Author: Nancie Guthrie
[Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book (e-book) via Crossway Publishers online. I was not required to write a positive review and I was not compensated in any way.]
Back in 2010 the publishers of Modern Reformation magazine decided to devote an entire magnanimous year to Scripture. Eric Landry wrote in an editorial, "The theme for this year was born out of the conviction that we all need to recover Scripture: in our churches, in our devotional lives, as the source of our theology, and as the living voice of God today" (MR, Jan/Feb 2010).
I actually happen to agree with Landry even if there are a plethora of points at which we might disagree concerning just how such a task might come about in our time. His thought reminds me of a young kind just ascended to the throne of Judah who wanted to make things right in the land. So he started with temple repairs when he was in the 18th year of his reign. Yet it was something else that ended up being the catalyst for renewal he was looking for. While the workers were working the high priest, Hilkiah, said, "I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord." Well, to be sure, it's not like the Book of the Law had ever been far from anyone, let alone the priest. And it has always struck me as odd that the book was 'found' just around the time the king asked for repairs to the temple, but that's another story.
My point is that here in America, not one of us is far from the Word of God and yet I suspect that most of us are a couple of miles away. Yet here we are in a land where more Bibles are sold on a yearly basis than we can scarcely imagine–and the publishing houses reap a windfall in Bible sales. Really it's a shame, but I suppose it is what it is.
This is all so much segue into my thoughts on Nancy Guthrie's book The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets. What disturbs me about many of the books I read and review from Christian publishers is that the books typically claim to be about the Bible and then it turns out that the Bible is merely pepper on the pages, if we are lucky. What I like about Guthrie's book is that it is Scripture–front to back. She really digs deep and I appreciated it. She leaves no stone unturned and tackles hard questions that the prophets raise for readers.
This is not to say that I find perfect doctrine on every page nor is it to say that I particularly agree with every point she happens to make. There are times when I found the writing to be a little on the self-centered-American side. There are times when I found that she had a broader, more comprehensive swath of the church in mind. There were times when she fell into cliche and other times when she was downright prophetic like when she wrote this about God's word to a powerful king from Babylon: "He put impressive power and progress into perspective for us. The final word of history does not lie with a new and improved version of man or anything he has made or accomplished. Rather, it lies with something radical: a rock not hewn by human hands. This stone is going to put an end to Babylon and all successive powers, while establishing a kingdom that will fill the whole earth and never be destroyed" (158, NOOK version).
Those could very well be the best words in the book, the most powerful words in the book. I think that this is when Guthrie is at her best in this book: when she is writing as the prophets she is reading. I think she is at her worst when she is trying to persuade us of a theological system and this is, frankly, because the Scripture itself is not trying to persuade us of a particular theological formulation. It's trying to persuade us of what she wrote on page 158: The final word of history does not lie with a new and improved version of man or anything he has made or accomplished. I hear echoes of CS Lewis in this and I'm glad I here them: "For mere improvement is no redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man" (Mere Christianity, 182).
And this we learn about in the Scripture: that it is God's work, in and through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, that makes new people. In my opinion, Guthrie does a beautiful task of drawing our attention to this Jesus as he appears in the prophets of the Old Testament.
All in all, I like this book very much. I don't think this is the sort of book one sits down and reads straight through–as I did for review purposes. I think this is a book that one must take their time reading: slowly, quietly, and thoughtfully. I do believe, however, that if one reads this book in such a way they will be blessed by the richness of God's Word and the depths to which Guthrie has mined it.
So much Bible prophecy is misunderstood because it is read under the covers with only a quick peek every now and again to see if God is watching. Or, worse, they are read by folks looking for clues about the future and all such 'end of the world' type stuff. But there is a passage in Luke's Gospel, near the end, which gives us an insight into a better way of reading the prophets: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27; see also 24:44 and Acts 8). Here is the key to interpreting all prophetic utterance: it points to Jesus. I think Guthrie gets it right in this book. Again, we may quibble about specific points, but by and large, she gets it; she nails it; she reads the prophets as they are meant to be read.
I think Eric Landry was on to something 4 or so years ago when he suggested we needed to recover the Word of God. We need each and every person who calls on the name of the Lord to start taking the Scripture a little more seriously. Turn off the TV preachers. Turn off the TV 'prophets'. Throw away the worthless books about Me. And just start reading the Bible again. Like Josiah did. Like Nancy Guthrie did.
You will like this book.