Vanity of Vanities, or a Wayward Lament

Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”?  It has been already and in the ages before us.  There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.     -Ecclesiastics 1:2, 9-11

I remember a time in Bible college reading through my Old Testament survey book and getting really frustrated with the people of Israel.  “What the crap?”  I exclaimed, “Why don’t you guys just listen to the prophets?”  I mean it’s ridiculous!  God does so many miraculous signs and wonders during the exodus and immediately follows them up with miraculous provisions in the wilderness, yet they turn to idols and pagan demon gods as they encountered new lands.

They reject God as their king and demand a monarch to accommodate the worldly desires of their hearts.  Their king violates the law and the next king commits adultery, murder, and perjury.  Despite his wisdom, Solomon falls into the same problems, and his sons divide the kingdom making matters all that much worse.  The prophets keep telling them, “Destroy the high places!”  Destroy the demonic places where you take yourself away from God and give yourself to what is evil.  But they don’t listen.  Eventually the Assyrian’s conquer and carry away the people of Israel, the northern kingdom, and later (despite Jeremiah’s best efforts), the southern kingdom rebels against God and is destroyed by Babylon.  “Just listen to the prophets!”

It’s was a convicting thought when I stopped and realize that I am just like them.  I like to think that I am a righteous and godly man all of the time, but the truth is it’s very easy to take my eyes off of God.  How often do I actively pray on a daily basis?  How often do I open the Scriptures and ask Jesus to teach me?  How often do I rely on him to make me more like him?  If I were to be completely honest, there are times (more frequent than I’d like to admit) where I go days and even weeks without opening the Bible, and days at a time with little more than touch and go prayers at meals and with friends.  A friend once said regarding prayer, “How can you have a relationship with someone when you don’t talk to them?”

The truth is, sometimes I feel so far away from God because I am like a stupid Israelite.  I sometimes forget the wonders he has done in my life, at times I disobey his commands, and I have my own high places built up around me to pull me away from him.  It’s something I am working and praying through and I invite your prayers for me in this.  Likewise, I would like to pray for anyone who is struggling in the same way.

The song at the top is a new one from Red, called So Far Away.  It’s a song that’s resounded in my heart over the last few weeks.  Below are the lyrics and an excerpt from Red’s guitarist on why they wrote the song.  May it bless and encourage you in the same way.

Anthony Armstrong: There are times regardless of how hard we fight it that we just feel like we’ve drifted so far away from what we used to be…it’s frustrating because sometimes we don’t really remember where it all went wrong and how we get back to that place and go a different direction. This subject matter felt like it needed to be wrapped in a ballad. The slower tempo and feeling felt right, but we juiced it up with heavier guitars than a typical striped down ballad. The bridge is where it seems to turn around and we discover a way to get back to where we want to be.”

I am right here with you
I couldn’t be more close
Pretending that I’m in this moment
When I’m only a ghost
I listen to the words you’re saying
Words I’m fighting to believe
It’s like I’m living from a distance
Where you’re out of reach

I wanna feel it
Wanna mean it when I say it
Can you hear me at all?

And I feel so far away
Far away from everything
Outside wandering
When I got lost
I throw my arms up in the air
Why do I disappear
How can your love be so close
When I’m so far away

Remember when you found me drowning
Pulled me from the deepest end
I promised I would never leave you
But now I’m drowning again
It’s killing me with every breath
Witnessing the life I’ve left
Only you know who I am
I’m reaching out my hand

I wanna feel it
Wanna mean it when I say it
Can you hear me at all?

And I feel so far away
Far away from everything
Outside wandering
When I got lost
I throw my arms up in the air
Why do I disappear
How can your love be so close
When I’m so far away

I’m so far away
I’m so far away, yeah

And I don’t wanna waste time
Living a half life
Are you listening
Yeah give it back to me
I remember everything
The way it used to be
Yeah give it back to me
Yeah give it back to me
I hear your voice
But inside I’m lost

And I feel so far away
Far away from everything
Outside wandering
When I got lost
I throw my arms up in the air
Why do I disappear
How can your love be so close
When I’m so far away

I’m so far away
I’m so far away, yeah

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