Friday, 14 May 2010

John Piper, Sweet and Bitter Providence, IVP, 2010

The book of Ruth describes a marvellous love story between Boaz and Ruth. Perhaps some readers leave it there and fail to recognise that another important feature of the book is its emphasis that God is at work, even in times of trouble, disappointment and confusion. His purpose includes short and long-term goals. In the short-term, he provided graciously for Naomi, Ruth and Boaz; in the long-term, he was preparing for the royal line of David, and through it the coming of the Messiah.

The material in this book of 160 pages began as a set of sermons preached by the author. Reading his words gives us an example of how to preach an Old Testament book in such a way that sermons are relevant for twenty-first century listeners. Piper also shows us how to connect biblical passages to the person and work of Christ.

Throughout this Bible study, we see the sad failures and the godly traits in the lives of Bible characters, enjoy helpful illustrations that help clarify various points made by the author, receive insights into the gracious ways of God (particularly in explaining the picture of God as an eagle under whose wings Ruth had found refuge) and appreciate the reality of the connection between the ordinary events of life and the spread of God’s kingdom.

Is it the best book on providence or on Ruth? No doubt there are deeper theological works on the doctrine of providence and larger commentaries on the Book of Ruth. Nevertheless for those wanting to begin studying the doctrine of providence, this book is ideal. And it will be a tonic for those who perhaps are experiencing difficulties in providence and want their faith in God refreshed.

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