David said, “Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity” (Psalm 39:5). The word vanity is rarely used anymore and its meaning has become somewhat obscure. In Hebrew, the word that is translated as vanity and also as vain, habêl (hab – ale´) literally means emptiness and figuratively can represent something transitory and unsatisfactory. “The word represents human ‘breath’ as a transitory thing…for my days are vanity [literally, but a breath]” (1892).
As we get older, we realize more and more how quickly life passes; there never seems to be enough time to do the things we want to do. David said, “LORD, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psalm 39:4). Knowing how long you have to live helps to put things in a proper perspective, but it also makes you aware of the fact that the end is coming, probably sooner than you expected.
Our ability to enjoy life is somewhat dependent on living in the moment. What we have to do is forget about how much time we have wasted and how little time we have left. We must focus on the present; what is happening in our lives now. David referred to God as “the fountain of life” and said “In thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Light was the first thing God created after he created the heaven and the earth. Life was not possible until there was light, “the earth was without form, and void” (Genesis 1:2).
The word translated form, tôhûw (to´ – hoo) means to lie waste and is also translated as vain and vanity (8414). The word translated void means to be empty (922). So what David was really saying was that he wanted God to make his life like the earth was after God’s light began to shine on it, flourishing with life and productive.
Vanity is the best we can expect apart from God’s work in our lives. As God created the necessary elements for life to be sustained on the earth, so can he create the necessary elements for happiness to be sustained in our lives. One of the characteristics of light is illumination. When illumination occurs, darkness is dispelled. It says in Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”
The word translated shined, nâgahh (naw – gah´) means to illuminate (5050). Isaiah went on to say about the Messiah, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is the light. He gives our lives form and he takes away the void that naturally occurs in day to day living. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).