Saturday, February 13, 2010

Book Review: A Sweet and Bitter Providence

A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and The Sovereignty of God. John Piper. 2010. Crossway. 160 pages.

Long subtitle for a great little book. What is this one about? It's a book about another short--but great--book. The book of Ruth. From the Old Testament. It's an analysis of that book. Chapter by chapter. Piper explores the Bible story and provides his insights into the book's significance. He is looking for universal themes, looking for ways to make Ruth's story (and Boaz's story, and Naomi's story, etc.) relevant to you and your life. One of the more obvious reasons why this story is so significant is because Ruth and Boaz's child is part of Christ's genealogy. God brought Ruth, a Moabite woman, into the heritage, the lineage, of Jesus Christ. Is Piper successful with his arguments? I think so. I think he makes quite a few good points. (I almost wish he hadn't subtitled it though.)

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's 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.
When you think he is farthest from you, or has even turned against you, the truth is that as you cling to him, he is laying foundation stones of greater happiness in your life. (24)

The book does stress the sovereignty of God. And I loved it for that reason. I did. I think there aren't enough books--can't be enough books--telling modern readers this absolute truth, this very fundamental, very biblical truth.

What did I appreciate in this one? How rich it is in Scripture! In truth! I also loved how accessible it is to readers. I'll admit it can be a bit intimidating to pick up Christian nonfiction. One never knows how it's going to be. If it's going to be something you can understand, something you can grasp, or if it's going to be written in such a way that it feels like its going miles over your head. (If you're going to drown in footnotes and Greek words.) This Piper book is reader-friendly. That doesn't mean it's fluff--far from it. The truths are just as deep, as substantive, but it's also written to be understood.

Throughout the book, Piper references "God Moves In A Mysterious Way" by William Cowper. I don't believe he ever shares it in full. And so I thought I'd share that here as well.

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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