Monday, March 29, 2010

‘A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God’ by John Piper – Book Review

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John Piper is one of the foremost theologians in the United States right now.  He is the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis Minnesota.  He earned a Master of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Divinity degree in New Testament Studies from the University of Munich, Germany.  He is the author of over thirty books, including ‘Don’t Waste Your Life,’ 'Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ,’ and ‘Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.’ 

I have had the good fortune to read his latest book, ‘A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God.’  This book analyzes, as only Dr. Piper can do, the book of Ruth.  Here is the description from the back cover:

Ruth and Boaz were risk-takers – a younger, immigrant, peasant widow and a middle-aged, Jewish landowner, walking along the precipice of social exclusion with absolute integrity.   

Here is the book trailer:

This book is broken down into four chapters – each chapter corresponds with a chapter from the book of Ruth.

Dr. Piper makes the important point that the book of Ruth is just as relevant to us today as it was when it was written 3,000 years ago:

As a means to that end – and everything is a means to glorifying Christ – the book of Ruth reveals the hidden hand of God in the bitter experiences of his people.  The point of this book is not just that God is preparing the way for the coming of the King of Glory, but that he is doing it in such a way that all of us should learn that the worst of times are not wasted.  They are not wasted globally, historically, or personally. (p. 24)

He also addresses the truth of God’s sovereignty as portrayed in Ruth’s story:

Thousands of Christians who have walked through fire and have seen horrors embrace God’s control of all things as the comfort and hope of their lives.  It is not comforting or hopeful in their pain to tell them that God is not in control.  Giving Satan the decisive control or ascribing pain to chance is not true or helpful.  When the world is crashing in, we need assurance that God reigns over it all. (p. 27)

Dr. Piper points out that Boaz is a God-Saturated man, and Ruth provides a wonderful example of Godly qualities in a woman (pp.-62):

·         She takes the initiative to care for her mother-in-law
·         She is humble
·         She is industrious

He goes on:

She is different from most people today.  We have a sense of entitlement.  We expect kindness and are astonished and resentful if we don’t get our “rights.”  But Ruth expresses her sense of unworthiness by falling on her face and bowing to the ground.  Proud people don’t feel amazed at being treated well.  They don’t feel deep gratefulness.  But humble people do…. [T]hey receive the gift.  Joy increases, not self-importance.  Grace is not intended to replace lowliness with pride.  It’s intended to replaced sorrow with joy.  (pp. 64-65)

I love how Dr. Piper gets to the truth of the Word, regardless of how it may make us feel getting there!  I have always appreciated that about his writing, and this book is no exception to that rule.  I love the thorough exegesis of each passage.

I so enjoy Pastor Piper’s writing style.  This section in particular stood out to me:

At one level, the message of the book of Ruth is that the life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee.  There are rockslides and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward.  But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead, there are frequent signs that say, “The best is yet to come.”  (pp. 99-100)   

As is the case with every John Piper book I have read, I highly recommend this one as well.  He understand scripture so well, and I appreciate his overview.

You can learn more about Pastor Piper at his comprehensive website, Desiring God.  His catalog of sermons from the last 25 years, as well as other materials, is available there at no charge; he also blogs on that site.  He tweets on Twitter; I would highly recommend that you follow him if you haven’t yet.   You can also become his fan on Facebook.

You can order this book here.

This book was provided to me for review purposes by Crossway Books of Wheaton Illinois.

1 comment:

Annette W. said...

I have never read Piper, but did watch a video. He's a good teacher!

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