A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God
Beautiful and Faith-Building
Few books or stories in the Bible match the grandeur and evocative power of the Book of Ruth. It may be one of the best stories from a literary perspective, of all time. John Piper has skillfully unpacked the beauty of this literary masterpiece in a beautifully produced work of his own.
"A Sweet and Bitter Providence" traces the story of Naomi and Ruth through tragedy and despair and on to grace and joy. Before I can even talk about Piper's writing I have to stop and point out how beautiful and attractive this book is. The sleeve is beautiful enough, with a first rate painting of Ruth from the Bridgman art gallery. Then the hardcover has the same beautiful image on the front with a detailed map of Israel on the back in soft whites and gray. The sleeve contrasts the white and gray with a bold maroon. Such a beautiful packaging will help draw the reader in to the glory of the Book of Ruth.
The book is divided into four chapters that match up with the four chapters in Ruth. Before each chapter the biblical text in the ESV is provided. This allows the book to serve as a devotional alongside the reading of the Biblical book of Ruth. Piper adds an introduction and "final appeals" on either side of the four main chapters.
As the subtitle indicates, several themes are addressed throughout Ruth which have contemporary significance. Piper highlights the sexual chastity and bold assessment of character displayed by Boaz and Ruth (with Naomi). He highlights the racial aspects of a despised and destitute Moabitess' return to Israel with her Jewish mother-in-law. The predominant focus is on the sovereignty of God clearly seen by the characters in the story as well as the author of Ruth. God is sovereign over both the bitter providential suffering of Naomi, as well as the beautiful and gracious provision of a redeemer and an heir.
Piper doesn't miss the author's intentional way of setting the story in the larger framework of canonical history. The book ends by declaring Ruth to be the great-grandmother of David.
The final appeals Piper offers sound like the wise advice of a seasoned man of God. Perhaps listing them here will encourage you to pick up this little book and by it be awakened afresh to the wonder of God's sovereignty and the glory found in the small book of Ruth.
Piper exhorts us to:
1)Study the Scriptures
2)Pursue Sexual Purity
3)Pursue Mature Manhood and Womanhood
4)Embrace Ethnic Diversity
5)Trust the Sovereignty of God
6)Take the Risks of Love
7)Live and Sing to the Glory of Christ
This little book will do much to infuse your soul with worship to our Lord and Savior. It will also call you to a greater trust and deeper obedience. I recommend it highly.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Crossway Books for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
May 28, 2011
This book, coupled with Piper's poetic narrative on Ruth, are wonderful tools in helping the student of Scripture to think through that small book of Scripture. I found this book to be thought-provoking and challenging, causing me to look at Ruth with wider eyes and a broader mind. One cannot read many of Piper's books and come away without a bigger view of God and the desire to live a more holy life for His honor. Thank you, John Piper, for being used by God to prod my relationship with the Lord ipward to the next level.
April 28, 2010
This book analyzesthe book of Ruth. He makes the important point that the book of Ruth is just as relevant to us today: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 is 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. (p. 24)He also addresses the truth of Gods sovereignty as portrayed in Ruths story:Thousands of Christians who have walked through fire and have seen horrors embrace Gods control of all things as the comfort and hope of their lives. It is not comforting or hopeful in their pain to tell them that God is not in control. Giving Satan the decisive control or ascribing pain to chance is not true or helpful. When the world is crashing in, we need assurance that God reigns over it all. (p. 27) He describes Ruth - and us - this way:She is different from most people today. We have a sense of entitlement. We expect kindness and are astonished and resentful if we dont get our rights. But Ruth expresses her sense of unworthiness by falling on her face and bowing to the ground. Proud people dont feel amazed at being treated well. They dont feel deep gratefulness. But humble people do [T]hey receive the gift. Joy increases, not self-importance. Grace is not intended to replace lowliness with pride. Its intended to replaced sorrow with joy. (pp. 64-65)I love how Dr. Piper gets to the truth of the Word, regardless of how it may make us feel getting there! I love the thorough exegesis of each passage.This book was provided by Crossway Books for review purposes.Ponderings by Andrea
March 30, 2010