by Kevin Burton
Got my rap name from the Bible. Gather round and hear the story.
When I first got saved, I started my Christian studies in the book of Ecclesiastes. Not sure how that happened.
Nobody steers new Christians in that direction. But for some reason I sought out Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament and the book of James in the New Testament as a starting point.
Ecclesiastes is the book of “a time for every purpose under heaven,” the backbone of the Byrd’s song “Turn, Turn, Turn.” Turn to chapter three to see where it comes from.
The book title for Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” is found in Ecclesiastes 1:5. My point of reference for how I relate to the book comes just before that, in verses 2-4:
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.”
In other words, what’s the point to all this?
The word vanity here speaks not to conceitedness, but to meaninglessness.
I was young but I had seen plenty of vanity already. I am sure you have too. Vanity emerges from a tedious Tuesday afternoon, from the headlines of your local newspaper. It looms over much of life it seems. You can feel in verses 6-10:
“The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,
‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us.”
I hope you have caught an important phrase, twice mentioned so far in the book: “under the sun.”
King Solomon, the son of King David of Israel, wrote Ecclesiastes. He paints a picture of life “under the sun” or without consideration of God and His kingdom.
Contrast this with the book of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul writes about life “in the heavenly realm.”
So all this vanity of vanity stuff refers to life without God.
Solomon was the richest of the kings of Israel. He enjoyed all the perks and pleasures available to him without holding back. He had the money and power to do, see and experience anything his heart could imagine. Sounds great huh? But He came away from it saying ‘all is vanity.’”
I have lived a long time as a Christian. I look at my performance and find it lacking. I have not lived up to God’s standards. I haven’t even met my own.
I have all Paul’s data on life in the heavenlies from Ephesians, but sometimes my mind goes back to the vanity. I started there, remember.
I have no business camping out there; remember Solomon was talking about life on earth without God. As a born-again Christian I am in the heavenlies.
If I have that vanity of vanities feeling you can bet I’ve had my eyes on myself too much, not on Christ or His promises.
Ecclesiastes has been called a bittersweet book. Solomon definitely keeps it real. So here is my hope as only Solomon and Ecclesiastes can deliver it.
Check it out in Ecclesiastes 9:4: “But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.”
There I see myself. I haven’t done so well maybe, but at least I’m a living dog and not a dead lion. God continues to tap me on the shoulder and wake me up each day. Still a chance to serve. Still a chance to contribute. He has a plan, He knows what He is doing.
And that’s where my rap name come in. Living dog sounds better as “Live Dog” as a rap name, so I’ll go with that. That’s live to rhyme with thrive.
So here I am Father, imperfect, disappointing old Live Dog reporting for duty.
By the way, here is Solomon’s final advice at the end of the sometimes gloomy book: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing,
whether good or evil.”
And to that Live Dog says, amen.