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A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  648 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Sex. Race. Scripture. Sovereignty. The book of Ruth entails them all. So readers shouldn't be fooled by its age, says Pastor John Piper. Though its events happened over 3,000 years ago, the story holds astounding relevance for Christians in the twenty-first century.

The sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity, and the gospel of God's mercy for the
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Crossway Books (first published December 21st 2009)
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 ·  648 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Brenda Daniels
Simply written, clear and careful build up of an argument. Reader is left with a good understanding of the biblical book of Ruth. It's reassuring to know that God's sovereignty covers both sweet and bitter life events.
Josh Morgan
May 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review originally appeared on my blog, Jacob's Café.This review of John Piper's A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God was made possible through receipt of a complimentary audiobook copy through christianaudio's Reviewers Program.

In having the opportunity to review, I thought it would be good to finally hear some of Piper's word directly since I have heard almost unilaterally negative things about him. It's much better to be informed about good or bad things
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I didn't have any idea what this was about but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a commentary on the book of Ruth (complete with the full text of Ruth - one chapter of Ruth before each of four chapters of the commentary).

This book echoes Piper's Spectacular Sins book (which is referenced a couple of times) and is a great follow up or predecessor (I read Spectacular Sins first and it was helpful to see that truth "in action" in the book of Ruth).

There's a lot of great material is this
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal
I don't think I will ever grow tired of reading and re-reading this beautiful book! At one level it's simply a commentary on the book of Ruth. But it is so so much more as Piper skilfully teaches on the key themes of each chapter and applies them to our lives today. I think this is one of Pipers warmest and most emotionally-engaging books as he draws out beautiful truths about love, purity, providence and the character of God from the story. Challenging, heart-warming, moving and inspiring.
Jeff Short
This book goes through the book of Ruth chapter by chapter with a summary of practical application at the end. Piper blends theological and practical commentary while walking through the book. As you would expect, the book is very God-centered in interpretation and insightful in application.
Megan Lane
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: growth
I thought about knocking this down to three stars - for a 145-page book, it repeats itself and sums itself up an awful lot. But that's somewhat of a hallmark of Piper, from what I've read, so I'll move past it.
He had excellent things to say. Ruth is a lovely, rich book, and I think he did it reasonable justice. He drew out strong lessons of character and faith and living - the book of Ruth is far more practical than it may seem at first glance.
Another small beef of mine with his writing is that
Robert Murphy
Nov 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
It's interesting to read the non-Christian and non-Reformed reviews of this book. They help me put a finger on why I couldn't give the book 5-stars (as I'm supposed to do as a Calvinist pastor-in-training). This book is a sermon series in paper format. Points are asserted, not proven. I agree with all the points, but that's not proof that it's proper to derive them from here. Also, as an aspiring Hebrew-lover, the exegetical payoffs of a study in the language are not here. This is really a ...more
Marshall Walter
Apr 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: commentaries
The best and only 'commentary' I've read on the book of Ruth. I've always enjoyed the story and this is an excellent walk through of the book. As always, Piper communicates the broad truth of what God is doing in an inspiring way. I look forward to referencing this book again as it's inspired me to teach through the book of Ruth some time soon!
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Read it more as a devotional which I liked. I read in small chunks and felt I absorbed it more. Piper goes deep, but is easy to understand. I learned a lot about the book of Ruth.
Nov 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Maybe better than 3 stars, but not if you want more of an exegetical look at Ruth. This book is passionate and helpful with application, but not my favorite.
Chris Wilson
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I haven't read a Piper book in quite some time. I was reminded in this brief look at the book of Ruth why he's one of my favorite living pastors, author, and theologian. He exhibits his deft touch with expanding the story of Ruth from a short four chapter Old Testament book that points to Christ to a treatise on the magnificence of God's glory and our good in the face of often bitter providence.

Two things stick out as takeaways from this work. One, as is always the case with Piper, I want to
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The truths Piper draws out of the book of Ruth were timely for my personal life, and could be considered urgent for American Christians. On the whole, Piper drew my attention to things in the book of Ruth that I've never seen before, including some ways in which Ruth is working in the larger narrative of the Bible, which make the story even more beautiful than it has been to me before. I'm grateful for this little book, and will revisit it in the future.

Note: I listened to the audio edition of
I thought this was an excellent little devotional type commentary on the book of Ruth. It gives good insight into the book and teaches the bigger meta-narrative themes, while also seeking to be consistent in theology. I'm reading it for a series on Ruth at church, I've found it to be helpful.

I don't understand some of these overly negative reviews. It's worth reading.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: metaphysical
Yes, it is a historical and biblical story.
The title has the word SEX in it. it would capture the mind more than the sovereignty of God.
Besides that, its more like a sermon with a christ centered application.
Encouraging but needs more food for the post modern mind
Brian Pate
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: commentary
A concise devotional commentary on the book of Ruth. Wonderful thoughts on God's providence, sexual purity, and the multi-racial nature of God's people. The writings of Piper, like few other authors, motivate me to pursue radical Christ-likeness, and this book is no exception.
Elijah Abanto
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book by John Piper, which is an exposition of the book of Ruth, is masterfully written. I continue to see how inexhaustible the Word of God is, and how life-changing it is, through this book.
Phillip Howell
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good meditation on God’s sovereignty and a few other good pastoral applications. However I think Piper is better with analyzing arguments in the epistles than he is at narratives. ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not a fan. I think he really stretched many of his points and supported them only with anecdotes.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gospel
A short easy to read book working there the book of Ruth in the Bible.
Bob Hayton
Jan 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian-living
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
John Gardner
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Of all the books by John Piper that I've read, this short commentary and exposition of the book of Ruth may well be my favorite. It is certainly one of his most accessible.

As the subtitle suggestions, Piper explores the themes of human sexuality, racism/ethnocentrism, and God's sovereignty, as they are presented in the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. The way these three relate to each other and to God has profound implications for us today, as it reveals God's plan for salvation and His design
Stephen Escalera
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
John Piper is perhaps best known for his teaching on and passion for seeing the glory of God in all things. You cannot read or listen to him without him making a beeline for proclaiming the wonder of the sovereignty of God. I was excited to have the opportunity to read his newest book, "A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race & the Sovereignty of God" and see how the sovereignty of God played out in the Biblical story of Ruth. I was not disappointed.

According to Piper, the book of Ruth is
Jordan Hill
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I actually owned the audio book first. I've enjoyed it so many times that I eventually got the book. This is such a delight to read. This is one of my go-to reads that I could literally start anywhere and walk away with something. Savor each page.
Lara Lleverino
Jan 04, 2010 rated it liked it
As I began to listen to A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper, I thought my familiarity with the story of Ruth combined with the pedantic narration was going to put me to sleep before I could get through the five relatively short tracks. Piper’s continued use of scripture and the complete reading of the book of Ruth is paradoxically both reassuring and at the same time a bit dull. In continually referring back to the scriptural text Piper suggests he respects the truth of God’s Word-I like ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you follow my blog or read my reviews very much at all, you know of my…shall we say, interest in the ministry of John Piper. “Interest” doesn’t capture it at all, really. The running joke in my Bible study is how many Piper references I can throw out when I’m teaching. I respect the man immensely and while I read widely and across theological and other boundaries, I lean heavily on him for many of my theological positions because he makes such strong, biblical cases for his.

All this to say,
Jul 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Are you going through hard times? Is life bitter? Have circumstances punched you in the gut, leaving a deep emptiness or a gnawing sense of despair? Have those “gut punches” repeatedly connected, leaving you emotionally exhausted? If so, as difficult as it may seem, I want to suggest a book for your benefit.

John Piper’s A Sweet & Bitter Providence has proven to be a great help to me. I think all genuine believers would be greatly benefitted by contemplating the truths contained in it. It is
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
*Updated* After reading The Gospel of Ruth, I had to reread this...and my rating is now only a 1.5. This book is extremely vague about what the book of Ruth is actually saying, and I don’t feel that John Piper has done enough research to make me think even he understands the book culturally (at least not compared to the amount of research that others, like Carolyn Custis James, have done). Most of his broad points are good, but some of them are stated multiple times (and for a book that’s less ...more
Matt Crawford
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'll be honest I did not think I would enjoy this book. But I like to alternate my reading between old and new testament and I love Pipers writing. If you want a book on relationships this is for you and if you're looking for something on election and God's providence this is also for you. If you're looking for foreshadowing of Christ this book is also for you. But this book was for me because it challenged me to be worthy of the calling.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this to be a a fresh look at a very familiar story. It was a good examination of racial issues and enduring hardships. It was ultimately about the sovereignty of God (which is no surprise, knowing the author.)

Here are a couple of the strong quotes:

"The painful things that come into our lives are not described by God as accidental or as out of his control. This would not be comfort. That God cannot stop a germ or a car or a bullet or a demon is not good news; it is not the news of the
Dec 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: John Piper fans
I was very disappointed in this audiobook. I've never listened or read any of John Piper's work before and this has certainly put me off. From the title I thought it would be very interesting to listen to, but it didn't live up to my expectations. In fact I had to force myself to finish it, as it was extremely repetitive and lifeless. Saying that I did have to remind myself that this was a reading and not someone preaching, but it didn't help.
The book mainly focuses on the sovereignty of God
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John Piper is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.), and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years, he taught Biblical Studies at
“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” 141 likes
“There is hope in forgiveness” 73 likes
More quotes…