What (or Who) Is the Bible Really All About?

Growing up, I can remember learning the great stories of the Bible in Sunday School. My teacher would position the artist’s renderings of each Bible character on a flannelgraph in front of the class as she retold the story to a crowd of fidgety onlookers. Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Daniel and his friends, and others would all eventually take the stage on that fuzzy board.

No matter which character we were learning about, it always seemed to end in the same place. How can I have faith like Abraham? How can I trust God like Noah? How can I be a leader like Moses? How can I defeat the “giants” in my life like David? Could I “dare to be a Daniel”? At the end of it all, I was left with a lot of dos and don’ts, as well as what seemed to be a slew of seemingly disconnected Bible stories.

My well-meaning and faithful Sunday School teacher was unintentionally teaching me that the Bible was all about me. As I read my Bible, I was to follow or avoid the examples of the main characters of Scripture. The Bible largely became simply a book of characters for me to emulate and rules for me to obey. It wasn’t until much later in life that I would learn that while the Bible does contain moral imperatives to follow, there is a much larger, more glorious purpose in the pages of Holy Scripture.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture tells of an encounter two men had with the risen Lord Jesus. As the men discussed all that had recently taken place in Jerusalem, they were perplexed by the reality of the empty tomb. Jesus then said to them:

    “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27, ESV)

Jesus was ultimately saying that had these two men read their Bibles properly, everything that had happened would have made perfect sense. They would have understood that the Bible is ultimately about Jesus from beginning to end. What the Old Testament promised God would accomplish through his Messiah had finally come to pass!

You see, the Bible is one grand story of God’s acts in history to rescue and redeem rebellious sinners through the person and work of his Son, Messiah Jesus. The stories of Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Daniel, and so on, are not merely moralistic tales, but shadowy representations of redemptive qualities ultimately fulfilled in Christ. Stating it simply, the Bible is less about what “I’m supposed to do for God” and much, much, much more about what God has done in Christ to graciously save his people.

May we be those who give ourselves continually to the reading of Scripture, so that we would become more deeply acquainted with the One to whom all of Scripture bears witness; the One whom to know is life eternal!

For Further Reading…

The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, by Edmund P. Clowney

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament, by David Murray

Is Jesus in the Old Testament?, by Iain M. Duguid

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Daniel Block on “The Shema” & NIVAC Kindle Sale

9780310492016One of the most well-known texts of Scripture in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is Deuteronomy 6:4, “The Shema”.  Though it is certainly familiar, it is by no means immune to difficulty in the translation process.  Daniel Block, Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, in his recent (NIVAC) commentary on Deuteronomy, offers what I feel is both a helpful interpretation and clarification of the text.  He writes:

“THE SHEMA IS ONE of the most important symbols of Judaism. To this day, orthodox Jews recite verses 4–5 twice daily as part of their prayers (cf. v. 7). Despite its importance in Jewish and Christian tradition, the Shema is enigmatic. The sense of the first two words is clear. But the construction of the remainder is unparalleled in the entire Old Testament, so any interpretation, including our own, should be deemed provisional. On the surface the four words appear to be arranged in an ABAB parallelistic order, translated literally:

Chart taken from the Kindle edition of "Deuteronomy" (NIVAC), Zondervan, 2012.

Chart taken from the Kindle edition of “Deuteronomy” (NIVAC), Zondervan, 2012.

The first line could be interpreted either as a sentence, “Yahweh is our God,” or appositionally, “Yahweh our God,” though the latter creates problems for interpreting the second line. The critical word in the second part is obviously [echad], which in the overwhelming number of occurrences represents the cardinal number “one.” However, in a half dozen instances, the word functions as an equivalent to lebaddô, “unique, only, alone.” Within the immediate and the broader contexts the purpose of this statement is not to answer the question, “How many is God?” but “Who is the God of Israel?” To this question the Israelites were to respond in unison and without compromise or equivocation, “Our God is Yahweh, Yahweh alone!”

Moses’ concern here is whether God’s people would remain devoted exclusively to Yahweh or be seduced by the gods of Canaan. His exposition of the Shema in the remainder of 6: 5–19 confirms this interpretation. Answering to the Supreme Command, by uttering the Shema the Israelites were declaring their complete, undivided, and unqualified devotion to Yahweh. This is not strictly a monotheistic confession (cf. 4: 35, 39) but a cry of allegiance, an affirmation of covenant commitment that defines the boundaries of the covenant community. It consists of those who claim this utterance as a verbal badge of identity and who demonstrate this identity with uncompromising covenant commitment”[1]

All NIVAC Volumes on Sale! (Kindle Editions)

For a limited time, Zondervan Academic has discounted the entire set of the NIVAC Commentary Series to $4.99 or less (Kindle ed. only).  For purchase information on Dr. Block’s commentary, click here.  The following are links to each individual volume. GenesisLeviticus, Numbers;DeuteronomyJoshuaJudges and Ruth1 & 2 Kings1 & 2 Chronicles;EstherJobEcclesiastes, Song of SongsIsaiahJeremiah, Lamentations;EzekielDanielJoel, Obadiah, Malachi;Hosea, Amos, MicahJonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah;Haggai, ZechariahMatthewMarkLukeJohnActs;Romans1CorinthiansGalatiansEphesiansPhilippians;Colossians & Philemon1 & 2 Thessalonians1 & 2 Timothy & TitusHebrewsJames1 Peter2 Peter & Jude1, 2, & 3 JohnRevelation.


[1] Block, Daniel I. (2012-08-21). Deuteronomy (NIV Application Commentary, The) (pp. 181-182). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Old Story New: An Interview with Marty Machowski (+Giveaway)

(Giveaway details are located at the bottom of the post…)

Last Wednesday I posted about the exciting days ahead of the Old Story New Blog Tour, hosted by New Growth Press, that were to occur here on the blog.  I had every intention of posting the first week’s devotions from Old Story New, but got sidetracked with a number of other things.  One of which was our son Gresham’s first “real” bout with being ill.  Our little guy had a fever of 103-104 that lasted about 4 days along with some other not-so-pleasant symptoms.  After a Sunday evening trip to the ER and three Dr. appointments, it looks like, by God’s grace, he’s making a turn around!  Susan and I are very thankful.  So, now 5 days behind, I have some time to turn my attention to a very exciting resource for families.

Marty Machowski, Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA, has written a new family devotional on the New Testament.  In Old Story New (New Testament), the follow up to Long Story Short (Old Testament), Machowski continues to guide families into meaningful, engaging, and gospel-centered encounters with the text of Scripture.

Marty was kind enough to take time to answer a few questions about Old Story New, family devotions, salvation, the unity of the Bible’s story-line, and I’m thrilled to share his insights with you.

KF: Why do we find it so difficult to get into a devotional routine ourselves, much less for our entire family?

MM: Christians want to do devotions and spend time reading and studying their Bibles, but the busyness of life often steals away our time. When we get to the end of the day we are tired out and are looking for down time, not study time. Then when we look over to the table and catch a glimpse of a big thick Bible, we don’t know where to begin.  The same is true of our family devotions. We have a desire to lead our families in devotions but we don’t know where to start and there are a host of other activities that won’t wait for us while devotions make a claim on our time.

KF: What is typically the best time for a family to get into the routine of a daily devotional?

MM: Often the best time to do family devotions is when we don’t have to schedule another time slot. That is why doing family devotions for a few minutes after dinner works well. Everyone is sitting down to eat anyway; why not use that context to spend a short time looking at God’s Word? We see our need for earthly bread but often don’t realize our need for spiritual bread. Using a book like Old Story New makes doing devotions simple. Everything is laid out for you; all the hard work is done, you just need to follow along.

KF: What makes this devotional different than others available? Are there many resources out there for entire families?

MM: Old Story New provides families with  gospel-centered devotions that are theologically rich but simple to understand.  They are long enough to be meaningful but short enough to complete in ten minutes a day. Many other devotionals are either over simplified and lack a clear gospel message or overly complex and difficult for children to follow. Old Story New finds the middle ground.

KF: Recognizing that salvation is entirely a work of grace, what are parents to do while trusting the Lord for the salvation of their child(ren)? How does Old Story New serve parents to that end?

MM: Every Christian parent wants their children to be saved. The problem is that it is God does the saving work in our children’s lives — not us.  Embracing the reality that you can’t save your own children can be discouraging. There is, however,  something parents can do. They can share the life transforming message of the gospel. Paul, in the book of Romans, tells us that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. So, what parents need is a tool that helps them regularly share the good news of the gospel. Old Story New does just that

KF: Why is it important for children, or anyone for that matter, to have an understanding of the grand story of the Bible? How does the Gospel Story for Kids series help parents and children develop this understanding?

MM: If you don’t have an understanding of the grand story of the Bible, it is easy to see it as a book of rules – things I need to do.  Once you understand the big picture of scripture you realize that the Bible is really a story about what God did for us. The whole Bible is the unfolding of God’s great plan of redemption through his Son Jesus Christ. Knowing that larger truth helps you to understand how each story connects to God’s greater purpose. Sure, the Bible does hold out for us obedience to God. But the requirement to follow the law is designed to show us how weak we are and how much we need a Savior. The law is not the end of the Bible but the means through which we see that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Rightly interpreting that helps  us to breathe in God’s grace in the sacrifice of Jesus, rather than feel we have to work our way to heaven. Old Story New keeps this big picture as the main theme of every week’s lesson.

I want to extend my sincere thanks to Marty for taking the time to interact with me on these important topics.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for my full review of Old Story New!

Giveaway Details

To celebrate the release of Old Story New, New Growth Press has provided me with 2 copies to give away!  To enter the giveaway, choose from any or all of the options below.  NOTE: Please leave a separate comment on this post for each option you choose.  The giveaway ends on Sunday, at 12am CDT.  I will use Random.org to select the winner on Monday, October 15th, from all the eligible entries.

EACH OPTION IS WORTH 1 ENTRY.  YOU MAY CHOOSE ANY OR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Leave a comment below, noting the resource(s) you’ve used for family devotions.  Or, if you’re single, the resource(s) you’ve used for personal devotions. (+1)
  2. Follow @kevinfiske on Twitter. (+1)
  3. Tweet the following (+1): Check out @kevinfiske’s interview w/ @MartyMachowski on his new family devo from @newgrowthpress & enter to win a copy! http://bit.ly/VS9HzT
  4. Post about the interview and giveaway on your blog (+1). (Please include a link to your post.)
  5. Share this post on Facebook. (+1)

Again, you may choose from any or all of the options above, for a maximum of 5 entries per person.  In order to gain multiple entries, you must leave separate comments for each option you complete.

I will contact the winners via email on Monday, October 15th.  Your copy of Old Story New will be sent to you directly from the kind folks at New Growth Press.  Spread the word!

Old Story New: Feature and Giveaway

As a parent, one of the things I must do when selecting biblical resources for my son/family is sift through the myriads of unhelpful material that makes up so much of Christian literature today.  Simply because something sits on the shelf in a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean that someone has already done the work of discerning the soundness of theology within.  In reality, there are excellent, Bible-saturated, doctrinally sound, and substantial resources available, but many times you just need to be a little more pro-active in your search.  In an effort to point you in the right direction, I’d like to make you aware of an exciting children’s series and its latest family devotional.

The series is Marty Machowski’s Gospel Story for Kids collection of children’s resources, published by New Growth Press.  Susan, Gresham, and I have enjoyed reading from The Gospel Story Bible.  It is truly a joy to read a children’s Bible that is thoroughly Christ-centered, redemptive-historical, and one that responsibly condenses and applies each story.  Alongside The Gospel Story Bible, Machowski has written a children’s curriculum that focuses on understanding how the Old Testament points to Christ.

Additionally, Marty has written two family devotionals.  The devotionals are designed around a 10-minute, discussion-based format.  In 2010, New Growth Press released Long Story Short, which worked its way through the Old Testament with the intent of working through the text in order to draw families closer to Christ.  This month (October, 2012) marks the release of Machowski’s New Testament devotional, Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (New Testament).

In partnership with the generous folks at New Growth Press, over the next week-and-a-half I will be posting the first week of devotions from Old Story New, an interview with Marty, giving away 2 copies of the book, and posting my review as a part of the Old Story New Blog TourBe sure to check back tomorrow for the first excerpt and instructions as to how you can enter to win a copy of Old Story New.  You may want to subscribe via RSS or email to receive the updates automatically in your inbox or reader of choice.

In the meantime, here is a brief bio of Marty as well as some of the advance endorsements Old Story New…

BIO

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for more than twenty years. As leader of their children’s ministry, Promise Kingdom, he has worked for many years to develop curriculum and devotional material that connect church and home. His passion is equipping families to understand the Bible as one gospel story and help them share that with their children. He is the author of The Gospel Story for Kids series including Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (OT)The Gospel Story Bible; and the Gospel Story Curriculum: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament and the forthcoming Old Story New (NT): Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God and Gospel Story Curriculum: Following Jesus in the New Testament. He and his wife Lois and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

ENDORSEMENTS

“Marty Machowski has done it again! This book, along with the earlier Old Testament devotional book, Long Story Short, is another masterful devotional book for families. It is simple without being shallow. It is theologically robust without being pedantic. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Best of all, it is doable for busy parents with children.”
Dr. Tedd Tripp, Pastor; conference speaker; best-selling author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart
“So much of the family devotional material available today does little more than use the Bible to teach half-truths and full-out moralism. The reason my wife and I love Marty Machowski’s books and the reason they have become important resources as we seek to raise our children in ‘the discipline and instruction of the Lord,’ is their consistent focus on the big picture of the Bible’s big story. Old Story New is yet another wonderful resource that we gladly commend and look forward to reading with our children.”
Tim Challies, Author; pastor; blogger
“Marty Machowski ‘gets’ families. Even more importantly, he knows how to connect them to the Bible with simple, relatable New Testament studies that make much of Jesus in every lesson. If you want your kids to see the Savior through his Word, spend some time in this exciting new devotional.”
Dave Harvey, Church Planting and Church Care, Sovereign Grace Ministries; author of When Sinners Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

Beale on Typology

One of the most controversial and potentially difficult issues within the realm of biblical interpretation is that of typology.  How are the people, places, events, and circumstances of the Old Testament text to be interpreted and understood insofar as their connection to subsequent people, places, events, and circumstances is concerned; especially as they relate to Christ and the church?

Greg Beale, in his forthcoming book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2012), provides a helpful definition for considering that which may be properly understood as having typological significance.  He defines biblical typology as:

The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in meaning. (p. 14)

After defining biblical typology, he offers two helpful points of clarification regarding “escalation” and “retrospection”.

Beale notes, “By “escalation” is meant that the antitype (the NT correspondence) is heightened in some way in relation to the OT type.  For example, John 19:36 views the requirement of not breaking the bones of the Passover lamb in the OT epoch to point to a greater reality of the bones of Jesus not being broken at the crucifixion…”  Additionally, “…escalation would be the correspondence of God providing literal manna from heaven for physical sustenance and providing the manna of Christ from heaven for spiritual sustenance.”  Clarifying “retrospection”, Beale says, “By “retrospection” is meant the idea that it was after Christ’s resurrection and under the direction of the Spirit that the apostolic writers understood certain OT historical narratives about persons, events, or institutions to be indirect prophecies of Christ or the church.” [Please read the qualification Beale cites regarding the “retrospective” characteristic of biblical typology, noted in the “Comments” section.]

While some interpreters are extremely leery of deeming anything in Scripture a “type” that isn’t expressly stated as such, Beale’s definition and subsequent study promises to be handled with scholarly precision and care, and, undoubtedly, a reverence for both God and his Word.

  • WTSbooks.com has a sample chapter and audio lecture available, as well as some overall info on Beale’s forthcoming work.
  • Amazon.com has the book for a deeply discounted pre-order price of $9.67 (Reg. $17.99)
  • Baker Book House is offering the opportunity to win a copy of the book this week at their blog (Giveaway ends, Friday, August 17, 2012, at 6AM EST).  I’m hoping to win a copy myself, so I can continue the study above! 🙂

Baker Book Giveaway

Baker Academic is giving away a copy of G.K. Beale’s latest book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation, at their blog. The giveaway runs until Friday, August 17, at 6AM EST.  CLICK HERE to be redirected to the giveaway.

Here’s a little info about the book:

Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages

Publisher’s Description: This concise guide by a leading New Testament scholar helps readers understand how to better study the multitude of Old Testament references in the New Testament. G. K. Beale, coeditor of the bestselling Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, focuses on the “how to” of interpreting the New Testament use of the Old Testament, providing students and pastors with many of the insights and categories necessary for them to do their own exegesis. Brief enough to be accessible yet thorough enough to be useful, this handbook will be a trusted guide for all students of the Bible.

Contents:
Introduction
1. Challenges to Interpreting the Use of the Old Testament in the New
2. Seeing the Old Testament in the New: Definitions of Quotations and Allusions and Criteria for Discerning Them
3. An Approach to Interpreting the Old Testament in the New
4. Primary Ways the New Testament Uses the Old Testament
5. Hermeneutical and Theological Presuppositions of the New Testament Writers
6. The Relevance of Jewish Backgrounds for the Study of the Old Testament in the New: A Survey of the Sources
7. A Case Study Illustrating the Methodology of This Book

208 Pages
Published September 2012

TIPTON ON LAW & GOSPEL.

I am a big fan of ReformedForum.  I am also a big fan of the Chicago Cubs, but there’s not much worth talking about there…  Anyway, if you are unfamiliar with ReformedForum’s weekly pod/vodcast Christ the Center: Doctrine for Life, or the wealth of free resources they offer at their site, ReformedForum.org, I highly recommend you bookmark the site and subscribe to the feed.

One of their offerings is entitled, “Reformed Forum Express”.  A collection of brief but substantial summaries of various theological topics and issues.  In the video below, Dr. Lane G. Tipton notes the dangers of confusing the Law and the Gospel, the uses of the Law, and the good news that Christ has accomplished salvation on behalf of the elect, apart from their works.

CLICK HERE to view the post at ReformedForum.org, and offer your comments or questions as they relate to the video.

REVIEW: ISAIAH BY THE DAY by ALEC MOTYER

Sometimes you just have to lay your cards out on the table to begin with, and I’m going to do that now…Motyer’s Isaiah By The Day: A New Devotional Translation is fantastic!  Here we have a first-rate Old Testament scholar bringing together his gifts as a commentator, translator, and exegete into a Christ-centered devotional tool that applies the text responsibly and practically while guiding the reader through digestible portions God’s Word each day.

The book begins with a helpful introductory section which provides the reader with a general outline of Isaiah, allowing for a broad understanding of the author’s structure.  Four simple divisions allow for an easily remembered “map” of the book: Isaiah’s preface (Chs. 1-5), The Book of the King (Chs. 6-37), The Book of the Servant (Chs. 38-55), and The Book of the Conqueror (Chs. 56-66).  Additionally, Motyer (pronounced “Moh-teer”) is careful to explain his translation process and certain aspects of Isaiah’s style and structure to keep in mind while reading.   The introduction provides the most pertinent information for the reader giving them needed technical knowledge without being overbearing.  All in all, he aims to be consistent and faithful to the text while retaining the beauty of Isaiah’s Hebrew.

The picture to the right provides a glimpse of the layout of each day’s text.  The notes to the right are a distilled commentary that provides the reader with helpful background, linguistic, textual, and contextual remarks that do well in keeping from becoming over-technical or distracting from the text itself.  It’s as if Motyer is there along the way, as a teacher, heading off that which may be overly confusing and highlighting that which may be often overlooked.  Additionally, there is ample note taking space on each page, making it easy to mark the text and record thoughts, questions, and reactions without becoming overly cluttered.

One thing to mention is that the text does read a bit rigidly as compared to most modern translations. However, the raw nature seems to awaken the beauty and straight-forward nature of many portions of the text and add to the distinctiveness of this work.

Moving to the application portion of each day’s entry, Motyer has succeeded in including the text’s contemporary significance, connection to Christ, as well as its ecclesial, social/societal, and individual bearing.  While many devotionals aim to apply the text through simplistic, often cheesy, questions, Motyer has given the reader the opportunity to significantly understand and apply the text through well-thought, timely, pointed, and pastorally-natured questions.

Overall, I don’t believe you will find another devotional as distinct and substantial as Motyer’s.  I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Isaiah By The Day and be edified!  …Especially, if you’re one who has avoided, or been weary of, much of contemporary evangelicalism’s often shallow devotional literature…this one will be a breath of fresh air!  I recommend it very highly!!

*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of the aforementioned title.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Watch as Alec Motyer discusses Isaiah By The Day:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/r9KbrelS7mM]

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: Christian Focus
Author: Motyer, Alec
ISBN-10: 1845506545 | ISBN-13: 9781845506544
Binding: Hardcover
List Price: $22.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore: $15.08 – 34% Off 

REVIEW: THE BEGINNING AND END OF WISDOM by DOUGLAS SEAN O’DONNELL

Perhaps the most familiar genre of biblical literature to the average layperson is the epistle.  Given our Western propensity toward the practical and the immediate, the letters of the New Testament provide us with straightforward statements about what Christ has done and how we are to live in response; so it’s no wonder many of us initially flip to these sections of the Bible in our daily reading.  But how do we fare when it comes to the literature of the Hebrew Bible?  Apart from the familiar narratives that most have experienced, at the very least in their Sunday School days, the Old Testament still remains a mystery to many gospel-believing Christians.  And given the lack of familiarity and confidence in handling much of the Old Testament among many followers of Christ, it’s likely that a portion of that may be due to the fact that many pastors could use a refresher when it comes to rightly handling and preaching the Old Testament.

In light of this reality, I am thankful for the growing number of resources that aim to assist believers in understanding and developing a Christ-centered, gospel-focused, redemptive-historical hermeneutic for reading and interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures.  After all it was Paul who began his letter to the Romans indicating that “the gospel of God” was something God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son” (Romans 1:2-3, ESV).  Jesus, as well, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…interpreted to [the disciples on the Emmaus Road] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV, emphasis mine).  Certainly “all the Scriptures” includes the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible, and Douglas Sean O’Donnell has provided us with a very helpful example of effective Christ-centered preaching from this portion of God’s Word in his, The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (Crossway, 2011)(Talk about a Puritan-length title!)

The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a collection of a handful of O’Donnell’s sermons from the Wisdom genre as he seeks to initially instruct the reader/preacher through demonstration in practice.  I was thoroughly encouraged by the posture taken by O’Donnell as he approached his task.  Noting the primacy of Christ he states, “Life does not come through Bible literacy.  Life comes through Jesus.  And a right understanding of Scripture comes through knowledge of Jesus and trust in him.”  As O’Donnell approaches this genre of biblical literature he reminds the student of Scripture of the “demeanor” one must take, that is: “that God remain large and we remain small.”  O’Donnell displays, what I believe to be, a genuine reverence for Christ and his word, a serious approach to his task of interpretation, and a passion to see the gospel elevated and hearts awestruck by the God of the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures.

I particularly enjoyed O’Donnell’s sermon in from the first chapter of Job (1:1-12).  With his aim set on the gospel, O’Donnell’s honesty allows the gospel to rest sweetly on the ears of the hearers of the text as he reminds us, “We come to a book (Job) that will teach us that God’s love for us is bigger and broader than sentimentality and sympathy and that his will for our lives is vaster and grander than our personal happiness or success.”  In light of Job’s life situation and response to the suffering from God’s providential hand, O’Donnell notes in Christocentric terms, “When Jesus walked the earth, he called everyone, as he still calls them, to put him and his kingdom above possessions, family, friends, and reputation, and to accept, if necessary, suffering, persecution, and the loss of home job, money, or even life.”  Thus, O’Donnell gets to Christ without rushing with hermeneutical irresponsibility toward a connection, preaching and teaching the text responsibly.

Before two appendices on “Preaching Hebrew Poetry” and “Book Summaries and Suggested Sermon Series”, O’Donnell moves from the finished product to show the readers the tools necessary to get there.  This is a bit of a different route to take as many would think to start with the materials and method before considering the finished product.  However, in his chapter entitled “How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?” O’Donnell gives careful hermeneutical consideration and instruction to that which his has just demonstrated in his sermons.  For the person who lacks acquaintance with the art of preaching Christ from the Old Testament, this order serves to effectively immerse the reader in the manner, style, and practice of preaching Christ from the wisdom books so that the dots will likely be more quickly and readily connected through, “Yeah-I-see-how-you-did-that…” moments.  The chapter on hermeneutics is incredibly helpful, especially in O’Donnell’s inclusion of charts that connect Wisdom Literature text with like texts from the New Testament.

Overall, with a reverence for the God of the Word, and a desire to see Christ exalted as the gospel is proclaimed, The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a excellent book to consider adding to your library as it relates to Christ-centered hermeneutics!  I recommend it!!

*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of the aforementioned title.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

BOOK DETAILS

Read inside (PDFs):Sample Pages

Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Author: O’Donnell, Douglas
ISBN-10: 1433523345 | ISBN-13: 9781433523342
Binding: Paperback
List Price: $17.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore: $11.73 – 35% Off 

CLICK HERE to check out O’Donnell’s recent article in Themelios entitled, “The Earth Is Crammed with Heaven: Four Guideposts to Reading and Teaching the Song of Songs”

THE MINOR PROPHETS THRU “THE JESUS LENS”

It’s probably safe to say that Nahum may be the first book people don’t turn to in their daily reading of the Scriptures.  It’s also relatively safe to say, that for many Christians looking to study a book with their small group, they probably are not going to land on Obadiah.  Again, it’s probably safe to say, that for many Christians, the Minor Prophets–as a whole–don’t get much air time.  But Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, wasn’t leaving these 12 books out when he told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, ESV).  In all reality, Paul was referring first to the books of the Old Testament.

For many Christians, the Minor Prophets, in part, and the Old Testament, as a whole, can often feel like more of a mystery than a major source of practical, daily food for the soul; or, at most, a collection of stories filled with characters whose examples are to be imitated or avoided.  Is that really all there is to a majority of the Old Testament?  Is it largely just a collection moral victories, moral mishaps, striking judgment, difficult genealogy, and obscure prophecy?  If this is the experience you’ve had in reading (or trying to read) the Old Testament, and specifically, the Minor Prophets, don’t lose heart!  There is hope in learning how to see that these 12 small books are more than locusts, lament, and tellings of the terrifying day of the LORD.  Each of these books, when properly interpreted, point in some way to the ultimate redemptive work that God has accomplished in his Son, Jesus Christ!

Dr. Michael Williams, professor of Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, has written the latest offering in Zondervan’s How to Read the Bible… series.  In Williams’ How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture the reader is introduced, in a wonderfully accessible way, to a redemptive-historical reading of the Scriptures.  Simply put, Williams guides readers in the way of reading the whole Bible with the view of God’s gospel work in Christ Jesus as the central thread of unity.  That is, the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, either point forward in hope to the redemptive work of Jesus, or they look back to the cross and the effect of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ on the Christian and the world.  Williams notes that the purpose of his writing is, “parallel to that of Christ for the disciples he joined up with on the road to Emmaus: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).”

As part of “The Jesus Lens Blog Tour”, sponsored by Zondervan, I’ve decided to focus on only a section of Williams’ work, as hinted at in the opening paragraphs of this post—The Minor Prophets.

The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are not minor because they are small in terms of their impact or importance.  Rather, they were deemed the “minor prophets”, by Augustine, to note their brevity in comparison to the “major prophets” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel).  And though the Minor Prophets are often obscure in the minds of many readers of the Scriptures, Williams provides a helpful framework for approaching each book.

Williams divides his examination of each book into 4 sections: Background/Summary, The Jesus Lens, Contemporary Implications, and Hook Questions.

BACKGROUND/SUMMARY

The Background/Summary section gives an overall summary of the book citing a theme and memory verse.  These summaries are spoken in very plain language which will be a great aid to the person first encountering the meaning of each book, but will also act as an excellent resource for the student of any level who desires to summarize the overall message of the book in plain language.

THE JESUS LENS

This section guides the reader in the way of seeing how the work of Christ is either foresignified in the book or how the book looks back to his work of redemption.  Williams defines reading through “The Jesus Lens” as “reading it the way it was intended.  [The Jesus Lens] keeps our reading, understanding, teaching, and preaching properly focused on God’s grand redemptive program that centers on his own Son.”

CONTEMPORARY IMPLICATIONS

How does the text apply to the believer today?  After all, the Bible wasn’t necessarily written to us, but rather for us.  Because the Scriptures were written to specific people, in specific places, at specific times, for a specific purpose, bridging the gap to the lives of believers in the 21st century can often times be difficult.  Williams, though, is able to do so with brevity and always with the gospel work of Christ in view which is needed (especially in terms of Old Testament interpretation) and helpful!

HOOK QUESTIONS

Whether you’re using the book on your own, or in a group setting, these questions are designed to help the reader think deeply, intelligently, and practically about the overall point and purpose of the book in his or her daily life.  Williams does a good job of keeping the questions practical, but not shallow; text-focused, but not overtly technical.  This will certainly be a good tool for readers desiring to get the most out of this resource!

THE JESUS LENS IN FOCUS: JOEL

Rather than to engage all 12 of the Minor Prophets, for the purpose of this review, I thought I’d focus in on a chapter I found greatly encouraging and exemplary in terms of putting “The Jesus Lens” into practice; namely, the book of Joel.

Williams cites the theme of Joel as, “The day of the Lord is coming and brings judgment before restoration.”  Noting the drought and locust plague of Joel’s immediate context, Williams demonstrates how these supernatural disasters were pointers to the ultimate day of the Lord when his judgment would justly fall on all those who spurned his grace.  But how does all this relate to Christ?

Williams notes, “The apostle Peter quoted from Joel’s prophecy on the day of Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:17-21), indicating that Jesus’ death on the cross was our day of the Lord, when God’s judgment for our disobedience was experienced on our behalf by our sinless representative.”  Moreover, “Jesus experienced those dire consequences so that all who come to the Father through faith in him can be assured of life.”

Noting the contemporary significance of “the day of the Lord”, being that believers now live “between “days of the Lord”, Williams helps believers see how the gospel work of Christ was Christ’s substitutionary enduring of “the day of the Lord” on behalf of the elect. But, for those apart from Christ, “the day of the Lord” is still in the future.  For believers, then, the future, consummate “day of the Lord” does not need to be looked to in fear, because believers now dwell secure in Christ, for he has endured the wrath of that day in their place.

All in all, Williams gloriously focuses on Christ throughout his writing, ending his chapter on Joel noting that, “Jesus offers us his own righteousness to replace our blameworthiness, unshakeable joy to replace our circumstantially determined happiness, and justifiable confidence in him to replace our justifiable doubt in ourselves.”

FINAL THOUGHT

Paul noted in his introduction to the Romans that the gospel was something that God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son” (Romans 1:2-3).  In reading How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens, you won’t miss the gospel in the Minor Prophets.  Williams provides readers of all levels with fresh insight and helpful tools that they may begin to see the gospel of Christ in all the Scriptures.  I heartily recommend it!

*As a part of the Jesus Lens Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

BOOK DETAILS

Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages

Publisher: Zondervan
Author: Williams, Michael
ISBN-10: 031033165X | ISBN-13: 9780310331650
Binding: Paperback
List Price: $18.99
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