Living Life Backward – D. Gibson

living-backward-gibson-2017A book I was given for review last Fall by Crossway is a brief commentary on Ecclesiastes. The title is Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End (176 pp., paperback) by David Gibson, minister of Trinity Church in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The publisher gives this description of the book:

What if it is death that teaches us how to truly live?

Keeping the end in mind shapes how we live our lives in the here and now. Living life backward means taking the one thing in our future that is certain—death—and letting that inform our journey before we get there.

Looking to the book of Ecclesiastes for wisdom, Living Life Backward was written to shake up our expectations and priorities for what it means to live “the good life.” Considering the reality of death helps us pay attention to our limitations as human beings and receive life as a wondrous gift from God—freeing us to live wisely, generously, and faithfully for God’s glory and the good of his world.

In his “Preface” the author acknowledges the difficulty that this “strangest of Old Testament books” presents to the reader of God’s Word. But he also gives us the key to understanding it:

Yet Ecclesiastes also makes a very simple point: life is complex and messy, sometimes brutally so, but there is a straightforward way to look at the mess. The end will put it all right. The end – when we stand before God as our Creator and Judge – will explain everything.

Which leads him to make this application based on that basic message (from which we get the title to the book):

Left to our own devices, we tend to live life forward. One day follows another, and weeks turn into months and months into years. We do not know the future, but we plan and hope and dream of where we will be, and what we would like to be doing, and whom we might be with. We live forward.

Ecclesiastes teaches us to live life backward. It encourages us to take the one thing in the future that is certain – our death – and work backward from that point into all the details and decisions and heartaches of our lives, and to think about them from the perspective of the end. It is the destination that makes sense of the journey. If we know for sure where we are heading, then we can know for sure what we need to do before we get there. Ecclesiastes invites us to let the end sculpt our priorities and goals, our greatest ambitions and our strongest desires.

I want to persuade you that only if you prepare to die can you really learn how to live (p.12).

That seems to me to be a good way to keep the message of this book of the Bible before us, and to let its powerful message shed light on our minds and guide our path in this world.

The book is available for review in the Standard Bearer if you are interested. Given the nature of the book, the review may be brief.

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