February 12th, 2010
Piper, John. A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010. 160 pp. $17.99. Purchase at Westminster.
Seriously, John Piper needs no introduction, but perhaps the book of Ruth does. Situated right after the book of Judges and just before the establishment of the monarchy, we read of a widow and her widowed daughter-in-law. Ruth is certainly a love story through and through, but many wonder how it speaks to us today. John Piper has offered his faithful exegesis and application of the book of Ruth in his latest book, A Sweet & Bitter Providence.
A short book, this one is divided into four chapters. The first chapter discusses God’s providence in allowing life to happen to Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah. Chapter two looks at how God guided and directed the paths of Ruth and Naomi to the city of a kinsmen redeemer. And not just any kinsmen redeemer, but one who would be able to provide for Ruth.
The third chapter describes strategic righteousness. Strategic righteousness is not a man or woman manipulating life’s events so that all works out for his or her good. Rather, strategic righteousness is rooted in the hope that God is going to work all things for one’s good. Chapter four concludes with the Christ-exalting application that Piper is known for (and I praise God for that!). Here, Piper shows how we, as the redeemed of Christ, are to make Him renowned in the world just as Ruth did with Boaz.
Grover Gardner, a common voice heard on christianaudio, reads this book extraordinarily well. I have listened to a couple of the books he has read and have found him to sometimes be out of place. I cannot figure out why exactly–other than I “hear” John Piper or Donald S. Whitney whenever I read one of their books–but his voice just does not seem quite right.
That is not to say that he does not do a good job. On the contrary, he does a wonderful job. This is probably why when you check out the list of books he has read for christianaudio, you find authors like J.I. Packer, John Piper, Donald S. Whitney, Eugene Peterson, etc. In the case of A Sweet & Bitter Providence, I could hear John Piper teaching even though it was Grover Gardner reading–if that makes any sense at all.
The content of the book is right on–especially in today’s pluralistic society. Piper takes us straight to the throne room of God to see that sex is indeed a beautiful and glorious gift. We see that while many frown on inter-racial relationships, God, in His providence, ordained it such that Christ would descend from such a relationship.
A Sweet & Bitter Providence offers a glorious look “behind the scenes” as it were of what God was doing in the life of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. There is much to be gleaned from this short book of the Bible. We are indebted to John Piper for offering his thoughts on this book and even more so the application of this book for our lives today.