Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Review: God's Word, Our Story

God's Word, Our Story. Learning from the Book of Nehemiah. D.A. Carson and Kathleen B. Nielson, editors. 2016. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

God's Word, Our Story is a collection of talks from The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference 2014. But. It isn't just the conference in book form. Each chapter concludes with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into bible exposition. How does that contributor read and study the Bible? What does the exposition process look like in real life? How does one go from the Bible text to a polished (somewhat polished) sermon or lesson?!

God's Word Our Story is an exposition of the entire book of Nehemiah. It includes contributions by Kathy Keller (Nehemiah 1, 2); Tim Keller (Nehemiah 3, 4); Paige Brown (Nehemiah 5, 6); Nancy Guthrie (Nehemiah 7, 8); John Piper (Nehemiah 9, 10); Carrie Sandom (Nehemiah 11, 12-1-26); Jenny Salt (Nehemiah 12:44-43); Kathleen Nielson (Nehemiah 12:44-47); and D.A. Carson (Nehemiah 13).

The book begins with an introduction by Kathleen Nielson titled, "On Exposition." In the introduction, she examines the what of exposition, the why of exposition, and the where of exposition. I'd like to share several of her reasons WHY biblical exposition is important.
Biblical exposition is so important because the Bible is God speaking. If we had to choose just one reason, this, of course, would be it. If it is true that these words are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21), then nothing is more important than hearing these words clearly. The One who spoke these words made us. He also made a way to save us from his wrath, which we in our sin deserve. He loves us and lights the way to him. That way is found in his Word. That way is Jesus, who is at the center of this Word. Hearing this Word clearly and truly is a life-and-death matter. Submitting to God’s Word as to the Lord himself is what we human beings were created to do, for his glory and for our good. When a person stands up to handle the Word of the God of the universe, eternal realities are at stake. These realities are personal, not abstract. God’s Word is alive and active because God is alive and active. Sometimes we actually forget he is there as we receive and discuss his words to us. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because it gives us confidence in our message. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because those who preach or teach should be guides, not gurus. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because regular expository teaching tells God’s story truly. ~ Kathleen Nielson
We take in the Word in whole books because that is the form in which God has delivered his Word to us. He’s made us a “people of the book.” Even though in this day we all tend to be people of topics and snippets of information digested through one quick link after another, we must respect the beautiful coherence of the book we call the Bible. ~ Kathleen Nielson
The Bible is God’s work of art. Each book’s form and content, and the unity of the whole Bible, represent an unparalleled literary masterpiece, with multiple genres combining to speak one unified story. It’s the universal story, the true story of the universe. It’s God’s telling of his redemption of a people for himself for his glory, through his Son… There’s no other way to get the story right than to listen to it the way God tells it. There’s no other way to delight fully in the story than to contemplate it in its fullness. We deepen our knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, as we grasp his part in the story from the very beginning (in creation) to the very end (at his second coming and into eternity). The cross and resurrection that are the climax at the center of the story cannot be torn away from the beginning and the end— and all the other parts in between. Every passage of Scripture finds its fullness of revelation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because it grows us up into mature followers of Christ. “Little-snippet teaching” is one way to stay on a milk diet forever instead of moving on to meat (see 1 Cor. 3: 1– 2). ~ Kathleen Nielson
The remaining chapters focus in on the book of Nehemiah. I have always loved certain parts of Nehemiah, the story is a great one. But I now have a fuller appreciation for the whole book of Nehemiah, and, how it all comes together.

I love how Bible-centered, Christ-centered this book was. I love that we get to see the process of Bible study. I found it an encouraging read.

Perhaps my favorite chapter was by Paige Brown. It was called "Fearing God In A Fallen World." She wrote her chapter about Nehemiah 5 and 6. But she somehow connected it with John Newton's Amazing Grace, the second verse. And it fit together absolutely beautiful. This was a wow chapter for me!

Some favorite quotes:
We are studying Nehemiah not only to learn from the book itself but also to learn how to learn from the book. ~ Tim Keller
Studying a book like Nehemiah forces us to go back to what we understand the Bible to be. I’d like to show you two basic parts to the doctrine of Scripture. The Bible, on the one hand, is a human book, which means we don’t believe— as did Joseph Smith about The Book of Mormon— that it was written on golden plates by angels or by God himself. It was written by human beings who used Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew words. Therefore, we need to understand what those words meant and how those languages worked, because human beings used them to give us the message. On the other hand, the Bible is a divine book. It was written by God; every word on the page is there because God guided the human author to write that word. That means the Bible is ultimately one story. It is one large story comprised of many little stories. There’s one large narrative arc, and everything in the Bible is moving and pointing along that arc. ~ Tim Keller
Most people today would scoff at the idea that the central source in which to discover the reality of who you are, of who you were created to be, and of what you are meant to do could be the pages of an ancient book. Maybe we presume that idea would have been more believable in Nehemiah’s day. But consider that when the events we are reading about took place, the Book of the Law of Moses was already an ancient book. It was already a thousand years old. And consider that these were people who had never heard the voice of God speaking to them from a mountain that was on fire, as their ancestors did at Sinai (Exodus 19). They’d never seen a cloud of fire hovering over the temple to signify God’s presence among them, as their ancestors did in Solomon’s day (2 Chron. 7: 1– 3). But they did want to hear from God in their day. So how would that happen? And how can we expect to hear God speaking to us in our day when we’ve never heard an audible voice from heaven or had a supernatural experience? God speaks to us, revealing to us who he is and what he has done, helping us understand who we are in relationship to him, through his written Word. ~ Nancy Guthrie
One of the main lessons from Nehemiah 9 and 10— indeed, from all the Bible— is that God does not exist for the sake of our enjoying biblical stories; biblical stories exist for the sake of our enjoying God. The reason I make a point of this is not only because it stands out amazingly in Nehemiah 9, but also because in our time there is great fascination with tracing out the storyline of the Bible. I simply want to wave a flag over all this fascination with story and narrative to say: there is a point to the story; there is a point to the narrative— and the point is a person. Biblical stories are no more ends in themselves than history is an end in itself or the universe is an end in itself. The universe is telling the glory of God (Ps. 19: 1). And the history of the world is what it is to show that God is who he is. God writes the story of history to reveal who he is— what he is like, his character, his name. ~ John Piper

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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