Sunday, August 18, 2013

A review of Judges for you by Tim Keller

Judges for you by Tim Keller:

Publisher's description:
Second in a new series of expository guides to the Bible, Timothy Keller's Judges For You walks you through the book of Judges, showing how the flawless God is at work in the most flawed situations and the most failing people.

Combining a close attention to the detail of the text with Timothy Keller's trademark gift for clear explanation and compelling insights, this resource will both engage your mind and stir your heart.

"Judges has only one hero—God. And as we read this as an account of how he works in history, it comes alive. This book is not an easy read. But living in the times we do, it is an essential one."
- Timothy Keller

Judges for You is a uniquely flexible resource. It can simply be read as a book; used as a daily devotional, complete with reflection questions; or utilised by anyone who has a teaching ministry, to help small-group leaders understand and apply the text, and to give preachers helpful ways of connecting timeless Bible truths to today's world.

This isn't your typical commentary.  It's part of the God's Word for you series and is designed to be used as a standard commentary, as a devotional, or as a resource to help you teach others, and it really does all three well.  It's typical Keller, so it's easy to read, easy to follow, and full of application for us today.  It's a very versatile and an easy to use tool.

The layout of the book is very helpful and even has glossary terms highlighted in gray with definitions in the back of the book.   The chapters are short and have study questions at the end, making this a great tool for small group study.  It's also a quick read coming in and just under 200 pages.  It's a lot shorter than a commentary on Revelation that I own which is over a thousand pages!!  There are also some helpful appendices in the back. In one appendix Keller deals with the issue of holy war, a major theme of the book of Judges and something that we struggle to understand in our modern day, with our modern mindsets.  I found that helpful as well.

Keller does an excellent job working through Judges in all it's raw reality, sin, and evil, helping us to understand the text.  However, I feel the real strength of this work really lies in showing us that we aren't really any better or different than the Israelites.  Though we may look down on the people of Israel from our modern vantage point and shake our heads at their idolatry and sin, Keller quickly bursts that bubble and shows us that we are more like them than we would like to think.  That's the danger of a slow drifting idolatry, Keller affirms, it proved disastrous to the nation of Israel, and it's proving the same to us today.

But Keller doesn't leave us there, he points us to a forgiving and gracious God and the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This book is a timely aid for God's people living in a wicked and godless society and encourages us to stand firm in the Faith and trust in our faithful God.

All in all I benefited greatly from this book.  I thought the introductory chapters did a great job of setting the context of the book of Judges historically and spiritually and layed out the framework for the rest of the book as you can see from the titles:

Chapter One:  Half-hearted Discipleship
Chapter Two:  Living Among Idols

From there Keller works through the rest of the book, showing us each judge in ways that really give us new insight into who they were and why there is much to learn from them, both the good and the bad. 

My only real gripe with this book was in chapter 4 where Keller deals with the story of Deborah, and though he does well overall I did struggle with his views as he got into the issues of women in ministry.  He disagrees with the notion that Deborah was called to be a judge by God because of the failure of the men of Israel to do what God had commanded them to do, and seems to gloss over the idea that her calling was itself a judgement from God upon them. 

He then leads into the issue of women in ministry today and takes a conciliatory tone by saying "If we were able to say: I disagree with you, but I agreee with you on what is truly important, you are my brother and sister, and we will serve and worship together, then we would model to the world a much needed picture of unity, and of Christ-like love."

The doctrine of the authority of Scripture was strangely absent in this section  (though it shows up in other places).  Also, he fails to mention that one of the first things that denominations often do as they begin to drift is ordain women.  Why is this important to recognize?  Because these types of "non-essentials"  show a deeper problem, the authority and inerrancy of Scripture has been lost.   What they are really saying is "Did God really say?"  I thought it was a strange departure from the rest of the book.

After that disappointment things improved, with Keller's treatment of Sampson (which takes up three chapters) being particularly helpful in helping me to understand him better.

Keller closes well and I quote his last paragraph:

"For now, we all search for a king; someone to rule us, someone to rescue us.  There is only one man who provides what we are looking for.  We must look to the greatest King, the ultimate judge; or we will serve a false one."

A lesson for Israel, and a lesson for us.  I benefited from this book and you will too.  I recommend it and give it four stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

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