My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"
10 August 2005
Book Review - Ecclesiastes
The Guide: Ecclesiastes
by Gordon Keddie
I have no choice; niceties must abound or I can't write the review at all. See, Gordon Keddie is now no longer a pretty name, but a real face I must see at presbytery meetings (he's the pastor of Southside RP in Indy). So this is really a case of, "If you have nothing nice to say, keep your wide trap shut." Thankfully, I have nice things to say.
This 334-page paperback is a devotional commentary on the philosophically-God-centered book of Ecclesiastes. It is part of Evangelical Press' Guide series, which seeks to bring readers online to write questions and thoughts to the author and to have responses. After a short introduction, Pastor Keddie proceeds through Ecclesiastes, splitting his writing up into 25 chapters.
Let's get the negative out of the way: the design/layout sort of irked me. Because, I think, EP is trying to reach a newer, hipper crowd (which I suppose I'm not part of), the book has a much different layout than you're used to. Each page has a header running up the left side of the page and the bottom right pages have a large "weblink" icon behind the text. That's all to say, the layout didn't do anything for me. However, I did like the extras sprinkled into the chapters, where Gordon pulls out some great quotes and thoughts from really smart dead guys.
Positives: Pastor Keddie's writing is at the same time easily digestible yet dense and wry enough to keep your attention. Being a non-native Enligh speaker (He's Scottish :) ), he throws out great phrases that kind of give you little smiles. The chapters are short enough to make the book usable for devotions, which is what I did, or even family worship.
Content-wise, the book is outstanding. He does a great job dealing with the text both academically and pastorally. There are some really hard things to understand in Ecclesiastes (11:1 - Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days...anyone, anyone?) - and the book seemed to read my mind. Whenever I scratched my head a little, he explained what I didn't understand. Practically, Ecclesiastes speaks to deep issues that trouble deep thinkers - yet Keddie shows how each deep question makes a difference for our living and our faith. This wisdom book is something of an evangelistic philosophical work, showing people how ridiculous life is without God (i.e., "under the son") and how blessed and real it is with Him, all of which comes out in this commentary.
Should you buy it? Yeah. It would make a good read for Bible study, for devotions, or just for fun. I would especially recommend it to anyone who digs philosophy and wrestles with questions the rest of us would drown in while perhaps neglecting to realize the real-world implications of ideas. A final note: I greatly appreciated the last chapter, wherein Gordon relates his own conversion story after hearing a sermon from Ecclesiastes 12 - a great cause for rejoicing.