A Sweet & Bitter Providence–Pt. 1

Posted: July 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

I find that it is helpful to summarize books after you have finished reading them.  I do not do this for every book that I read.  Those books that stick out in my mind, captivate me as I work through them, and leave an impression on me that I believe will last and have me coming back, are pieces of literature that are worth this sort of effort.  John Piper has done those things in A Sweet & Bitter Providence.  In the next few posts I will give a simple summary, with brief comments, of each chapter and then conclude with some overall thoughts concerning the book and its message.

Before diving into the actual book of Ruth (this book is a compilation and extension of Piper’s sermons through the Book of Ruth), Piper uses the introduction to give the reader seven reasons for reading this particular book.  As he says, these seven reasons can help the reader decide whether to “be on your way or stay” (pg. 11).  These seven reasons are important because Piper will transform them into seven appeals to close the book.

The seven reasons are as follows:

The Word of God—here Piper says that the first reason to read this book is because it takes you through a book of the Bible.  “Ruth is part of the Scriptures, which Jesus loved” (pg. 11).  I found this to be a helpful book precisely because it walked me through an inspired book of the Bible.  Anytime I have the chance to hear, or read, John Piper exegete a book of the Bible, I want to take advantage. 

A Love Story—this is the type of love story that a grown man can enjoy.  It puts the providence of God on display as a family lives out the “unexpected plan of God.”  This is much more than some sappy romance with no point other than a couple’s happiness.  This is a story that shows God working through a couples love to accomplish infinitely beautiful things.

Manhood and Womanhood—in a culture where these two categories are confused, we need biblical pictures of each.  God has divinely designed our sexuality.  It is not a result of the evolutionary process.  Our current culture is in desperate need of faithful examples of what it means to be man and woman.  We find two examples in this short book.

Ethnocentrism—I grew up in eastern Kentucky and have heard my fair share of racist jokes.  I have told more than one in my day as well!  Although racism may not be as obvious in America as it once was, it no doubt still exists.  The kingdom of God is made up of people from every ethnic group.  God is the God of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5).  A racist heart or attitude is sinful and destructive.  The book of Ruth reminds us that the savior of the nations had the blood of the nation’s running through His veins.

The Sovereignty of God—one of the most gracious things that God does for us in the Bible is to put His controlling hand on display.  As we read through the pages of redemptive history we are assured that history is marching on just as God has ordained.  Not one second goes rogue.  This story is another example of God’s providential and sovereign control of history and lives. 

Risk-Taking Love—when we grasp reason number 5 to read this book, it should overflow into reason number 6.  I just returned from Guatemala and plan to head to Vietnam in December.  Both trips are mission trips with the aim of pointing others towards Jesus.  Are there risks to go to other parts of the world and share Jesus?  Yep.  But because God is absolute sovereign and is working all things out for my good and His glory, risk is right!  As I go I trust the Lord.

The Glory of Christ—the book of Ruth, and the rest of the Old Testament, is about Jesus.  We have this short book put in the middle of the OT so that we are reminded that even in the darkest of times God is bringing all things to is appointed end.  God has been orchestrating history to bring it to the cross.  He now is orchestrating history to bring it to the return of Jesus and the establishing of Christ’s kingdom.

So, there you have it.  Piper gives you reasons why you should read this book.  I could add to that list by saying you should read this because nobody writes with the weightiness of Piper, it is engaging all the way through, and you will walk away a better student of the OT and theology.  It has  risen to the top 2 in my category of books and hope that others will dive into it.

Pick up and read.


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