Wasted effort

My dad was an entrepreneur and over the course of his life was involved in at least a dozen business ventures. As a result, he experienced a lot of what Solomon referred to as “sore travail” (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Solomon said, “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is know by a multitude of words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3). I think my dad believed in the American Dream, the idea that a person can go from rags to riches if he is willing to work hard and pay his dues. At the time of his death, my dad owned properties that he estimated to be worth about $300,000. It was a fortune to him, but insignificant compared to the current value of the first home he and my mom bought 50 years ago. They lost the house in a bankruptcy due to a failed business.

I think there are many people who work more than is really necessary and those who don’t work enough. In my own case, I worked very hard for 14 years and then I retired. I realized toward the end of my career that I didn’t have a life outside of work, and if I didn’t do something about it, I was going to end up like my dad, alone and miserable.

Solomon said, “If a man beget an hundred children and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he” (Ecclesiastes 6:3). What Solomon was implying was that none of the man’s hundred children cared enough about him to give him a decent burial, therefore, his life was a waste.

Passing the baton

“So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel” (1 Chronicles 23:1). King David had the power to appoint his successor. Solomon did not inherit the throne, nor did he have a right to it because he was in a particular position in David’s family. In the same way the God made David king, David made Solomon the king over Israel.

At the time when David transferred the kingdom to Solomon, it says that “David was old and full of years” (1 Chronicles 23:1). What this means is that it was time for David to step down. The word translated full is sâbêa‘ (saw – bay´ – eh). Sabea’ often expresses God’s satisfying, supplying man with his material needs.

One of the tasks that Solomon was charged with was building the temple of God. It says in 1 Chronicles 22:5-6, “the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnificant, of fame and of glory throughout all countries…So David prepared abundantly before his death…Then, he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build a house for the LORD God of Israel.”

It is possible that David transferred the responsibility of the kingdom to Solomon many years before his death. We know from 2 Samuel 5:4 that “David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.” The fact that David made Solomon king could mean that he merely transferred the responsibility before it normally was expected to happen.

It says in 1 Chronicles 17:11-12, “And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will stablish his kingdom. He shall build me a house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.” Though in this context these words refer to Solomon, the New Testament applies them to Jesus in Luke 1:32-33 (Note on 1 Chronicles 17:12-14). It says specifically of Jesus in Luke 1:32, “the Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David.”

It may be that David knew Solomon’s  reign over Israel was intended to begin as soon as peace was established as an opportunity for the temple of God to be built. Once David had established peace in the land, he wanted to start work on the temple immediately. If David waited to transfer the kingdom to Solomon until after he was dead, work on the temple would be delayed because David had been told that he was not allowed to do it (1 Chronicles 17:4).

After David died, Israel’s commitment to the LORD began to slowly diminish. The years David spent establishing a peaceful environment for God’s people to worship their God were not wasted, but had little long term value. What became evident to David in his later years was that his only purpose was to make a way for the Messiah to be born. Everything else David did to establish God’s kingdom was vanity.


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).