That Empty Sinking Feeling
This booklet is written with the idea of providing a means to get started in this study. It is by no means an effort to answer every question or give you all the proof you need. To truly understand, you need to do some research on your own. Most of the Scriptures quoted are from The Interlinear Bible, by Jay P. Green, Sr., as general editor and translator.
Lately there have been numerous opportunities for me to watch a lot of people -- family, friends, neighbors, people on television, etc. One thing has really become apparent. Many of these people are leading a very empty life. It can be seen in their eyes and in their faces as you watch them go about their daily activities. And they don't even realize what the problem is. Or maybe they don't even recognize that there is a problem.
Many people we see only live day-to-day. They have no definite or extended future plans. They just allow life to happen. They are simply busy doing their jobs, rearing their children, and taking care of situations and duties as they come up. Others seem taken up only with their own entertainment and doing what pleases them at the time. Outside that, there is very little solidity within their lives. At times, they appear like a ship without a captain; a car with no one steering.
Why? Why is there a lack of goals? No outside interests? No advancement of learning? They have left Yahweh out of the picture and whatever He may expect of them. Or what He may have waiting for them. They see only the continuation of what they have until they die. After that, they see nothing.
Even within those who call themselves by Yahweh's name, there are people who fit this same category - people with a lack of direction and contentment. But that is not right. There should be visible evidence of Yahweh in their lives.
Then surely from their fruits you shall know them.
What does Scripture say? Does this "empty" feeling appear anywhere there? Yes, it does, but not necessarily under that word. The concept appears under another word that we would not expect, with a definition somewhat different than we understand it in English. When we hear the word "vain" or "vanity" we think of someone who is totally wrapped up in themselves, arrogant, ego-centric, etc. Or someone who is continually looking in a mirror to make sure they appear "just so".
Here is a list of several definitions of the word "vain" or "vanity" as it appears in the King James Bible. It includes the number from the Strong's Concordance, the Hebrew or Greek word, and the definition. Later as we read the Scriptures, the reader can refer back to this list to see which word was used and what meaning was intended in the original language.
- Hebrew #205 - aven - to exert oneself, usually in vain; to come to naught; nothingness; also trouble, vanity, wickedness; specifically an idol.
- Hebrew #1891 - habal - to be vain in act, word, or expectation; specifically to lead astray.
- Hebrew #1892 - hebel - emptiness or vanity; figuratively something transitory and unsatisfactory.
- Hebrew #7385 - reek - emptiness; figuratively a worthless thing.
- Hebrew #7723 - shav - in the sense of desolating; evil (as destructive); literally (ruin) or morally (guile); figuratively idolatry, uselessness.
- Hebrew #8267 - sheqer - an untruth; by implication, a sham.
- Hebrew #8414 - tohuw - to lie waste; a desolation (of surface), i.e. desert; figuratively, a worthless thing.
- Greek #945 - battologeo - to stutter, i.e. (by implication) to prate tediously.
- Greek #2756 - kenos - empty.
- Greek #2757 - kenophonia - empty sounding, i.e. fruitless discussion.
- Greek #3152 - mataios - empty, i.e. profitless.
- Greek #3153 - mataiotes - inutility; figuratively, transientness; morally, depravity.
- Greek #3155 - maten - folly, i.e. to no purpose (from base of 3145 -- the idea of tentative manipulation).
From the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Sr, editor, page 1086 -
"Vanity - emptiness, worthlessness, or futility. The word occurs about 37 times in the Old Testament (NKJV), most frequently in Ecclesiastes. The word vanity as used in the Bible does not mean conceit or a 'superiority complex,' like the modern meaning of the term. When applied to persons, it means emptiness or futility of natural human life (Job 7:3; Eccl. 1:2; 2:1; 4:4; 1:10).
"When applied to things, vanity is especially used to describe idols, because there is no spiritual reality to them (Is. 41:29). Believers are urged to stay away from vain things and to live their lives in the reality of their relationship to Christ. Anything short of God Himself which a person trusts to meet his deepest needs is vanity (Eph. 4:17-24)."
Now let's go through some of the Scriptures that use these words. Not all of them will be listed, by any means. But you can find the remainder in a concordance if you would like to look deeper. The word that is being referenced will be underlined and followed in parentheses by the Strong's number.
You shall not take the name of Yahweh your Elohim in vain (#7723); for Yahweh will not leave unpunished the one who takes His name in vain (#7723).
Apparently that involves a lot more than just "cussing", doesn't it? It gets into the attitude and the way in which we approach and use His name.
Leviticus 26:16, 20
16 - I will do this to you also, and I shall appoint terror over you, the burning fever, the destroying the eyes and consuming the soul; and you shall sow your seen in vain (#7385); and your enemies will eat it.
20 - And your strength shall be consumed in vain (#7385), and your land shall not give her produce, and the tree of the land shall not give its fruit.
This is in the context of the curses that Yahweh placed upon His people because of their repeated disobedience. It meant that it would be a worthless venture for them to plant seeds -- they would produce nothing. It would only sap their strength and energy and bring it to nothing.
2 Kings 17:14-15
14 - And they did not listen, and hardened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not remain faithful to Yahweh their Elohim;
15 - and rejected His statutes and His covenant that He made with their fathers, and His testimonies that He testified against them, and went after the vain (#1892) thing, and became vain (#1891), and after the nations that were around them, of whom Yahweh had commanded them not to act like them.
They were led astray - away from Yahweh - going after something that was transitory, which could bring them nothing but misery.
Give us help against our foe, for vain (#7723) is the deliverance of man.
Give help to us from distress; for the deliverance of man is vain (#7723).
Man might be able to save a life, in certain situations. But man does not have the ability to save anyone as Yahweh can.
Yahweh knows the thoughts of man, that they are vain (#1892).
1 - If Yahweh does not build the house, they who build it labor in vain (#7723). If Yahweh does not keep the city, the watchman stays awake in vain (#7723).
2 - It is in vain (#7723) for you to rise early, sit up late, to eat the bread of toils; for so He gives His beloved sleep.
All activities are nothingness and empty if Yahweh is not a part of them.
He who sows injustice will reap evil (#205); and the rod of his wrath shall fail.
In other words, he will not reap anything good. His efforts will come to naught except to bring trouble on himself.
13 - Do not add to bringing vain (#7723) sacrifice; it is hateful incense to Me. I cannot endure the new moon and sabbath, the calling of meeting, and the evil assembly.
14 - My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them.
Yahweh says that the appointed days of man - "yours" - are desolation, evil and idolatry! He is not referring to His days, the times and activities that He set in place. But He is upset with what man has done to them and how they have been perverted or substituted.
27 - Behold, the name of Yahweh comes from afar, His anger burns; and that which rises heavy; His lips are full of fury, and His tongue like a devouring fire.
28 - And like an overflowing torrent, His breath shall divide to the neck, to sift nations in the sieve of vanity (#7723), and a misleading bridle on the jaws of the people.
The way He sifts - or deals with - the nations will be desolating and destructive, unless they turn to Him.
All the nations are as nothing before Him, to Him they are reckoned less than nothing and emptiness (#8414).
On their own, the nations are not worth much as far as Yahweh is concerned.
Those who form a carved image are all of them vanity (#8414). And their delights do not profit; and they are their own witnesses. They do not see, nor know, that they may be ashamed.
We know that idols and images are worthless -- they can do nothing, they cannot think or see or be ashamed. So is He referring to the ones who actually make the images?
1 - Behold, the hand of Yahweh is not shortened from saving; nor is His ear heavy from hearing.
2 - But your iniquities are coming between you and your Elohim; and your sins have hidden His face from you, from hearing.
3 - For your hands are defiled by blood; yea, your fingers with iniquity. Your lips have spoken falsehood; your tongue murmurs perverseness.
4 - No one calls for righteousness; and no one judges with truth. Trusting emptiness (#8414), and speaking vanity (#7723), they conceive mischief, and give birth to evil.
Not trusting in Yahweh, but in man or ourselves. Not speaking His words of truth, but words of human reasoning.
Truly, for delusion (#8267) comes from the hills, tumult on the mountains. Truly, in Yahweh our Elohim is the salvation of Israel.
Earlier we read where man's deliverance is all vanity. This verse tells us where our true deliverance and salvation come from.
3 - For the ordinances of the people are vanity (#1892); for one cuts a tree out of the forest with the axe, the work of the hands of the craftsman.
4 - They adorn it with silver and with gold; they fasten them with nails and hammers, so that it will not wobble.
How many people have an empty, transitory or unsatisfactory feeling surrounding the Christmas holidays?
15 - But my people have forgotten Me; they have burned incense to vain (#7723) idols; and they have caused them to stumble in their ways, from the old paths, to walk in bypaths, not on the highway;
16 - to make their land a desolation, a hissing forever. Everyone who passes by will be amazed, and will shake his head.
17 - I will scatter them like an east wind before the enemy; I will make them see the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.
Why will they be destroyed? Notice that it includes idolatry - worshipping something transitory and unable to hear or acknowledge worship.
But when you pray, do not babble vain words (#945), as the nations for they think that they shall be heard in their much speaking.
Yahweh wants sincere words, offered to Him, not just a few select words repeated over and over and over in a monotone voice.
But in vain (#3155) they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the ordinances of men.
Worship is worthless and fruitless if it does not include Yahweh's truth.
For the creation was not willingly subjected to vanity (#3153), but through Him subjecting it, on hope.
The human creature was designed to be temporary -- not to last forever. It was also designed with the ability to fall prey to uselessness and depravity.
I Corinthians 15:14
But if Messiah has not been raised, then our proclamation is worthless (#2756), and your faith is also worthless (#2756).
Our faith is dependent upon Yahshua's resurrection.
I Corinthians 15:17
But if Messiah has not been raised, your faith is foolish (#3152); you are still in your sins.
Our forgiveness is dependent on Messiah's resurrection.
2 Timothy 2:16
But shun profane, empty babblings (#2757), for they will go on to more ungodliness.
But keep back from foolish questionings, and genealogies, and arguments, and quarrels of law, for they are unprofitable and vain (#3152).
Our discussions are to be uplifting and profitable, not unending debates over things that, in the end, may have nothing to do with our salvation.
If anyone thinks to be religious among you, yet not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his heart, this one's religion is vain (#3152).
Our religion must be sincere before Yahweh. We cannot fool Him.
Do not be deceived, Yahweh is not mocked. For whatever a man may sow, that he also will reap.
Vanity is a subject discussed by Solomon throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. The entire book is beneficial to read as you have opportunity, but we will only look at a few references here.
1 - I said in my heart, Come now, I will test you with mirth. Therefore, consider with goodness. And behold, this also is vanity (#1892).
2 - I said of laughter, it is madness, and of mirth, What does it do?
3 - I sought in my heart how to drag my flesh with wine, and leading my heart in wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, until I might see where the good for the sons of men is, that which they should do under the heavens the number of days of their life.
4 - I made my works great - I build houses for myself; I planted vineyards for myself;
5 - I made gardens and parks for myself, and I planted trees in them, of every fruit;
6 - I made pools of water for myself, to water from them the forest shooting forth trees;
7 - I bought slaves and slavegirls; and I had sons of slavegirls; the slaves of the house were mine. Also livestock, a herd and a great flock were mine, above all that were in Jerusalem before me.
8 - I also gathered to me silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and of provinces. I made ready male singers and female singers for myself, and the delights of the sons of men, a concubine, and concubines.
9 - And I became great and increased more than all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom stayed with me.
10 - And all that my eyes desired, I did not set aside from them; I withheld not my heart from all mirth; for my heart rejoiced from all my labor, and this was my part from all my labor.
11 - Then I faced on all my works that my hands had done, and on the labor that I had labored to do, and, lo, all is vanity (#1892) and striving after wind, and there is no profit under the sun.
No matter what Solomon tried, he found the satisfaction to be only transitory. There was nothing lasting. But in reading this, he comes across as a very self-centered, selfish person, doesn't he? Everything he went after was for himself -- not for others or for Yahweh. Could that be part of the cause of the dissatisfaction?
For that which happens to the sons of men, and that which happens to beasts; even one event is to them. As this one dies, so that one dies; yea, one breath is to all, so that there is to the man no advantage over the beast; for all is vanity (#1892).
He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; and he who loves abundance not with gain. This is also vanity (#1892).
Ecclesiastes 6:1-2, 9, 11-12
1 - There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it is great among men;
2 - A man to whom Elohim has given riches, and wealth, and honor, so that he lacks nothing for his soul of all he desires; yet Elohim does not give him the power to eat of it, but a stranger eats it - this is vanity (#1892), and it is an evil disease.
9 - Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the soul. This is also vanity (#1892) and striving after wind.
11 - For there are many things that increase vanity (#1892), and what is the advantage to man?
12 - For who knows what is good for man in this life, the number of the days of his vain (#1892) life? Even he makes them like the shadow. For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
There is a vanity (#1892) which is done on the earth: There are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; and there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous - I said that this also is vanity (#1892).
Look on life with the wife whom you love all the days of your life of your vanity (#1892), which He gave you under the sun, all the days of your vanity (#1892).
So then remove vexation from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh. For childhood and prime of life are vanity (#1892).
Basically what Solomon discovered was that no matter what he bought, ate, drank, did or owned, none of it brought true happiness and satisfaction. There remained an emptiness in him.
This brings to mind the words of an old song - "Is that all there is?" Are we meant to simply live through this life, unsatisfied and discontent? Then go to our grave with nothing more to follow? No, that is not what Yahweh has in mind. He intends that we seek Him, follow His Torah, believe His Word, and depend upon and serve Him only. Through these things we can begin to discover contentment and satisfaction. And we will learn that no, that is not all there is. Yahweh has a plan for us - for eternity.