Four accessible theology reviews
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Conspicuous in His Absence: Studies in the Song of Songs and Esther by Chloe T. Sun: Sun noticed many similarities between the book of Esther and the Song of Songs, so she wrote a marvelous book highlighting the parallels between the two. One example: Israel flows “with milk and honey,” just like the Song of Songs’ bride has “honey and milk” under her tongue. Neither book mentions the name of God or quotes His speech. Across four themes—time, temple, feast, and absence—Sun compares their testimony to the Pentateuch and Prophets, where God speaks all the time and His name appears in almost every verse. She is gifted at questioning the text and patiently digging out its rich testimony to the God who saved silently in the days of Esther.
Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church by Matt Smethurst: Historically, the role of deacon is the most confusing and underutilized office in many churches. Smethurst writes here an exceptionally clear treatment of the Biblical material, showing that deacons are in the body to meet physical needs. They do mercy ministry, helping the poor, sick, widowed, disabled, and other needy people in the church (and outside it, if possible). And, as the origin of deacons in Acts 6 shows, deacons are “shock absorbers.” “So often a deacon’s job is to diminish conflict in the church,” he writes. When practical needs such as parking, building cleaning and maintenance, and hospitality are taken care of, Christ is glorified. Drawing on Luke 22:27, Smethurst calls Him “Kings of kings, Deacon of deacons.” How glorious!
Trusting God in the Darkness: A Guide To Understanding the Book of Job by Christopher Ash: This book argues that Job is not about why humans suffer, but about God: His character, His worship, and how the temporary suffering of His servants will give way to their final vindication. Ash also treats with great sensitivity and insight the search for cosmic Wisdom (Job 28), the need for justification before God (Job 29-31), and the long chapters of misery between Job’s descent into agony and resurrection into life. “The book of Job ought to shape our expectation of the normal Christian life. Plan on being treated like God treated His blameless servant,” writes Ash. After all, this is what happened to Jesus, “and because Job is about Jesus, it is also, derivatively, about every man and woman in Christ.”
The Gospel of Exodus: Misery, Deliverance, Gratitude by Michael P.V. Barrett: Like the Heidelberg Catechism, the book of Exodus is structured around three themes: misery, deliverance, and gratitude. Barrett guides readers through these movements and their intersection with the book’s major topics: deliverance, sacrifice, faith, the Ten Commandments, and the Tabernacle. He concludes that the corporate deliverance that brought Israel from slavery to worship means “there is every warrant for referring to the book as the Gospel of Exodus.” The very narrative shape of the book highlights its gospel dimension: “That God gave the law at Sinai rather than at the burning bush speaks volumes. … Had Moses taken the tablets into Egypt as the requisites for deliverance, the exodus would never have happened.” Barrett offers accessible, Biblically faithful insight into the good news of Exodus.
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