A Sweet & Bitter Providence (Audiobook)

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jason d

Puritan Board Freshman
I am a big fan of books by John Piper and when it comes to audio books I do enjoy the narration of Grover Gardner, he is very clear and easy to listen to.

When I started to listen to this audio book it reminded me a lot of sermons I had listened to in the past by John Piper on Ruth. Sure enough I went on the Desiring God website and found the sermon series from 1984 that this book is from. Though the narrator is great, there is nothing quite like hearing the author, himself, preach.

The sermon series is 4 sermons long and each chapter in the audio book is from one of the sermons, with slight modifications and some more stories for application. With the exception of the 5th chapter (which was the best) where Piper explains all the points of the book and how the story of Ruth should change us to love radically as we trust in God’s sovereignty. You can listen to the sermon series here:

Ruth: Sweet & Bitter Providence :: Desiring God Christian Resource Library

John Piper argues that Ruth deals with the sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of man, and the gospel. Since these things never change this 3,000 year old story is still relevant to us today.
I agree with another commentator that says this book is like a pastoral commentary. If you want deep exegesis look elsewhere, no doubt John Piper does the work of deep exegesis but his delivery is great for the average church goer (keep in mind this book is almost word for word from his sermon series on Ruth).

Not sure why other reviews say he does not back up his points, as each point is drawn from the text with many supporting text (perhaps you can see this more in his preaching with all the Scripture references).

As in most of his books, Piper makes his argument for the sovereignty of God from all of Scripture and from there shows how this affected the lives of the characters in Ruth and how it should affect ours. The sovereignty of God is what seems to get the primary place amongst the other themes of sex and race and radical love.

John Piper argues that Ruth deals with the sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of man, and the gospel. Since these things never change this 3,000 year old story is still relevant to us today.

He gives 7 reasons why he thinks you will be helped in joining him in studying the message of Ruth

1. It’s part of the Word of God, thus is it unwaveringly true, written for our instruction.
2. It is a love story, one family living the unexpected plan of God.
3. The portrait of beautiful, noble manhood and womanhood.
4. It addresses racial and ethnic diversity in harmony.
5. It brings the calamities and sorrows of life under the sway of God’s providence, teaching us God is good and can be trusted.
6. It shows us that gift of hope in God’s providence is meant to overflow in radical, risk taking love for hurting people.
7. All of history, even it’s darkest hours, magnifies God’s grace.​

The book of Ruth reveals God hidden hand in showing:
• God putting to place the kingdom of the Messiah in dark times of Israel (the period of the Judges)
• The worst of times are not wasted, not wasted globally, historically, or personally
• All things (even famine) work towards God’s plan​

He shows how this “heady” theology should give us great ground to trust in God’s love. From the book:

God’s purpose for his people is to connect us to something far greater than ourselves…

When we follow Him,… our lives always mean more than we think they do…

For the Christian there is always a connection between the ordinary events of life and the stupendous work of God in history. Everything we do in obedience to God, no matter how small, is significant, it is part of a cosmic mosaic that God is painting to display the greatness of His power and wisdom to the world and to the principalities and powers in the Heavenly places. (Eph. 3:10)

This should be a deep satisfaction for the Christian’s life, that no matter what we are doing (small or big) it is for God’s purpose and the best is yet to come.

All in all it is not his best book, but definitely edifying and I would recommend it to young and old believer. It is easy to listen to and very short compared to some of his other works. Perhaps it is a good starting place for new Piper fans (or people who don’t know him), though I did enjoy this short listen.

Would also be a good book for anyone dealing with suffering and wondering where God is and what is God’s purpose in suffering, because the book definitely makes a strong case that Ruth is a
“story that shows how ‘God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.’ It's a story for people who wonder where God is when there are no dreams or visions or prophets. It's for people who wonder where God is when one tragedy after another attacks their faith. It's a story for people who wonder whether a life of integrity in tough times is worth it. And it's a story for people who can't imagine that anything great could ever come of their ordinary lives of faith.” (quote from his first sermon on Ruth)
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