If Phil Campbell is right that “clarity is the new black” (Saving Eutychus, loc 539), and if even the Apostle Paul thought that “making it clear” is h...moreIf Phil Campbell is right that “clarity is the new black” (Saving Eutychus, loc 539), and if even the Apostle Paul thought that “making it clear” is how he ought to speak (Col. 4:3-4), then Tim Chester’s new book, 1 Samuel For You, is indeed for you! Clarity of thought and expression is a commodity that Chester offers in abundance in all his books, and this one is no different.
And yet, clarity does not come at the expense of substance. He is quick to point out Hebrew puns and chiastic patterns in the narrative structure. Thorny apologetic questions are given brief but sober treatment (the command to destroy the Amalekites is ethical cleansing rather than ethnic cleansing [loc 1387]). And rich forays are made into the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures (the mountain separating David from his pursuer Saul leads David to sing of God in the Psalms as his Rock) as well as into the NT.
Take the chapter on David versus Goliath, for instance. Here we find that the Hebrew word for Goliath’s armour is “scales”. David, like Adam, must face the snake. He had already tamed the lion and the bear, and now, as a small fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 3:15, he lops off the head of the serpent (Goliath). Following this on into the NT Chester writes, “Jesus is the true Adam, crushing the snake and taming the beasts [referring to Mark 1.13]. Jesus is the true Israel, trusting God, defeating giants and securing our inheritance” (lo 1813).
Clarity is also achieved by allowing 1 Samuel to speak powerfully to our lives today. The rather domestic story of Hannah and her barrenness yields this encouragement:
Maybe you have made gospel choices which mean you cannot afford the lifestyle of your neighbours. Maybe you have chosen to give your time to serve others rather than indulging yourself. Maybe you have served on a children’s camp instead of going on holiday…Maybe you have taken on a draining pastoral situation. Maybe you have made choices that mean you face hostility. You speak for Christ even though it will harm your career or ruin your day. Maybe you are childless like Hannah and have chosen not to accept fertility treatment that would mean unused human embryos are destroyed. The message of Hannah’s story and Hannah’s song is this: It is worth it. (loc 302)
Not only is this book marked by clarity. It is also marked by Christ-centeredness. In each chapter Chester follows legitimate paths, not of his own making, from 1 Samuel to King Jesus.
We see how the apostles and early Christians went to 1 Samuel and the psalms of David to show that Jesus was the Christ, not in spite of all his sufferings, but because of them (loc 2355). “So when the early church wanted to prove that the despised and rejected One was in fact God’s true King, this is where they went” (loc 2366).
1 & 2 Samuel contain 20 chapters on the life of David while he was king. But they also include 20 chapters on David before he became king. In 1 Samuel 23 to 26, David faces three tests to skip the suffering and hardship and come into the glory of kingship on his own steam. (loc 2521). Jesus too will be tempted to skip the suffering bit and go straight on to his glory. David refuses to shed Saul’s blood; Jesus “does come to his kingdom through bloodshed, but the blood which was shed was his own.” (loc 2642).
If our King had to go through suffering before glory, we should expect no different. However,
Too often, we expect to be able to get on in our careers without our faith creating problems for us. Too often, we expect to be able to share our faith without facing opposition. Too often, we expect God to solve our problems and take away our suffering. In other words, too often we actually expect glory now without suffering. (loc 2424-2436)
I’ll leave you with Chester’s summary of the book of 1 Samuel, and then with one of my favourite quotes:
In this sense, the whole of the history of God’s people and of the world, from the coming of the first Adam to the return of the second Adam, is captured in the tale of the two kings that is the book of 1 Samuel. (loc 3155)
“Where is the glory or the weight? It is around Eli’s waist.” (loc 639) (less)
A wonderful book helping parents and teachers to teach the gospel to kids. Author is himself a layman but has come up with numerous brilliant ideas fo...moreA wonderful book helping parents and teachers to teach the gospel to kids. Author is himself a layman but has come up with numerous brilliant ideas for communicating Jesus including the God report card. This book will help with
* finding easy ways to get to Jesus from various Bible stories * setting up a gospel environment (doesn't believe in a rewards system) * guiding teachers to live by the gospel themselves. He incl many examples from his own life of his idolatry in ministry...sounded like he was talking about me. Very encouraging * getting to the root of sin beneath the sin
Sometimes I thought his moves to Jesus left room for improvement, but just as many times I was surprised by his insight. Heavy emphasis on grace...something I still struggle with because I think the NT is clear that God's love does change in some way towards us when we sin, etc. (less)
This appears to be the third book written in the author’s Recovering the Gospel series. The book is divided into two parts, the first on bibli...moreSummary
This appears to be the third book written in the author’s Recovering the Gospel series. The book is divided into two parts, the first on biblical assurance, and the second on gospel warnings.
The author situates his topic as matter of heaven or hell. He is concerned about a doctrine of easy believism that “opens the door for carnal and unregenerate people to find assurance of salvation by looking to the apparent sincerity of their past decision to accept Christ, even though their manner of living contradicts such a profession,” (loc 219). “Contemporary evangelicalism,” he states, “has been grossly affected by a ‘once saved always saved’ teaching that argues for the possibility of salvation apart from sanctification,” (loc 1793).
In the first part he goes through the numerous tests given in 1 John to examine ourselves to see if our profession in genuine. Tests such as whether we walk in the light, confess sin, keep God’s commandments, etc (there is a helpful summary list given at the end of Part One [locs 2911-2]).
If Part One primarily focuses on 1 John, Part Two goes through the conclusion to Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-27. Here we learn that today’s preacher, like the Lord Jesus himself, must give his listeners gospel warnings as well as gospel promises, and that “the idea that it is easy to be saved is totally foreign to the Scriptures,” (loc 3281). “It seems that the evangelical community no longer views conversion primarily as a supernatural work of God wrought through the miracle of the new birth” (loc 4277).
I agree with Washer’s overall message in the book. A changing life and submission the Lordship of Christ are not optional for the true Christian.
I also agree with him on interpretation of specific texts. He rightly interprets the distinction in 1 John 1:5-7 as being between those who are converted and those who are not. And in Matthew 25.31-46 the hungry, homeless, and naked are indeed “believers who are suffering for the sake of a good conscience before God and their loyalty to Christ,” (loc 1268).
But I do have some criticisms of the book. While I can appreciate that the author is dealing with somber truths, the book’s style does come across as repetitious (perhaps because it’s based on a collection of sermons [loc 51]) and a trifle pedantic.
Moreover there is repeated mention of the ills and shortcomings of evangelicalism. I completely agree with Washer’s assessment, but that didn’t stop me from wondering if he could have achieved the same effect with less recourse to the familiar “modern evangelicalism” refrain. This plus a few more positive and energetic appeals to the transforming power of the gospel would have gone a long way to fulfilling the author’s hope: that in his book readers would “rediscover the gospel in all its beauty, scandal, and saving power” (loc 111).(less)
It is my conviction as a mission leader, rather than encouraging this generation of young believers to pad their IRA retirement accounts, we should be pointing them towards packing their own coffins with a few belongings as they set sail for the strongholds of Satan in the 10 / 40 Window countries. (201)
Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the Pope or in the councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.” And possibly, “I cannot do otherwise, here I stand…May God help me. Amen.” (68)
“This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head...more“This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love."
Purpose of mind “The main reason God has given us minds is that we might seek out and find all the reasons that exist for treasuring him in all things and above all things.” (15)
Definition of loving God with mind: "our thinking should be wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” (83)
Quote on relativism:
Relativism enables pride to put on humble clothes and parade through the street. But don’t be mistaken. Relativism chooses every turn, ever pace, every street, according to its autonomous preferences, and submits to no truth. We will serve our generation well by exposing the prideful flesh under these humble clothes. (113)
Also cites Chesterton in fn 6 “We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”
What if we were to realize that every sunset viewed, every sexual intimacy enjoyed, every favorite food savored, every song sung or listened to, every home decorated, and every rich moment enjoyed in this life isn’t ultimately about itself but is an expression and reflection of God’s essential character? Wouldn’t such beautiful and desirable reflections mean that their Source must be even more beautiful—and, ultimately, most desirable? (8)
“Alice must grow small if she is to be Alice in Wonderland” (57, G. K. Chesterton)
Good stuff on how all art is sacred. Key question is whether it is true. However, as cross is source and standard of beauty, he could have shown how we evaluate all art and culture from the cross, as in Php 4.8-9.
Clarifies relationship between God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and Christian’s evangelistic duty. Aim is to dispel notion that belief in God’...moreClarifies relationship between God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and Christian’s evangelistic duty. Aim is to dispel notion that belief in God’s sovereignty will hinder evangelism (7-8)
Charles Simeon’s conversation with John Wesley (13-14): following is an excerpt
“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance…and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.”
And therefore the indiscriminate buttonholing, the intrusive barging in to the privacy of other people’s souls, the thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant strangers who are longing to get away—these modes of behavour, in which strong and loquacious personalities have sometimes indulged in the name of personal evangelism, should be written off as a travesty of personal evangelism. Impersonal evangelism would be a better name for them! 81-2
What, then, are we to say about the suggestion that a hearty faith in the absolute sovereignty of God is inimical to evangelism? We are bound to say that anyone who makes this suggestion thereby shows that he has simply failed to understand what the doctrine of divine sovereignty means. Not only does it undergird our evangelism, and uphold the evangelist, by creating a hope of success that could not otherwise be entertained; it also teaches us to bind together preaching and prayer; and as it makes us bold and confident before men, so it makes us humble and importunate before God. Is not this as it should be? We would not wish to say that man cannot evangelize at all without coming to terms with this doctrine; but we venture to think that, other things being equal, he will be able to evangelize better for believing it. (125-6)
Written in the God’s Word For You series, whose aims for each book is that it be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied, and easily rea...moreWritten in the God’s Word For You series, whose aims for each book is that it be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied, and easily readable, Keller’s Judges For You achieves each admirably.
But seriously. Judges for you? Judges for me? Judges for anyone? This Old Testament book is out of control! Is there anyone it can speak to today? “Judges is not an easy read,” acknowledges Keller, but “living in the times we do, it is an essential one.” It shows us that the Bible is not a ‘Book of Virtues.’ It shows us the gospel.
And here is where Keller can help. I want to say that Keller does three things very well (in keeping with the aims of the series): (1) Clearly unpacks the narrative; (2) Makes penetrating applications into our world today; (3) finds rich connections from Judges into the NT, especially to the person of Christ.
Let me give some examples of all of these.
Keller shows how the deliverers in Judges often achieve victory through weakness. Ehud destroys Eglon because, not in spite of, his handicap and being left-handed. Jesus is our left-handed Savior who saves a left-handed people (1 Cor 1.26-27). The story of Deborah and Jael lead him to talk sex roles in the church (he takes a soft complementarian stance).
In failing to purge the land of idols fully, they have left Canaan a minefield: “Like buried mines, these idols lie dormant in Judges 1, ready to explode in the spiritual lives of God’s people.” Idolatry leads to slavery as Israel becomes enslaved to the very people whose gods they serve.
Gideon’s famous fleece is not grounds to discern God’s will through tests. What Gideon was actually doing was “seeking to understand the nature of God.” To imitate Gideon in our day is “to ask God to give us a big picture of who he is” to which God responds by showing us the fullest expression of his character—Jesus Christ.
The phrase “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is contrasted with Israel doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. Contemporary notions of morality are wrong. It is not true that “only you can define what’s right and wrong for you.” Rather, right and wrong are defined by God himself.
The Samson cycle gives Keller the platform to discuss unequal yokes, and to include a heading entitled “A Lion, a Bet, and a Woman” which from Keller is surely a nod to Narnia!
In chapter 13 he takes up the disturbing way in which Judges ends. The wicked men rape the concubine all night long; her Levite master looks upon her with cold indifference the following morning. After noting that the narrator is showing that the Levite is just as evil as the wicked rapists, Keller asks
Are there ways in which we listen to our culture about how we should view (either treat, or look at) women? In what ways are we in danger of treating women as property, as things?
…we may not have committed such things, but (like the Levite) have failed to prevent them, enabling them through our inaction. We will have all told ourselves and others a better story about ourselves and our conduct than the whole truth would reveal.
By the time this rape crime has descended to full civil war in the nation, and Israel is self-destructing, and the solutions they are coming up with are actually intensifying their problems and darkness, the narrator of Judges has made his point clearly: Israel’s worst enemy was Israel. And today, the Church’s worst enemy is herself. We need a King, a deliverer who can save us from ourselves. We need God himself to be the King, but we need him to deliver us through weakness, through his Son become flesh, through Jesus.
This book is a helpful guide for the person reading through Judges for themselves, and for those seeking to lead others through it the reflection questions interspersed throughout will help facilitate discussion and growth.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher but was not required to write a positive review. (less)
Awesome book. The following is my summary of the concluding chapter:
Exodus is about God’s mission in making himself known, making Jesus’ commission ju...moreAwesome book. The following is my summary of the concluding chapter:
Exodus is about God’s mission in making himself known, making Jesus’ commission just as much an OT thing as a NT thing. Exodus contributes much to our mission theology: (1) It’s done through / in community (“endeavours that may be considered evangelistic are best rooted in community”, 211, cf Chester); (2) It’s costly to us as God puts us through trials to make us into a priestly nation, conformed to him; (3) In mission we make God known as he is; (4) which includes especially making him known as Redeemer!(less)
In a busy culture with people desperate to succeed, we practice in Communion resting on the finished work of Christ. In a fragmented culture that is radically individualistic, we practice in Communion belonging to one another. In a dissatisfied culture of constant striving, we practice in Communion receiving this world with joy as a gift from God. In a narcissistic culture of self-fulfillment, we practice in Communion joyous self-denial and service. In a proud culture of self-promotion, we practice in Communion humility and generosity. All these practices are habit-forming, and so seep into the rest of our lives. (124)