Allen warns against vanity
by Vicky Kaniaru
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews)—"In just a moment, when I now snap my fingers, we're going back in time to the 10th century B.C. in the Middle East," said David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Allen painted images of King Solomon's palace full of "falling shadows of trees transplanted from distant forests" during his sermon at Truett-McConnell College's Nov. 10 chapel service.
"I see in the royal garden beautiful flowers spangle their rainbow colors everywhere [and] deer stop the parkways," Allen said. "In the distance, I hear the neighing of 4,000 horses in the royal stables."
Deeming Solomon a business and shipping tycoon, Allen said the king was "a true renaissance man." Solomon authored more than 300 proverbs and was a "Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Hugh Hefner, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all wrapped up in one."
Allen asked the audience to picture an emaciated Solomon, who walks up to the platform to read from his last book, Ecclesiastes.
"Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities, all is vanity," said Allen, recounting Solomon's words, the richest man and wisest man who ever lived.
Allen noted "Havel havelim," the Hebrew translation of vanity of vanities, as the phrase that introduces and concludes Ecclesiastes. "Vanity is a word that means emptiness, uselessness; it's a word that means nothing. It's what's left when you pop a soap bubble."
The speaker highlighted five factors that foster Solomon's conclusion that life is vanity. These include absurdity, the irony of life, the incomprehensibility of life, the futility of life, and the randomness of life.
Absurdity is what "arises from the contradictions between two undeniable realities," said Allen, adding that this absurdity is exemplified in the existence of wolves and lambs; life and death.
Noting the irony of life in that "some things are inequitable," Allen added that the incomprehensibility of life portrays that "things don't always seem to be fair."
"God's put enough reason in this universe to make faith reasonable, but he's left enough reason out to make faith absolutely essential," Allen said.
There is also the futility of it all. The reality that "it doesn't matter who you are, everybody is going to die," Allen said. He also exemplified the randomness of life, stating, "the evil man prospers and the good die young."
Referring to Ecclesiastes, Allen said the book "begins like fingernails being dragged down a blackboard."
"Solomon has a case of the blues," he added.
The king realized that "every time a void is filled, another one opens up," said Allen, recounting that Solomon sought to find meaning in life through five major areas: wisdom, wealth, women, work, and wine.
"In short of the Lord Jesus Christ, Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived," said Allen, referring to Solomon's petition that God may grant him wisdom. However, through wisdom and knowledge, Solomon learned "the more you learn, and the more you know, the more you hurt," Allen said.
"Knowledge alone can't get you where you want to go," he said. "If you're seeking for knowledge, apart from Christ, then the sign on the road says 'dead end.'"
Noting Solomon riches, Allen added that, apart from God wealth will only bring "pain and heartache" instead of fulfillment.
Allen recounted the story of celebrity Kathy Griffin who received an Emmy Award, held it up, and said, "This is my god now."
"That's indicative of many people in the world today," said Allen, reminding the audience that Solomon "immersed in the playboy world of sex," became a workaholic, and held extravagant parties.
"He tried everything; but he discovered at the end of an empty bottle, and at the end of a needle, he found a dead end street, a bottomless pit," Allen said.
The more Solomon was gratified, Allen said, the less the king was satisfied. Solomon discovered that "the world promises more than it delivers," and "the title page is more interesting than the contents of the book."
"Life for Solomon became a grand illusion, said Allen, who noted, "pursuing life, without reference to God, is a grand illusion."
Solomon did not warn against enjoying life, he said that if you seek life and have it apart from God, then you're going to be miserable, Allen added.
Allen said the key to the book of Ecclesiastes could be found in the last two verses in the book stating "Fear God and keep his commandments, this is the whole duty of man."
This commandment is the conclusion of it all, said Allen, reiterating that, in order to serve God one must know Christ; and the only way one can have meaning, purpose, and true joy is through God's way.
"That's the way you find your way through the maze and labyrinth, through everything that life promises but cannot deliver," Allen said. "Only God can deliver."
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.