What do you expect for the new year?
The book of Ecclesiastes is an interesting review of life and of purpose. Most scholars believe that Solomon wrote the book toward the end of his life as he reflected upon all that he had accomplished, humanly speaking. While the author had accomplished many things, he looked back on his life with regret, and because of this writes to warn others in their pursuit of worldly gains. The refrain that is woven throughout the book by the author is “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” The word that we translate vanity has multiple meanings that can help us gather what the author is trying to say. “Hevel” can be translated as vapor, smoke, mist, futility or emptiness. The overarching message of the book is that apart from God, worldly pursuits are ultimately vanity. They are like trying to catch smoke with your hands. Another message of the book is that life itself is “hevel.” Life is here today and gone tomorrow.
James picks up on this theme and explains it in James 4 when he says, “13 Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”
I do not know what your expectations are for this new year. Many of you, myself included, are praying for a year with far less complications and difficulties than 2020 brought us. But I will say that the writer of Ecclesiastes has an important point. If we do not place the Lord as first and foremost on our list, then anything we achieve, even good things, will be vanity.
My prayer for you is that you will have a blessed year. I pray that the Lord is good to you and your family. At the same time, if 2021 looks a lot like 2020 or even worse, I pray that you rest in the comfort and hope that can only come from trusting in the Lord. This world and its futility is meant to cause us to focus on eternity. For as a Christian, when we focus on eternity we focus upon God himself. And there is no better focus for any of us as we start a new year. “11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.” Ecclesiastes 3:11-13
Pastor Aaron Suber