Thursday, March 8, 2012

‘How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Centered Reading of Scripture’ by Michael Williams – Book Review

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This semester, the Lord opened up the door for me to return to Moody Theological Seminary to continue working on my Graduate Certificate in Bible after a lengthy hiatus. One of the important things I have learned while I have been in seminary is that Jesus can be found in every book of the Bible. That was a revelation to me. So when the blog tour for ‘How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Centered Reading of Scripture,’ I knew I wanted to join the tour!

Here is the synopsis of this book:

Discover how each book of the Bible points readers to Christ. If you sometimes feel as if the Bible teaching you receive comes as a small puzzle piece you do not know how to fit together, this book is for you. All these pieces connect in Christ to form a coherent picture, and author Michael Williams shows you how in this tour of each book of the Bible.
In addition to showing you how relevant each biblical book remains today, Williams enlivens other Christian disciplines such as Bible reading, Scripture memory, and evangelism. An excellent tool for Bible teachers, ministry leaders, and students, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens is an invaluable guide for reading, studying, and understanding the entire Bible.

Here is the biography of this author:

Michael Williams (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary and a member of the NIV Committee on Bible Translation. He is the author of Deception in Genesis  and The Prophet and His Message, and editor and contributor of Mishneh Today. His passion is to equip students with knowledge of the Old Testament and its languages so that they may grow in their comprehension and appreciation of redemptive history and be adequately prepared to promote and defend the faith through word and action. Michael resides in Grand Rapids, MI, with his wife, Dawn.       

Here is Dr. Williams discussing the purpose of his book:

And here is Dr. Williams in an online webcast talking about this great book; he is so down-to-earth and funny!:

Dr. Williams makes this important point in the Introduction, ‘The Beginning Matters:’

The simple truth is that all of the Scriptures – Old Testament and New Testament – testify about Jesus seems to be often overlooked. For modern readers, the picture of Christ in the Old Testament can be obscured by veritable whiteout conditions of chronological, sacrificial, architectural, geographical details, so that all that can be made out after spending some time in the snowstorm is a mound of white where the car used to be. To an admittedly lesser degree, the problem exists for the New Testament as well. Names of apostles and disciples, travelogues, letters to forgotten churches in obscure locales regarding confusing theological issues – all of this can seem like so many differently shaped jigsaw pieces without a picture on the box to help us to put it all together. This book is intended to help believers make out the picture on the box. And it is a picture of Jesus. (p. 9)

The book takes all of the 66 books in the Bible, and in four pages per book, provides the theme of the book, a memory passage, shows Jesus in each, and shows its contemporary implications. Each chapter ends with several hook questions.

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Ecclesiastes (I’m weird, I know!). I had never really thought about what the ‘Jesus Lens’ view would be for that Old Testament book. Dr. Williams explains it very well in this paragraph:

In Christ alone is found meaning, purpose, and direction in life. When we, like the Teacher, try to find meaning for our lives in anything else, we also will be forced to conclude, “Meaningless! Meaningless!... Everything is meaningless!” (1:2; 12:8). Only by being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (“the way”) can we finally find what it is we’ve been looking for (“the life”). (p. 84)

I really love the chart at the end of the book, in which Dr. Williams gives us a handy reference showing how Jesus is in each book; it has the following columns: Biblical Book; Theme; Christ-Focus; Implications; and Hook. It brings some sense to the book of Leviticus, for instance!

I was also interested in how Dr. Williams interpret the only book in the Bible in which God is not mentioned by name – Esther. Here is his ‘take’ on that book:

The Father provides Christ to deliver his people “when the set time had fully come.” Jesus accomplishes this salvation in a way similar to what we find in the book of Esther. The threat of death is removed, we are given the means to defend ourselves (by the power of his Spirit), and the chief architect of our planned destruction has himself been sentenced to the same fate he desired for God’s people. The Jews initiated a new feast day, called Purim, to commemorate their deliverance. It was a time of celebration and joy. Christians have such a day as well. We call it Sunday. (p. 67)

This is a wonderful book to complement Bible reading. I think it will be invaluable for people to read the particular chapter on the book of the Bible which one is reading, then go on to read the chapter; it will illuminate and enlighten with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In one of my seminary classes, one of our textbooks was ‘How to Read the Bible for AllIts Worth, which is also a Zondervan title and in the 'How To' series. It is in the same series as this book, so I knew I would appreciate this book. And I definitely did! I think this is the perfect book for anyone who needs to see Jesus’ story woven throughout the Bible –and that would be every human on this planet! I thank Dr. Williams for making the point - that the Bible is Jesus’ story - even more clearly to me by writing this important and worthwhile book. It is written in easy-to-read language; it is refreshing when I read a book by an academic when he doesn’t feel the need to show how intelligent he is by using ten dollar words when a smaller word will do!

One of Dr. Williams’ goals is for believers to share his book with non-believers, and that they will come to faith in Christ using any of the books in the Bible! That’s a worthy goal! I think it will be especially impactful to our Jewish friends, who may not otherwise see Jesus in their Scriptures. I am glad this tool is finally available!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Zondervan Publishers and provided by them for review purposes.

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