8/4 Readings: Vanity and the Victory of Christ

8 Pentecost

Hosea 11:1-11 [Eccl. 1:2, 12-14; 2:28-23];
Ps. 107:1-9, 43 [Ps. 49:1-11];
Col. 3:1-11;
Lk. 12:13-21

“Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2).  This sad pronouncement is about the limit of time and the boundary of death, subjects largely ignored as means to cope with life and construct meaning.  Life is meaningful, we say.  There is goodness and love and beauty and purpose, we believe.  Death knows nothing of our meaning.  “It is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with.  I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and chasing after the wind” (Ecc. 1:13).  We labor and struggle only to lose what we have to strangers in an unknown future.  “I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me – and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish?  Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun.  This also is vanity” (Ecc. 2:18, 19).

The Psalmist likewise laments.  “For we see that the wise die also; like the dull and stupid they perish and leave their wealth to those who come after them.   Their graves shall be their home for ever, their dwelling place from generation to generation, though they call the lands after their own names.   Even though honored, they cannot live forever; they are like the beasts that perish” (Ps. 49:9-11).  There is, it seems, no relief even in the words of Jesus.  Telling the parable about a rich man who pulled down his barn to build larger ones for his grain and goods and his planned retirement of relaxing, eating, drinking, and making merry, Jesus said, “But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you.  And the things that you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20).

We can do nothing about death.  It waits and wins.  “We can never ransom ourselves, or deliver to God the price of our life; For the ransom of our life is so great, that we should never have enough to pay it, in order to live for ever and ever, and never see the grave” (Ps. 49:6-8).

What we cannot do, God has done through the ministration of Christ our Lord.  God has loved us and lifted us up in union with Christ.  This love is tender and strong.  “It was I who taught them to walk, I took them up in my arms . . . I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks” (Hos. 11:3-4).  With such love, Christ went to death and hell to defeat the enemy and to set captives free.  Christ broke the bonds of death and removed the sting of death, raising us up in union with him.  This is our hope, and this hope will not disappoint us.  “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God . . . for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”  (Col. 3:1-3).  You are already dead.  The Old Adam has been put to death; or rather, is being put to death.  Therefore, reject “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed (which is idolatry)” (Col. 3:5).  Leave aside “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” (Col. 3:8).  Strip off the old self and let Christ be all in all.

Christ is your life, your undying life, the revelation of who you are.

Look It Up:  Col. 3:9

Think About It: Your new self is hidden with Christ in God.


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