Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

Solomon goes on, declaring all of life to be vanity. Work is vanity; wisdom is vanity; pleasure is vanity; life is vanity. The word “vanity” occurs 37 times in Ecclesiastes, and the phrase “vexation of spirit” 9 times. These are found together 7 times, the last of which is in Ecclesiastes 6. The first 25 occurrences of the word vanity are in those first six chapters. The first half of this book is easily the most depressing part of the Bible, and the second half isn’t greatly uplifting.

Is life truly worthless? If we look at it from a purely practical, secular, soul-less point of view, we must say yes. Life is worthless. You will be forgotten here on this earth. You could be the wisest person alive, but the one who inherits what you’ve done, who takes your post, could be a fool. Your work could be ruined, for all you know. Farmers grow a crop just to harvest it and plant another crop the next year, or perhaps not even to harvest it. Although many of the problems with crop-killing insects and viruses have been taken care of by modern technology, it is not uncommon for crops to be flooded and killed. Scientists do experiment after experiment and never learn a thing. Osama bin Laden was killed, but he will be replaced by another terrorist for another generation of US spies to take out. Teachers teach children who grow up and die, perhaps having made a small discovery that will make life easier, which in turn will make the next generation of children less motivated. We face an endless cycle of failure if we keep our eyes in the here, regardless of the now.

If we look at it from a purely practical, secular, soul-less point of view, we must say yes. Life is worthless.

But when we look beyond this world, when we look to Christ, we find the value of life. And the book does point to that, in some respects. The last seven verses of the book bring this out.

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity. And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, and he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given by one shepherd. And further, by these, my son be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

Although life may seem vain, we must not despair, for God will record what we do, taking always into account that blessed cross. Everything we as Christians do is run through a filter of Christ’s blood and entered into God’s ledger in anticipation of that blessed day when we enter into the Final Judgment. We do our work out of a love for God, which reveals itself in a positive attitude towards that work and the co-workers with whom we do it.

The Christian is placed in many different circumstances while on this earth. Some are characterized by hardships and trials, and others are full of joy and peace. How should the Christian respond? Throughout the Bible there are numerous times where God’s people sang in response to their various circumstances. Singing in response to God’s ordering […]

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The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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The group of churches that John writes to in this trio of epistles had recently experienced a split because of doctrinal controversy. We do not know the exact content of the error that these false teachers were spreading, but it is apparent from John’s writing that their teaching somehow denied the truth of the incarnation—that […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

The 2021 Tennessee young people’s retreat was held August 9 to 13 by Providence, Hudsonville, Unity, and First (Holland) Protestant Reformed Churches. The retreat took place at Eagle Rock Retreat Center in the city of Tallassee. It was about an eleven-hour drive, give or take a bit due to stops for food and restrooms. Though […]

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