Judges For You: For Reading, For Feeding, For Leading by Tim Keller. The Good Book Company, 2013. Print $16.55, Kindle: $9.99.
As our culture becomes more and more post-Christian, the responsibility for Christians to know their Bibles, and the whole council of God contained in it, is paramount. If we don’t, the tides of a culture indifferent and oftentimes hostile to the God of Scripture, threatens to toss the untethered Christian every which way in both doctrine and obedient, practical living. And this works not just for obedience, but also for our joy if we live in close communion with God and Christ. We need to know the Scriptures, the living and active God-breathed Scriptures, for our hearts to continue in the assurance of the joy set before us, as we pursue obedience and mission in our world.
Tim Keller’s Judges For You, is an excellent expository study through the Old Testament book, that will help you understand your Bible better. It’s well-written and readable, and fully engages in the practical side of theology. The greatest thing about this book is that Keller brings Judges to life as an immensely practical and engaging part of Scripture for our cultural moment today. And he’s absolutely right in doing so. You’ll potentially see fresh grandeur and richness in the Old Testament after this read.
Keller sets the story of Judges into the context of a “Biblical theology” look at the Scriptures. So everything is examined within the bigger context of God’s whole story of redemption, from before Creation, to the Fall, to ultimate redemption in Jesus. We see how God was dealing with His people in that particular Old Testament period, and how His grace still comes to Israel in her various captivities and subsequent rescues by each judge appointed by God. These cycles of disobedience, judgement, and rescue, Keller clearly shows, are ultimately imperfect and foreshadow Christ’s perfect rescue of God’s people. The centrality of Christ in this study is one of the high points to be sure, and is very helpful as a guide to seeing the centrality of Christ and the Gospel in all of Scripture. If you’ve ever had a hard time seeing how the Old and New Testaments fit together, this book is a great place to go to see how it’s all part of the redemptive story God is telling with all of history. This expository study will take you verse by verse and section by section, to understand the particulars of the story of Judges within God’s whole narrative of Scripture.
Keller also writes with a pastoral care that brings the theology of Scripture to bear on our lives. He’s a skilled and respected expositor, which makes for a very rich study. I also appreciate Keller’s writing very much because he doesn’t sacrifice depth and poignancy for understandability or relevance. And his goal is to lead the Christian to a fuller enjoyment of God, and of the Gospel. Here are a few quotes from the book, dealing with a mix of the themes there, from idolatry, to the Gospel, to the cross-centered life.
“It is not our lack of strength that prevents us from enjoying God’s blessings, or from worshiping God wholeheartedly; it is our lack of faith in his strength. When we rely on ourselves, and base our walk with God on our own calculations instead of simply obeying, we find ourselves making decisions like the Judaites […] It is halfway discipleship, and Judges will show us that it leads to no discipleship at all” (19).
“God will never put us in a position in a position where we cannot obey him. There is never a real ‘I cant’ moment” (24).
“Much of the book of Judges shows how God is faithful to us despite our disobedience – that is comforting. But Judges also shows us that God in his grace will insist on removing our self-deception about our motives and actions” (24).
“God does not save through expected means, or through strength. Most of the judges are unlikely, and the victories defy the world’s logic […] God does not simply work in spite of our weakness, but because of it. He says that his saving power does not work when we are strong or think we are strong – but rather, when we are weak, and know we are” (84).
“On the cross, Jesus brought the power of Satan to nothing, disarming him (Colossians 2:15). How did the cross achieve this? It took away the penalty for our idolatry – death – so that Satan could no longer successfully prosecute God’s people. And it took away the power of sin in our lives, enabling the Spirit to live in us to break the lure of idols in our hearts. Samson prefigures Jesus’ triumph, at the cost of his own death, over Satan. As Samson killed many as he died, so it took the death of Jesus to “kill” Satan – the unseen power of idolatry, and the power of death itself” (163).
All that to say, this study is helpful, clear, insightful, and faithful to the Bible and the Gospel. It works on several levels, and could be helpful for both young and mature Christians. As promised in the title, it’s a very valuable resource for reading Scripture with understanding, for feeding on the Word of God, and for leading and teaching others to love God and find joy in Him through the Gospel.