Thursday 30 December 2010

Philip Graham Ryken on Ecclesiastes

Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 320pp., ISBN 9781433513756.

Published earlier this year, this volume on Ecclesiastes is part of Crossway’s ‘Preaching the Word’ series.

There is a pdf excerpt containing the chapter on Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 here (effectively forming an introduction to the commentary) and one on 3:1-8 here.

Ryken suggests that we should study Ecclesiastes (14-15):

• because it is honest about the troubles of life.

• to learn what will happen to us if we choose what the world tries to offer instead of what God has to give.

• because it asks the biggest and hardest questions that people still have today.

• because it will help us worship the one true God

• because it teaches us how to live for God and not just for ourselves.

Some quotations give the flavour of his ‘take’ on the book:

‘While it is true that the Preacher takes a sober view of life, never flinching from any of its complexities and confusions, it is equally true that he has solid hope in the goodness of God as well as lasting joy in the beauty of his many gifts. This is exactly why he has shown us the futility of everything earthly: it is so we will put our hope in the everlasting God.’ (20)

‘Here in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says that the fear of God is not just the beginning but also the end – the goal of our existence. But in order to know and enjoy God properly, we first have to see the emptiness of life without him, becoming thoroughly disillusioned with everything the world has to offer. To this end, Ecclesiastes gives us a true assessment of what life is like apart from the grace of God. This makes it a hopeful book, not a depressing one; ultimately its worldview is positive, not negative. Like a good pastor, Qoheleth shows us the absolute vanity of life without God, so that we finally stop expecting earthly things to give us lasting satisfaction and learn to live for God rather than for ourselves.’ (21)

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