Solomon wrote, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” [Ecclesiastes 12:12b]
The book of Ecclesiastes is the work of the wisest man that lived, with the exception of Jesus Christ, Himself. As someone wise, Solomon sought to teach wisdom, sought to impart those helpful bits of information which make our lives easier. When we study Ecclesiastes, we see that Solomon pulls no punches, he speaks both of the good and evil of live.
His conclusion? “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
If the wise truly fear God, does that mean we walk around terrified of God? Luther wrote, “Being afraid of God is different from fearing God. The fear of God is a fruit of love, but being afraid of Him is the seed of hatered. Therefore we should not be afraid of God but should fear Him so that we do not hate Him whom we should love. … Therefore the fear of God is more aptly called reverence. For example, we revere those whom we love, honor, esteem, and fear to offend.”
If the goal of wisdom is to fear (hold in reverent awe), love, and trust in God above all things, then we desire to know more about Him. This is where the making of books and the weariness of study comes in. There are books which edify, which help us better understand the Gospel. There are books which simply point us to ourselves.
Doctor James Bollhagen, a professor at the seminary in Fort Wayne, wrote, “To be sure, some non-canonical writings are firmly based on Scripture and worthy of full acceptance, such as the three ecumenical Creeds and biblical confessions of the one true Christian faith. … When it comes to secondary and tertiary literature, some writers will genuinely try to be helpful. Others, however, in the lust for newness, will write just about anything to get published and gain tenure (and academic notoriety).”
Bollhagen continued, “It can be expected that the majority of researchers and writers will have no concept of the Gospel nor the fear and trust in God that goes along with the Gospel.” He suggest that most book turn us inward, are based on the law, and cause spiritual weariness. Especially as we study theology, such books should be avoided.
As I get to discover new (to me) books, such as the volume on Ecclesiastes from the Concordia Commentary series which I just quoted, I find many insights which will help me to better proclaim the wisdom which is born of faith. This wisdom points us to Christ Jesus as our Redeemer. It proclaims that we are forgiven for the sake of Christ, His death and resurrection. This gift of eternal life is truly a gift, given out of God’s love with no worthiness in us.
Yet we enjoy the many books, and learn more how God’s grace is revealed. May our Lord grant you many opportunities to enjoy the good authors who expound on the Scriptures for your joy and blessing.