore we must truly live right before God, because all of our responses to God when we are still alive today greatly determine how and where we will be in eternity. God has bestowed salvation, given the Holy Spirit as Helper and Comforter, and has given the word that becomes the guide and contains the promises we need. We just have to always live in fear of God. Not fear of His judgment, but fear of God because we love and respect God. So, we will be able to see and respond to this life properly so that we can receive and enjoy what God has provided in our lives with satisfaction and gratitude. Thus, our focus isn’t on the pleasures of this world, but on God who gives everything. As the Teacher’s advice: “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” (Ecclesiastes 5: 18-19 NIV)
Life isn’t easy, maybe we have done wrong and failed many times, but as long as we wholeheartedly want to surrender ourselves to God, then God will help us rise again and again. His love always forgives and His power certainly strengthens and enables us to live according to His purpose and plan, so that our lives and labors aren’t in vain. Then later … when we stand face to face with God to account for our every act, we will look at the face of Jesus Christ without feeling accused, but with relief and gratitude because God has made our lives meaningful. Amen.
By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words
Photo Credit: Google Images ( pixabay.com ) edited with pixlr apps