Today is the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. The Old Testament Reading for the day comes from the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes. Our devotional reading explores verse 2 of chapter 1, and comes from Ecclesiastes, Concordia Commentary.
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12–14; 2:18–26
Read the propers for the day in Lutheran Service Builder.
“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”
The second verse strikes the theme of the whole book. Solomon’s initial assessment of life—in this fallen world and apart from God, that is, “under the sun”—will ultimately stand the test of his observations and ruminations, because he will repeat it virtually verbatim in 12:8, and his final assessment of the sinful world will be no less discouraging than this first one.
What may have seemed unthinkable at first turns out to be absolutely true after all: the whole of it is empty, futile. By itself it offers nothing that is eternally significant, nothing substantial. "The all” is but vanity.
This gloomy evaluation is affirmed elsewhere in Scripture. After the fall into sin, God cursed the earth so that its natural processes would be frustrated and in vain and so that man could eke out a living only by laborious drudgery (Gen 3:17–19), anticipating the analysis of human toil that begins in Eccl 1:3.
St. Paul, probably with Eccl 1:2 in mind, declares that the creation itself has been subjected to “futility,” which is a synonym of “vanity” (Eccl 1:2), and could easily be translated in the same way. Yet this is all part of a larger divine purpose: creation was subjected “not willingly, but because of the Subjecter, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:20–21).
Thus the futility of the present creation and its pointless repetitiveness, which Solomon rightly observes in Eccl 1:3–11, is part of God’s eschatological goal to bring about something truly different and new—the new creation in Christ, with the promise of the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Devotion is adapted from Ecclesiastes, Concordia Commentary, by James Bollhagen, pages 35–36, © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hymn is "Son of God, Eternal Savior" from Hymn Descants, Set 1 by Benjamin M. Culli, © 2019 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.