19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Negative Reivew..,
This review is from: God's Wisdom in Proverbs (Hardcover)
My friend Dan's recent post about all the ways a word like "not" can actually be positive, rather than negative, made me chuckle. I've recently finished his second book, "God's Wisdom in Proverbs", (published in a single year, alongside The World-Tilting Gospel, but who's counting) and have found myself describing it almost exclusively with the word "not", albeit in a positive way. Namely:
1. It is not a desert-dry, academic, straight textual commentary (praise God).
One of the main challenges I have with single-book commentaries, especially Old Testament ones, is the way their authors place themselves at a distance from their material. It's as if they're holding the book at arms length, unwilling to be personally engaged by it. Not so with this one. Dan writes both pastorally, and personally. He has the academic chops to wield Hebrew phrases and argue historical issues with the best of them, and it shows. But none of that is an end in itself. Dan writes like a pastor who wants to use every tool at his disposal to see his readers not just engaged by God's wisdom, but changed by it.
2. It is not a typical cutesy moralistic devotional (praise God). Dan spends a full 160 pages laying down foundational concepts about Proverb's authorship, the proverb as a literary genre and its key idea- "skillful living in the fear of Yahweh." He continually shows how that theme's context is set in the rest of Scripture, grounded in the truth that God's wisdom is only available, valuable, and essential for those who have been adopted through faith in Jesus.
3. It is not simple read - because Proverbs is not a simple book (not matter how many people write about is as if it is a magic instruction guide for Your Best Life Now (tm)). This came as somewhat of a revelation to me, and a relief, to be honest. It's the simplistic treatment of Proverbs as a collection of pithy sayings for all and sundry that has frustrated me. The early ground work that Dan lays down reveals why a simple reading of Proverbs yields a simplistic understanding of it. But.....
4. It is not a difficult read, either. Dan writes in the lively, witty, personal style to which his loyal blog readers are accustomed. (See also point 1.) Make sure you you've swallowed your coffee before you read the section on one of his applications of godly wisdom in marriage relating to resolving disputes about the location of the toilet seat.
5. It does not embrace typical arguments about Prov. 22:6 being a promise.
How many parents have wrestled with guilt over their real or perceived inadequacies and how they will surely spiritually maim their child for life, based on their belief that this verse is a guarantee? Dan frees all such parents from their guilt by examining various common interpretations of this verse, and stacking them up against the Hebrew text. Ironically, Dan's careful exegesis reveals the warning that does exist in this verse - that a child left to his own way will be trapped by it, but a child taught by loving parents to live skillfully in the fear of Yahweh will thrive.
7. It does not speak to one particular audience. More scholarly types expecting a typical crusty academic tome might be surprised (hopefully pleasantly so) at the way Dan interacts personally with the text. Lay readers might not be sure of why Phillips spends the length of time he does dealing with issues around authorship (although they likely will after they've read the answers, and will hopefully have learned why it was a good question to ask in the first place!). And even though Phillips is clearly modeling a pastoral approach to teaching the book as he writes the book, the final appendix on how to teach Proverbs should be required reading by current and aspiring seminary students. In fact, I can think of no better application of for this book than as the text for a Sunday school class, taught by a young, teachable seminary student. The class will be blessed, and so will the teacher.
8. The Epilogue guarantees that you will not read the book just once. I do confess that as I dug into the section on skill in godly child-training, I began to feel that familiar weight of guilt over my many failures as a mother. Solomon's admonitions to parents are many, varied, and urgent. No doubt that is why Dan chose to save my favorite part of the book, the Epilogue titled "A Word to the Wise" to the end. In it, Dan, like the pastor he is, anticipates the burden of someone feeling, on this first reading, that she can never, ever measure up to all God lays out. He then shows clearly from the rest of Scripture how Jesus was and is the one who measures up to God's standard on our behalf, and how our trust in Him makes God our Father, who speaks to us as a Father about how we are to live as His children. Suddenly, instead of running away from Proverbs, we want to run back to it. Dan says it will prompt a second reading. I think it will prompt a lifetime of them.
I guess that's my "negative" way of saying - get my friend's book and read it ; you will not be disappointed, and you will not be unchanged.
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Initial post: Feb 12, 2012 8:01:18 AM PST
Deborah J. Connery says:
Wonderful review. I am going to buy the book. Thanks!
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