If, as the author of Destiny argues, Ecclesiastes “is a meditation on what it means to be alive in a world that God has made and called good, yet which has also gone so very wrong, often in catastrophic ways,” then I’d suggest it’s a book of the Bible that should become a lot more precious to us than it probably is.
After all, you don’t have to go far in life before things don’t go to plan. And if we’re feeling like life has lost any sense of rhyme or reason, or if we’re feeling like the sandcastles of our existence are becoming engulfed before our very eyes, then David Gibson wants to encourage us to see Ecclesiastes as God’s gift to us.
That might sound a bit odd at first. But give it a read and I think you’ll be persuaded. And if Ecclesiastes is God’s gift to us for those seasons, then reading Gibson’s book Destiny is kind of like having someone sit us down to unwrap the gift, in order to help us appreciate it in all its fullness. (And by the way, even if you’re not feeling those things right now, then Destiny is still for you, because you can bet that experience will come.)
Destiny actually feels like an increasingly rare type of Christian book. That’s because Gibson doesn’t take on a particular topic or a doctrine. He isn’t trying to answer a certain question or provide advice into a specific situation. And it isn’t a memoir or a biography. Rather Gibson simply walks us through the book of Ecclesiastes. And although he’s recently preached through Ecclesiastes with his church in Aberdeen, Destiny doesn’t read as one of those book manuscripts where the sermon transcripts have been hastily copied and pasted to churn out a paperback. In other words it reads well. Each of the chapters begins with an excerpt from the Bible and then Gibson just warmly unpacks the text before applying it and showing its often-piercing relevance.
A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts on pastors always having a Bible book we’re ‘wading deep’ in (click here to read them). At the moment for me it’s Ecclesiastes. And so when I heard about Destiny I was eager to get my hands on it. I’d come across Gibson’s writings before and had found his writing both engaging and insightful. I’m encouraged that I’m not the only one, as the back-cover of Destiny has commendations from Old Testament devotees and legends like Dale Ralph Davis and Alec Motyer – no small indicator of the measure of the work David has produced in Destiny!
Now you might well be thinking, “hang on, just back up a minute: a whole book – just on Ecclesiastes?!’ And, ok, you have a point my friend. Because I think it’s fair to say that Ecclesiastes generally tends to carry a bit of a bad rep. Sometimes it’s made out to be depressing and overly-negative. Other times it’s treated as if it’s only use is as evangelistic talk fodder: “look, isn’t life meaningless without God?” (That or funeral addresses!) And perhaps the rest of the time Ecclesiastes is just seen as down-right confusing. If nothing else, how on earth does this relate to Jesus!?
And so right there you have three reasons why getting hold of Destiny is a good move, because allowing David Gibson to walk you through Ecclesiastes is a huge deal more refreshing than one might first expect:
- For a start, Gibson is convinced that Ecclesiastes’ message should lead us to joy, not to despair. I’ll admit, that initially made me raise an eyebrow. But after journeying with him through Eccleasistes I was persuaded. And then the more I let Gibson walk me through Ecclesiastes, the more that was my actual experience as I spent time in Destiny.
- He also points out that the main narrator of the book, ‘The Teacher’ seems to be fully aware of God and yet still wants to highlight that life has an inescapable ‘mistiness’ about it (perhaps a better translation than the NIV’s meaningless). This is a far cry from either the ‘believer-posing-as-a-sceptic’ reading or the full-on ‘atheist manual’ angle, and I think our Bible is all the richer for it.
- Lastly, Gibson’s gentle and persuasive commentary is a practical guide to a book that’s sometimes seen as slightly impassable ground. That said, it never feels like he’s trying to force the text into his own packaging. In particular, his appreciation for the intentionally-elusive feel of the book is to be commended.
Sometimes someone might open up a part of the Bible with us that will completely change how we read it from that point on. Be it a sermon series, or a particular talk, or even a book – it might seem like we now grasp the book with a new clarity – often because we sense its significance more tangibly in our life. And although it’s early days, I’m tempted to put Destiny into that category already. Maybe that’s partly because – at least in my experience, anyway – Ecclesiastes hasn’t been a portion of the Bible I’ve often encountered from start to finish. But I think it’s mostly because Destiny is really, really good at capturing Ecclesiastes’ heartbeat. And God’s word unleashed is a powerful thing.
Lastly, quality book covers should always be appreciated, so credit to IVP for this one – strong and simple.
You can pick up Destiny here.
Disclaimer: The publisher has sent me a free copy of this book, but I hope this is still a fair and honest review.