Hevel: VANITY of Vanities! Is life a Vapour of Nothingness?

VAPOUR/BREATH/VANITY/FUTILITY/USELESS/MEANINGLESSNESS/NOTHINGNESS: hevel. Masculine Noun (Strong’s 1892); Verb (Strong’s 1891); the name Abel (Strong’s 1893).

Root: הבל

Sounds like: h’vel.

Psalm 144:3-4 (see also Psalm 94:9-11)

O YHWH, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him? Man is like a mere breath [la-hevel]; his days are like a passing shadow.

Life is fragile; and living during a worldwide pandemic has made that more evident than ever. We’re just one tiny, short breath, in the long winding inhale and exhale of human history. We’re just a little vapour in the great expanse of the galaxy. Our lives come and go in the blink of the Almighty’s eye. In essence, we are rather insignificant… and Biblical authors explored that idea consistently, none more so than Solomon.

All is Vanity

Solomon, in his later years, devoted an entire collection of his writings to the question of our mortality and our, seemingly, worthless lives. As he reflected on his life he came to the conclusion that all was vanity:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 8-9, 12-14

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

“Vanity of vanities [Ha’vel ha’valim],” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity [Ha’vel ha’valim hakkol havel].

…All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.

…I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity [hakkol hevel] and striving after wind.

The word for vanity in Hebrew is hevel… and it is also sometimes translated as futility, breath, nothingness, meaningless, and vapour. Those seem like different things, but when most authors used hevel they were trying to express how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. Life was just vanity and we were all just extras in this great production called Life.

Life carries on, whether we participate in it or not… and Solomon had a hard time seeing the point of it all:

Ecclesiastes 2:17

So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility [ki hakkol hevel] and striving after wind.

Job would have agreed with Solomon:

Job 7:16

“I waste away; I will not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath [hevel].”

Even James, the disciple of Yeshua (Jesus), made a similar point:

James 4:14

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 

According to Solomon, we are born, we die, and we return to the dust from which we came. We’re, perhaps, no better than animals:

Ecclesiastes 3:17-22

I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there. I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.” For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity [ki hakkol havel]. All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust. Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth? I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot. For who will bring him to see what will occur after him?

It seemed like a fairly grim stance that Solomon took. Life was pointless and we were tethered to the grave. Hevel shows up 38 times in Ecclesiastes and it, almost exclusively, expressed Solomon’s view that life was futile and pointless:

According to Solomon, much in life was vanity:

  • Seeking pleasure was vanity (2:1)
  • Working was vanity (2:11)
  • Being extremely wise was vanity (2:15)
  • Rivalry between human and neighbour was vanity (4:4)
  • Labouring and depriving oneself of pleasure was vanity (4:7-8)
  • Trusting in humanity was vanity (4:16)
  • Trusting in dreams and words was vanity (5:7)
  • Loving money and abundance was vanity (5:10)
  • A dissatisfied soul was vanity (6:3-4)
  • Laughter was vanity (7:6)
  • The fact that the righteous die and the wicked live was vanity (7:15, 8:10)
  • The future was futile/vanity (11:8)
  • Everything was vanity (12:8) [which was a repeat of Solomon’s opening lines in Ecclesiastes 1:2]

Solomon had a fairly jaded view of life, but the rest of the Bible gives us a fuller picture of the word hevel.

Abel: a Breath Murdered

Early in Genesis we find out that one of the early humans was given the name Havel (הָ֑בֶל)(vapour, breath, vanity):

Genesis 4:1-2

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of YHWH.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel [הָ֑בֶל Havel]. And Abel [Havel] was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

Havel (which we pronounce as Abel in English) was but a short breath in the history of humanity. He was not on the planet for very long; his good living stirred up jealousy and judgement from his brother Cain. YHWH had been very pleased with Abel and his gifts to God, but with Cain He was disappointed and did not express His pleasure with Cain’s offering. This angered Cain.

Genesis 4:6-7

Then YHWH said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 

 But Cain did not master his sin, his sin mastered him:

 Genesis 4:8-12

Cain told Abel [Hevel] his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel [el Hevel] his brother and killed him.

Then YHWH said to Cain, “Where is Abel [eh Hevel] your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 

He [YHWH] said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 

Abel was a small breath in the history of humanity… but the remnant of his blood cried from the ground and YHWH heard it. We may be small and insignificant in this great epic adventure called Human History… but YHWH hears us. He sees us. He created us for a purpose and we are anything but insignificant in His sight.

Idols: Trying to Hold onto Vapours

Cain had not remembered who he was: he was a child of God. But in killing Abel, a fellow child of God, Cain became the first murderer of God’s creation. He put his pride above everything else. Pride was his idol, his vanity, his meaningless vapour which he was desperate to hold on to. Hevel has sometimes been translated as idols (although there were other more identifiable words for idol in the Hebrew language). Hevel was a kind of idol, an idol of nothingness, and that was what many humans were desperately trying to cling to. 

Jonah, in his prayer of repentance to YHWH, understood that worshipping anything but God was a violation of his faithfulness; it was worshipping nothingness.

Jonah 2:7-9

“While I was fainting away, I remembered YHWH, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple.

Those who regard worthless idols [hav’leh shaw] forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from YHWH.”

YHWH wants us to hold onto Him, but so many people dismissed YHWH’s covenants and held onto nothingness:

Deuteronomy 32:18-21a

You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. YHWH saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols [vanities: b-hav’lehem]”.

They forgot Him so He turned His face away from them; they did not seek Him so He could not be found.

Jeremiah described the making of idols as worthless, delusional, items of vanity:

Jeremiah 10:3-12, 14-15 (see also Jeremiah 51:17-18)

For the customs of the peoples are delusion [hevel]; because it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.”

There is none like You, O YHWH; You are great, and great is Your name in might. Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You. But they are altogether stupid and foolish in their discipline of delusion [havalim]—their idol is wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; violet and purple are their clothing; they are all the work of skilled men.

But YHWH is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King [YHWH Elohim emet, hu Elohim chayim, u-melek olam]. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

…Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; for his molten images are deceitful, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless [hevel], a work of mockery; in the time of their punishment they will perish.

Essentially Jeremiah was calling the people out as Disciples of Delusion (Hevel). They had nothing solid to hold onto… they were grasping at vapours, nothing of substance. 

Photo by Thomas Stephan (unsplash.com)

Exiled from the Garden: Toiling in Vain

It’s not easy being human. In the Garden of Eden we were commissioned to be the caretakers of the planet. But when life (Eve) and Human (Adam) chose to try to become gods themselves they ended up exiling themselves out of the Garden. They were still to be the planet’s caretakers but they would have to work really hard to do it. Caring, nurturing and cultivating the earth would take blood, sweat and tears:

Ecclesiastes 2:11

Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labour which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity [hakkol hevel] and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun.

We are a society built on profit… the bottom line. How hard can we work? How much money can we get? How many possessions can we acquire? And how do we survive without them? Solomon understood that all the work in the world gave no profit in the end. When our days come to a close, what does money do for us? Nothing but a fancy funeral. What are we striving for? And why are we so stressed out when we don’t have it?

Yeshua (Jesus) put it simply:

Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus: “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Although it seems vastly unfair that there are obscenely wealthy people living alongside people in utter destitution on this planet, the truth is both will face their end with empty pockets… equal in the sight of YHWH.  The obsessive hunt for wealth is, as Solomon would say, vanity.

David: I am just a mere breath, but there is hope

A thousand years before Yeshua (Jesus) wandered on the planet, His great ancestral grandfather, David, struggled with the question of his insignificance in the vast created universe:

Psalm 39:4-8, 12

YHWH, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath [hevel]. Selah.

Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely they make an uproar for nothing [hevel]; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.

And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions; make me not the reproach of the foolish… Hear my prayer, O YHWH, and give ear to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. For I am a foreigner dwelling with You, a stranger like all my fathers.”

David understood that he was a mere breath, but he called on YHWH for deliverance… and to be something more than a mere breath in the grand story of human history.

YHWH certainly heard his cry. Today David has become one of the most well known people in history. But David is not more significant than any one of us, in the eyes of God. We are all equal daughters and sons of YHWH, if we put our hope in Him. We gain God’s wealth according to our work, and if that’s just a vain endeavour for monetary gain, then we’ve missed the point: 

Psalm 62:9-12

Men of low degree are only vanity [a vapour: hevel] and men of rank are a lie; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than breath [meh-hevel].

Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope [teh-h’balu] in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.

Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God; and lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work.

All the things humans strive for: money, desires of the flesh, notoriety, are meaningless, but like rats in a maze we run in circles for these things. 

Proverbs 21:6

The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapour [hevel], the pursuit of death.

And this was the problem. By holding onto the fleeting things of this world humans were wandering down the wrong path; they were blindly pursuing their own death, and picking up the pace.

Peter pointed out that all these humans (these self-proclaimed ‘gods’) were really slaves of corruption and greed, blinded by consumerism and grasping to be part of a twisted definition of human normality. And those who blindly followed along weren’t completely aware that there were other humans (false prophets of a kind), with some sort of power, taking advantage of them for profit and gain. It was, and is, a strange and terrible circle. Even the most powerful weren’t gods, they too were just slaves reaching for vapours, toiling in vain.

2 Peter 2:13b, 17-19 (see also Romans 8:18-25)

[Of false prophets]: They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, revelling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you…

…These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

Whose Image-bearers are we?

We were meant to be YHWH’s image-bearers, but we act like enslaved image-bearers of the Adversary… the one who relishes in chaos and death. Paul called on God’s followers to lay that life aside and to embrace the true likeness of God:

Ephesians 4:17-24

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness

But you did not learn Messiah in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Regardless of Pau’s hope, humanity, for the most part, blunders on in life… striving for possessions that take us nowhere. The obsessive hunt for “things” is a seedbed for pride, apathy, self-centredness, gluttony, and greed. But that’s not just a “today” problem… the same issues plagued humanity three millennia ago: 

2 Kings 17:13-17

Yet YHWH warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.” 

However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in YHWH their God. They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain [ha-hevel wai-yeh’balu], and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which YHWH had commanded them not to do like them. They forsook all the commandments of YHWH their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of YHWH, provoking Him. 

Humanity’s ultimate desire to be gods themselves had taken them down an extremely dangerous path, dabbling in forces they did not understand. They sacrificed their own children and sold themselves to evil, all to obtain self grandeur… and for what?

Jeremiah 2:5-7

Thus says YHWH, “What injustice did your fathers find in Me, that they went far from Me and walked after emptiness and became empty [ha-hevel wai-yeh’abalu]?

They did not say, ‘Where is YHWH who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, who led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought and of deep darkness, through a land that no one crossed and where no man dwelt?’

I brought you into the fruitful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But you came and defiled My land, and My inheritance you made an abomination.”

The people had turned so devotedly to the pursuit of evil that YHWH let them walk in their sin all the way to Babylon. For the Hebrew people, the results of denying YHWH was devastating:

Psalm 78:32-33

In spite of all this they still sinned and did not believe in His wonderful works. So He brought their days to an end in futility [ba-hevel] and their years in sudden terror.

When He killed them, then they sought Him, and returned and searched diligently for God; and they remembered that God was their rock, and the Most High God their Redeemer. But they deceived Him with their mouth and lied to Him with their tongue. For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant.

Jeremiah, a prophet during the Babylonian invasion, recognized that destruction was eminent and deserved. YHWH would make Himself known to His people, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

Jeremiah 16:19-21

O YHWH, my strength and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of distress, to You the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood, futility [hevel] and things of no profit.

Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods! Therefore behold, I am going to make them know— this time I will make them know My power and My might; and they shall know that My name is YHWH.”

Jeremiah boldly announced that the leaders of the day were steering the people into futility/nothingness. They were not instruments of God… they were mouthpieces of their own agendas:

Jeremiah 23:16

Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility [mah’balim]; they speak a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of YHWH.

Suffering in Exile: Barely a Breath.

Only by YHWH’s hand could humanity be saved, but it was not yet time for HIs Anointed Messiah. The Jewish people would suffer under the hands of their enemies; they would be dragged out of Jerusalem and marched towards Babylon. In their captivity they would feel the great weight of being a tiny human wisp of air in a world run by foreign, unfriendly, powers.

Lamentations 4:16-18

The presence of YHWH has scattered them, He will not continue to regard them; they did not honour the priests, they did not favour the elders.

Yet our eyes failed, looking for help was useless [hevel]; in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save. They hunted our steps so that we could not walk in our streets; our end drew near, our days were finished for our end had come.

After 70 years in Babylon as prisoners of war, the Jewish people were allowed to return to Jerusalem. But the sins of the people, even after surviving such horrors, did not change. They continued to grasp at vapours and be comforted by nothingness. Zechariah, a prophet during this time, recognized that the Jewish people were without order and needed a shepherd:

Zechariah 10:2

For the teraphim speak iniquity, and the diviners see lying visions and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain [nothing: hevel]. Therefore the people wander like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd.

The People, the Plan, the Path

Centuries earlier Isaiah had seen the pattern of man’s reliance on themselves and the outcome of devastation. But YHWH had put a beautiful plan of healing and redemption in place:

Isaiah 57:11-19

“Of whom were you worried and fearful when you lied, and did not remember Me nor give Me a thought? Was I not silent even for a long time so you do not fear Me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you.

When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind [ruakh] will carry all of them up, and a breath [havel] will take them away. But he who takes refuge in Me will inherit the land and will possess My holy mountain.”

And it will be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people.

For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry…

I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,” says YHWH, “and I will heal him.

When we finally come to the conclusion, as Solomon did, that we are mere breaths, we are not all-powerful, we are not masters of our own bubbles, we gain nothing by grasping onto idols of nothingness, and we have no control over what happens when we breathe our final breath… then we are ready to face the fact that only through YHWH can we truly live.

And we can only truly live by the sacrifice that Yeshua made, to put YHWH’s great plan of Salvation in motion for us.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares YHWH, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

When we’re on YHWH’s path we march towards a great hope with a great future attached to it. We are no longer on the path towards death, but we march on the path of true living, with YHWH’s plans laid out for us.

But before we could reach the destination of that pathway, YHWH had some work to do. The great fall of humanity in the Garden had to be rectified. YHWH would send an Anointed Redeemer to change the course of history and to open the path for all who want to march towards everlasting peace.

Yeshua & Hevel

Before the Messiah arrived it must have been difficult to hold onto hope. Solomon had a hard time seeing anything positive about his lifetime of futility:

Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, 20

I have seen everything during my lifetime of futility; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his wickedness. Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them… Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

In that final line Solomon foreshadowed the Messiah’s coming. There was not a righteous man on earth when Solomon was alive, but with the arrival of YHWH’s Anointed One everything would change.

Yeshua was the only one who was continually and unerringly good, and without sin. Yet in His sinlessness He stirred up jealousy and judgement in those blinded by tradition and hard-heartedness… which ultimately sent Him to the cross.

Just like Cain and Abel… the Jewish leaders could not master their sin and murdered one of their own, a Jewish brother in the faith… The Child of God. YHWH could have said the same thing to the accusers of Yeshua as He said to Cain:

Genesis 4:10

What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”

Yeshua’s lifetime was short, 33 years, a tiny whisper in the history of the universe, but what an impact He made! When Yeshua hung on the cross, and was pierced for our transgressions, He took all of that hatred, and greed, and dissidence, and judgement and pride and jealousy upon Himself… so we wouldn’t have to bear the guilt of it. With His final breath He cried to His Father: 

Luke 23:46

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hand I commit My spirit. Having said this, He breathed His last.

But these were not meaningless (hevel) words from the mouth of a dying man; Yeshua, even in agony, was quoting Scripture:

Psalm 31:5a

Into Your hand I commit my spirit

The Jewish leaders would have heard Yeshua cry out these words and they would have known exactly where those words came from. He may not have finished the sentence but in their heads they would have heard the next words:

Psalm 31:5a-16

You have ransomed me, O YHWH, God of truth. 

I hate those who regard vain idols [false idols/deceitful vanities: hav’ley shaw], but I trust in YHWH. I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul, and You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place.

Be gracious to me, O YHWH, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.

Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbours, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life. But as for me, I trust in You, O YHWH, I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. Make Your face to shine upon Your Servant; save me in Your lovingkindness.

Our times are in YHWH’s hand… and because of that, we are not insignificant. We have a purpose and God has a plan for us.

But God’s plans for us aren’t always easy. For Yeshua, He would be handed over to His enemies, schemers who would break Him like a vessel. As YHWH’s Anointed (Mashiach) He would die on the cross and go to the grave, but He wouldn’t stay there. YHWH rose Yeshua up and conquered death, so that Sheol would not be our final resting place. By going to the cross for humankind, Yeshua would take our seemingly meaningless (hevel) existence and give it hope and purpose.

There’s a really interesting passage in Isaiah where YHWH and the Messiah have a conversation of sorts:

Isaiah 49:1-7

The Anointed One: Listen to Me, O islands, and pay attention, you peoples from afar. YHWH called Me from the womb; from the body of My mother He named Me.

He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; and He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, in Whom I will show My glory.”

But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity [w-hevel]; yet surely the justice due to Me is with YHWH, and My reward with My God.”

And now says YHWH, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (for I am honoured in the sight of YHWH, and My God is My strength), He says, 

YHWH: It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;  I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Thus says YHWH, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, to the despised One, to the One abhorred by the nation, to the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, princes will also bow down, because of YHWH who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”

Although it must have felt like toiling in vain when Yeshua addressed the Pharisees and Scribes of His day, He knew that ultimately there would be great justice and reward with YHWH’s plan. Yeshua was chosen, by God, to be the One… the Anointed One and the Despised One, the One to bring YHWH’s light to all nations, the One Servant of YHWH who would die, and live, for the Salvation of humanity. 

Through Yeshua (whose name literally meant Salvation) we are redeemed, not by perishable possessions, but by the blood of the greatest sacrifice:

1 Peter 1:18-25a

you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of the Messiah

For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the Word of YHWH endures forever.” 

From Fleeting to Forever

Life fades, but the Word of YHWH is forever. Through Yeshua we can be reborn. Our final stop is not the grave; we can make our way back to our Creator who loves us:

Isaiah 51:11-16

So the ransomed of YHWH will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass, that you have forgotten YHWH your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, that you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, as he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor?

The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. For I am YHWH your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (YHWH of hosts is His name). I have put My words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’

Humans are not just mere mists that briefly came, quickly went, and are here no longer. We are His people… the people He found worthy to rescue. He cared so much for each and every soul on the planet that He sent His only Son to redeem us so that we could get back onto the Garden path and return to His presence. Life without YHWH is hevel, it’s meaningless and vanity, because it’s not really life at all… it’s just a long and arduous road to a final end. But life with YHWH is an eternal warm homecoming where we will face, and be embraced by, our Creator. Amen!

Next week: happy

1 thought on “Hevel: VANITY of Vanities! Is life a Vapour of Nothingness?”

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