It Means Vapour
4LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.
5Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.
There is that word "vanity". The marginal reference here suggests that it means "vapour". In Ecclesiastes in various places the original word translated "futility". My English dictionary tells me that behind the word futility was the concept of something "leaky".
Not a very good summation for the efforts of humankind. We see so many struggle to get their mark in the concrete; to strive fearfully for some impact in their waning moon; to ensure that their name will remain on the lips of others.
Elsewhere in Isaiah 40, I see a similar message:
6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
Every day on my way to work I pass a sports park which memorializes a young business man who died in an unfortunate motorcycle accident. His family were considered some of the wealthiest in our community. They had perhaps the largest of landholdings in rental properties in our region. Their record of philanthropic givings was immense.
But sadly within a span of about four years, son, mother and father all died; the mother of health complications which I do not remember; the father in a car accident on the way to church. Exit a well-respected family. Do I hear much about them now?
So how must this warning affect our remaining years? The little verse comes to mind:
Only one life,
'Twill soon be past.
Only what's done
For Christ will last.
What do we "do" for Christ? Speak and think equitably. Avoid the ill report. Alleviate suffering, shame and loneliness. Affirm others in day to day ways. Speak well of the name and fame of our Saviour. Explore the mysteries beyond the veil through prayer, scripture and honest dialogue with faithful friends. Stay away from dark paths and dark pass-times. Forgive always. Suggest to acquaintances the peace, purpose and hope of a Christ-like life and death.
These priorities have their place in a glorious heritage, a glorious community. They do not evaporate. They do not leak.