REVIEW| Proverbs: Wisdom that Works, by Ray Ortlund

For many, the book of Proverbs may seem like a random assortment of sayings that, while imparting wisdom, are connected loosely, if at all.  While it has been deemed “practical enough” to make it into the Gideon’s New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs, the true depth of riches available within the book is often mined ineffectively.   Thus the question arises, is there a resource that will instruct pastors in their preaching of Proverbs so as to demonstrate to their congregations the glory of the Spirit-given, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered, when-the-rubber-meets-the-road nature of the wisdom contained within?  Thanks to Crossway’s Preaching the Word expository commentary series, edited by R. Kent Hughes, there is!

Dr. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., former professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and current pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN, has authored the PTW volume on the book of Proverbs subtitled, Wisdom that Works.  If you’re at all familiar with the ministry that has been entrusted to Ortlund, you’ll know he is a man who pursues humility as he points people to the riches of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jared Wilson once noted that Ortlund, “just won’t stop reveling in and exulting in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”  I can say that in the pages of Ortlund’s recorded expositions on the book of Proverbs, this sentiment rings true!

As I just indicated, the commentary is expositional in nature, thus comprising 21 of Ortlund’s sermons on Proverbs.  In a brief introduction, Ortlund summarizes what Proverbs is all about, stating:

“The book of Proverbs is a gospel book, because it is part of the Bible.  That means the book of Proverbs is good news for bad people.  It is about grace for sinners.  It is about hope for failures.  It is about wisdom for idiots.  This book is Jesus himself coming to us as our counselor, as our sage, as our life coach.  The Lord Jesus Christ is a competent thinker for all times and all cultures.  He is a genius.  And he freely offers us, even us, his unique wisdom.”

The first 14 sermon-chapters deal in detail with chapters 1-9 in the book of Proverbs.  These first 14 chapters are Ortlund’s detailed look at the nature, practicality, and deep necessity of wisdom in our daily lives.  Ortlund notes, “God has two goals for us in the book of Proverbs…One is deep character, and the other is straight thinking.”  As Ortlund composes a theology of biblical wisdom according to the book of Proverbs, he never fails to remain a pastor who is honest, culturally engaged, canonical,  straightforward, and unflinching in terms of his Christ-focused preaching.

In terms of his expositional commentary, Ortlund, as an accomplished writer, is able to make these once-spoken messages flow well on paper.  Where some expositional commentaries are a bit rigid and lack the impact the message once had when preached, Ortlund does a good job of keeping his engaging style on paper.  Thus, it is an edifying and engaging experience to “sit under the preaching” of Ortlund in book form.

The final 7 chapters of the commentary deal with wisdom related to speaking, humility, family, emotions, friendship, money, and life and death.  Here, Ortlund surveys the book of Proverbs noting the particular texts therein where the topics are addressed.  Here we find Ortlund as a preacher who avoids shallow topical preaching, which is so often moralistic and simplistic in nature.  Rather, he continues to handle the text well, remains honest about our sin, yet focused on the work of Christ and how this gospel work applies to these areas of our lives, forming wisdom within us.

Justin Taylor noted, “If I could have anyone in the world teach me the book of Proverbs, I think I’d choose Ray Ortlund: a pastoral shepherd and an Old Testament scholar who by grace embodies the ethos of proverbial wisdom and understands its consummation in Christ our wisdom.”  I can say that in these pages, you find exactly what Taylor speaks of.  Though the Preaching the Word series is primarily written “by pastors for pastors”, this is a valuable resource for the preaching pastor, the hungry layperson, and anyone who desires to grow in godly, gospel-centered wisdom as it relates to the ins-and-outs of daily life.  I recommend it.


Proverbs: Wisdom That Works (Preaching the Word) (Hardcover)

Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages

Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Hughes, R Kent (Editor); Ortlund, Raymond C., Jr.
ISBN-10: 1581348835 | ISBN-13: 9781581348835
Cover Type: Hardcover
List Price: $27.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore$18.19 – 35% Off

NOTE: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher for the purpose of review, and was under no obligation to offer a positive review.


One thought on “REVIEW| Proverbs: Wisdom that Works, by Ray Ortlund

  1. Pingback: Reviews, Interviews, Authors and Books to Note Across the Web « Theology for the Road

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