Sex. Race. Scripture. Sovereignty. The book of Ruth entails them all. So readers shouldn't be fooled by its age, says Pastor John Piper. Though its events happened over 3,000 years ago, the story holds astounding relevance for Christians in the twenty-first century.
The sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity, and the gospel of God's mercy for the undeserving-these massive realities never change. And since God is still sovereign, and we are male or female, and Jesus is alive and powerful, A Sweet and Bitter Providence bears a message for readers from all walks of life. But be warned, Piper tells his audience: This ancient love affair between Boaz and Ruth could be dangerous, inspiring all of us to great risks in the cause of love.
- For four months I have put...
For four months I have put off writing this review for Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper. It wasn’t because I was too busy or that I didn’t like the book; it was because I wasn’t sure what I thought about the word “sovereignty”. I had to conduct Bible searching, lots of sermon listening (which God provided) and spend many hours in prayer to come to an understanding of this term.
The book is a fabulous overview of the story of Ruth from the Old Testament. If you’re not familiar with the book of Ruth, I highly suggest you read it in your Bible – and follow up by reading/listening to John Piper’s account of the extras that aren’t included in the Word (numerous historical details and terminology of the day).
John Piper states that bad things are in God’s Plan for our lives. I had a very difficult time digesting that information. At the age of 18, I lost both of my parents (10 months apart). After being raised in the Church, I was so bitter that God would “allow” this to happen to me, that I went searching for answers (like the old song says: looking for love in all the wrong places…). After years of wandering, I returned to His Arms for healing, however, my main question had not been answered: Who controls death? Was it God or satan? After listening to this audio book, John Piper made it sound like God didn’t “allow” it, but actually “ordained” it! That was really hard for me (and it’s been a VERY LONG TIME since my parents passed away).
Now, after several months, I am at a place where I agree with John. His explanation made sense, although I didn’t want to accept it as being true. He (God, not John) has brought me to a safe place where I can honestly say that I KNOW I wouldn’t be the person I am today if this loss had not happened – and if I’m completely honest, my life is NOT for me, it’s to glorify God! He is now able to use me in ways I could have never been used otherwise.
I would highly recommend this book if you would like a fabulous overview of Ruth AND if you prayed the same prayer I did in February 2010 – “God, please grow me during this Lenten season, like you never have before”…just remember, be careful what you ask for!
I was provided a copy of this audio book by christianaudio reviewers program (http://christianaudio.com).
- A Sweet and Bitter Providence by...
A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper and narrated by Grover Gardner
Review by Dave Melton - 4 Stars (out of 5)
The story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz is told with heart and precision. Pastor John Piper tells the tale in this audiobook in a way that a sermon could never do justice and a commentary would dessicate. Piper discusses the historical and cultural milieu in a way that is neither pedantic nor facile. He explains shifts in the perspective and directly addresses the thornier issues that the love story of Ruth and Boaz presents. What Piper does best, however, is delve into the nuances of language to reveal the true tenderness that exists between Naomi and Ruth and, later, between Ruth and Boaz. Piper has an exquisite way of telling the tale afresh and showing the vulnerability and sensitivity involved in this beautifully romantic love story.
Grover Gardner’s narration (as always) was clear, articulate and well-done.
A special thanks to the folks at christianaudio Reviewers Program for the advance copy for review. http://christianaudio.com
- At one time, I copied the...
At one time, I copied the entire book of Ruth into a notebook. I've also completed at least one bible-study on the book of Ruth. A Sweet And Bitter Providence by John Piper is a book that teaches on the book of Ruth but this book went places I never went when I was studying this well-known Old Testament book.
Have you ever thought that there are lessons about race in Ruth? John Piper thought of that and expounds on it beautifully in A Sweet and Bitter Providence. There are also many poignant minutes where you are candidly spoken to about sexual purity in this book. This would be a great book for a single man or woman to be encouraged to remain pure.
A brief book, 3.8 hours, there is quite a bit of information to be found in A Sweet and Bitter Providence. Although it is an exposition of Ruth, Mr. Piper is all over the bible. As he makes a point, he supports it with scriptures from both the old and new testament. Throughout A Sweet and Bitter Providence John Piper is listing specific scriptures to direct our thoughts and support his interpretation of the book of Ruth.
Once many years ago, I was questioning my Uncle about someone who did not believe in God. Uncle Dave told me that he was convinced that God was at work in the lives of those who don't believe in order to bring them to faith in Him. Mr. Piper supports that in his book A Sweet and Bitter Providence. As with many, many other points he makes throughout the book, this resonated with me as I reflected on the various times in my life when I saw God working in my life and the lives of others.
Filled with good bible teaching, A Sweet and Bitter Providence also is filled with lots of stories to illustrate his point. This makes it easy to listen to the book and stay with it. It's like listening to a really well-delivered sermon. It is easy to hear and pay attention.
The narrator, Grover Gardner, will be familiar to you if you've listened to many other audios produced by Christian Audio. His deep voice is authoritative and pleasant. He uses a lot of intonation, so that the words don't blend together as you're listening.
I would recommend A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper. But be forewarned, you will want to dive into Ruth for yourself after listening to this audio book. It will make you look at the fabulous love story of Ruth in a whole different way.
I was provided with an audio copy of A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper by ChristianAudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.
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- This is audio Bible study at...
This is audio Bible study at its finest, and that needs to inform your listening approach. Here’s what I mean.
John Piper’s new book, A Sweet & Bitter Providence, is out in audio format at christianaudio.com. The book is more of a Bible study than just a drive-by reading. It is more polished than a sermon, more fervent than a commentary, with more Biblical depth than the typical Christian book.
Piper tackles issues like sex, race, and the sovereignty of God head-on. With gripping clarity, he opens the Book of Ruth chapter by chapter and proves that the three-thousand year old book is still relevant today.
So here is how I would approach this audiobook and turn it into an excellent Bible study on the Book of Ruth.
- Read a chapter of Ruth each week. Meditate on it, pray over it during your time with God.
- Then, set a time each week to listen to the audiobook. Approach it as a Bible study by digging into the text yourself, and then listening to John Piper add depth to your understanding.
You will enjoy the narrator of the audiobook. He puts enough expression into his voice to avoid sounding mechanical. I had a slight complaint at first blush as the narrator read all of the verse references. But that turns into an asset when you use the Bible study approach.
*Get a Taste for the Book: A Quote*
“One of the great diseases of our day is trifling. The things with which most people spend most of their time are trivial. And what makes this a disease is that we were meant to live for magnificent causes.
“None of us is really content with the trivial pursuits of the world. Our souls will not be satisfied with trifles. …So our souls shrivel. Our lives become trivial. And our capacity for magnificent causes and great worship dies.
“The book of Ruth wants to teach us that God’s purpose for his people is to connect us to something far greater than ourselves.”
Note: This review was done as part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program.
- To be completely honest, I never...
To be completely honest, I never expected to love A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper. I previously attempted listening to another Piper audio book also narrated by Grover Gardner and I found that work stiff and difficult. This book, I am happy to say, was much more to my liking and worth ignoring preconceptions.
The narration was one point I was prepared to dislike. Gardner, where his serious and articulate tone was very formal in the other Piper audio I mentioned, is still serious and articulate, but not as formal. I think of the difference as between a man who stands up to give an important lecture and a man who stands up to tell an important story. Gardner is very much a storyteller here and his narration suits this work well, allowing the book to be an easy listen while still expressing the gravity of the message.
As for the book itself, the subtitle is what drew me in. How did Piper get that subtitle for a book about Ruth? I myself have read Ruth but paid little attention to what it means, other than the obvious bits about Ruth taking care of Naomi and Boaz being kind to Ruth. Piper does a magnificent job of bringing the full meaning of Ruth’s story to life and showing how we, the people of a different setting and mindset, can apply what the book of Ruth teaches. Also, the material is not what I would consider difficult, though it is still as rich and thoughtful as any other Piper book, and despite the relatively short length, Piper still has a lot to say on righteousness, the sovereignty of God, and the sacrifice of Christ.
I personally can count A Sweet & Bitter Providence among books I have loved and learned a lot from. I would recommend this book to all, whether you are a Piper fan or not. It is a great addition to any collection and is an audio book I will listen to again and again.
- Grover Gardner, a common voice heard...
Grover Gardner, a common voice heard on christianaudio, reads this book extraordinarily well. I have listened to a couple of the books he has read and have found him to sometimes be out of place. I cannot figure out why exactly–other than I “hear” John Piper or Donald S. Whitney whenever I read one of their books–but his voice just does not seem quite right.
That is not to say that he does not do a good job. On the contrary, he does a wonderful job. This is probably why when you check out the list of books he has read for christianaudio, you find authors like J.I. Packer, John Piper, Donald S. Whitney, Eugene Peterson, etc. In the case of A Sweet & Bitter Providence, I could hear John Piper teaching even though it was Grover Gardner reading–if that makes any sense at all.
The content of the book is right on–especially in today’s pluralistic society. Piper takes us straight to the throne room of God to see that sex is indeed a beautiful and glorious gift. We see that while many frown on inter-racial relationships, God, in His providence, ordained it such that Christ would descend from such a relationship.
A Sweet & Bitter Providence offers a glorious look “behind the scenes” as it were of what God was doing in the life of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz. There is much to be gleaned from this short book of the Bible. We are indebted to John Piper for offering his thoughts on this book and even more so the application of this book for our lives today.
- In A Sweet & Bitter Providence,...
In A Sweet & Bitter Providence, John Piper walks us through the book of Ruth and points out some important theological lessons that are relevant for all time. The most important lesson is about God’s sovereignty, but Piper shows us that the book of Ruth also teaches us about sexual purity and God’s love for all nations. Ultimately, Piper calls us to hope in the sovereign goodness of God and to live with “strategic righteousness.”
Like Naomi and Ruth, we all experience hardships in our lives. We all lose loved ones. We all experience times of financial difficulty, when we wonder if we will be able to make ends meet. Some even experience severe trials like the recent earthquakes in Haiti. During these hardships, it is easy to become discouraged. It is also difficult to see how God can bring good out of our trials. In this book, Piper challenges us to understand that during our darkest hours, God is plotting for our good and His glory. Piper also points out that our hardships are not wasted, but are a foundation for greater happiness in our lives.
A Sweet & Bitter Providence provides a relevant exposition of the book of Ruth that is easy to understand, even by a layperson. This audio book is clearly narrated by Grover Gardner. I believe that this book will be a blessing to many people, especially those who are in the midst of hardships and trials.
I am grateful to Christian Audio for the opportunity to review this book as a part of their reviewers program.
- I was recently invited to join...
I was recently invited to join the Christianaudio.com reviewer’s program. I was delighted to join them as I have been listening to their audiobooks for over a year now. One of the first titles offered for review (to me) was A Sweet & Bitter Providence by John Piper. This volume is narrated by Grover Gardner, who must narrate on a regular basis, I recognized him from the spiritual theology series by Eugene Peterson that I listened to last spring among other titles as well. Speaking of the narration, Gardner is rapidly becoming to me as Morgan Freeman is becoming the next James Earl Jones for the Madison Avenue crowd. Grover Gardner’s voice is very easy to listen to and he is very capable of reading the written story in an audible form that invites you into the story…very conversational and engaging.
The work itself, A Sweet & Bitter Providence, is a wonderful story from the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament Scriptures. I enjoyed the exegetical and expository style of writing from Dr. Piper as he shared his insight to this great teaching about the character and providence of God. As “providence” would have it, I happened to have just finished reading the Genesis story of Joseph and was three-quarters finished with the story of Job at the time of my listening to A Sweet & Bitter Providence. These three great Bible stories together complimented one another in a beautiful way and helped me to solidify what John Piper was trying to get across to his audience.
From a technical standpoint, I appreciate the context of the MP3 files (my preferred medium). They are clearly titled and tagged for my audio player (iPod). This is important to me for filing and categorizing on my player as well as being able to have logical starting and stopping points for the chapters.
Personally, I recommend audiobooks for people who have super busy lifestyles, spend a lot of time over the road in travel, or folks who might be looking for a change from the written word. I enjoy the break in my routine and find this to be an excellent way to continue on the path of my education and make the most use of my time; I also listen to the books while dong my workouts at the gym. Thank you to Christianaudio.com for very affordable titles and a rapidly growing selection.
my blog review: http://icrucified.com/icruciblog/archives/1718
- I am a fan of John...
I am a fan of John Piper and his ministry Desiring God. I find his theology to be sound and biblical, and he conveys the message of the bible in a way that encourages deep thought and improves understanding. Since I hardly have any time to read, I was thrilled to find the audio book A Sweet & Bitter Providence at ChristianAudio.com.
In this book, Pastor Piper takes on the book of Ruth. For those unfamiliar with Ruth’s story, this book of the bible is about a widow, Ruth, who leaves her homeland and religion to return with her widowed mother-in-law to the older woman’s native home and the one true God. They are alone in the world and destitute. But in the end, because Ruth is faithful to her mother-in-law and God their fortune is restored.
What makes John Piper’s book special is that he spends time examining every truth that is found in this short story. He proves that suffering can be an important part of God’s plan because of the lessons it can teach and the opportunity to grow it provides. He demonstrates that although a situation may seem hopeless we can see the little things God does to give us hope if we will look closely. I believe this bible narrative, and Pastor Piper’s examination of it, will bless anyone who believes God has abandoned them. Even in difficult circumstances, God is at work. We’d all do well to remember that.
- This is a great, short study...
This is a great, short study of the Book of Ruth. John Piper goes through the chapters with a solid purpose and direction, showing that our circumstances are not the measure of God's love and care for us. That even when things are seemingly going very bad indeed, God is still in control and is working His purposes.
It was an easy listen in the car during my commute. I especially appreciated the inclusion of the scripture text when referring to a passage. Since I was driving, I could not look them up while listening, so having them integrated into the book made it very clear.
The reader's voice was fine and not a distraction at all.
- There is a FREE PDF download...
There is a FREE PDF download of this book at this URL:
Another great resource for the Book of Ruth:
Great book! Especially if you are working through a trial in your life. Piper helps us to understand that sovereignty of God and his providential work in our lives, for our good and His glory – although it does not always seem that way to us. Many times God is glorified through suffering and hard times. The way we respond to that suffering is what brings glory to God. This book is about tremendous suffering, and the response to that suffering by 2 women, Naomi and Ruth. In response to the trials and suffering one of the women embraces bitterness, while the other turns to God and trusts in Him. The latter response resulting in her being included in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
This is a far cry from the pervasive theology of our day that says that God only does things that we consider profitable to us. I often hear Christians say, “God doesn’t want you to suffer”. However, as Piper shows very clearly in this book, suffering for God’s chosen people is part of his plan.
The narration is clear and easy to understand, without getting too monotonous. Although if the author had read it, I feel the emphasis would have been in the correct places.
This section in chapter 2 clarifies a much mistaken idea of God:
“God is not an employer looking for employees. He is an Eagle looking for people who will take refuge under his wings. He is looking for people who will leave father and mother and homeland or anything else that may hold them back from a life of love under the wings of Jesus”
Piper then ties up the whole book by showing how it points to the coming of Christ, and what all this has to do with us.
- I recently finished listening to the...
I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of A Sweet & Bitter Providence by John Piper. The audiobook is available through Christianaudio.com for purchase either on CD or in digital download form.
The book, which is narrated by Grover Gardner, is an exposition of the Old Testament book of Ruth told in a very readable (or in this case listenable) form. I downloaded the audiobook from Christianaudio.com and listened to it on my iPod during longer drives in the car and while sitting at my desk in my office. The chapters are bite sized enough to enjoy one section at a time.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was how the author showed this ancient book to be so very relevant in today’s world. Piper does a wonderful job of showing that this is no mere ancient love story. As the book’s subtitle suggests, Ruth is a story that speaks to our human struggles and to our understanding of God’s sovereign rule over this world.
I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of A Sweet & Bitter Providence. I would recommend this audiobook especially to those who may be new to audiobooks due to the relative shortness of this work.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Christianaudio as part of their Reviewers Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
- Let me begin by saying how...
Let me begin by saying how much I admire John Piper. I enjoy reading his books and listening to his sermon podcasts on-line. He is a man of great knowledge of the Word and a depth of wisdom. As I prepare to write my review, I read other reviews and agreed with a few of the comments. I felt as though some themes were reviewed over and over, creating mind-wandering (audio). Another irritation for me was the reading of the heading with no change in voice inflection; numerous times words were repeated, creating confusion.
I love his constant use of Scripture references. I truly admire those that can recall easily from memory, in the correct context. I loved his review of the book of Ruth. I enjoy hearing the reading of Scripture; especially such an amazing story of how God uses many unsuspecting people (sinners, various ethnic groups, people without wealth, people with wealth, men, women….) to His glory. It gives hope that I can be used in the same way! He also reminds us that our answers don’t come in “our” time, but in HIS. This can take time, which is difficult to comprehend in this day and time (a time of instant gratification).
His review of God’s sovereignty created questions in my mind and caused me to ponder the topic (and obtain various opinions/readings). I had been of the belief that God “allowed” bad things to happen. But Piper points out that God is too big for that. He controls everything, which is ultimately used to glorify God. I had never given much thought to the purity of Ruth and Boaz, but appreciated his comments (especially in today’s culture).
I would recommend this book to everyone (for one reason or another). The love story in itself is amazing. There are so many marvelous stories in the Bible!
- I've loved the story of Ruth...
I've loved the story of Ruth ever since I heard about it in Sunday School. Ruth, the Moabite widow, leaves her family to stay with her widowed Jewish mother-in-law Naomi. Many things transpire in the book, but in short, Ruth meets Boaz and marries into the lineage of Christ. “A Sweet and Bitter Providence” covers the book of Ruth chapter-by-chapter. John Piper discusses the issues of God's sovereignty, sexual purity, Scripture, and race.
Throughout the book, Piper emphasizes how God knows the big picture. He has everything planned out despite how grim circumstances are and when God seems silent or absent. God's way is always perfect, and He will use and turn circumstances around despite bad choices.
Another subject Piper touched on was the purity of Ruth's and Boaz's relationship. Ruth and Boaz portray true femininity and masculinity with their honorable and respectable conduct.
I like how Piper discussed Ruth's ethnicity and how she (a Gentile) became an ancestor of Jesus. Jesus Christ has come to not only redeem Israel (God's chosen people), but the whole world.
Even though this story is thousands of year old, the principles ring true today. I enjoyed listening to all the different points and perspectives Piper brought up. There are some things in this story that I never really thought of before or realized. This book was very insightful.
The narrator (it wasn't John Piper) had a good pace reading pace, but his expression was little cold to me. However, his voice didn't take away from the message. I recommend listening to this audiobook as supplement to reading the book of Ruth.
- “Plotting.” This word has negative...
“Plotting.” This word has negative connotations hinting that a person is scheming to cause injury. Piper uses the word to describe the way God orchestrates good and bad in a Christian’s life. The focus in “A Sweet & Bitter Providence” is on the fact that God ordains the believers life in such a way that He gets glory and the Christian is supremely happy. I like that Piper unblushingly declares that God was plotting through Ruth and Naomi’s pain, to glorify His name and satisfy them beyond their wildest dreams. Piper mentions that Naomi might have lost her children as a result of the sinful decision to flee Israel. This encourages me because after God made them drink the bitter cup of providence He restored to them unspeakably sweet mercies. Even though my sin is an inexcusable insult toward God, He can use it for His glory and my joy. Piper’s attack on racism and sexism are not as prevalent as the subtitle leads me to believe. Piper has often said he feels unqualified to write a book on racism. This might be a backdoor attempt to address the issue through the Biblical example of Ruth and Boaz. And He does a good job showing that ethno-centrism and sexism are refuted in Ruth. The Narrator, Grover Gardner, transmits the tone and seriousness I feel Piper is trying to communicate. I highly recommend this book!
- Believe it or not, this is...
Believe it or not, this is the first I have ever heard/read anything written by John Piper, so this audiobook was my introduction to the author.
First off, I have to say that this is one of the best narrated audiobooks I have ever heard. Mr. Gardner does a masterful, masculine, and articulate reading. His narration has an authoritative yet reassuring tone.
The beautiful story of Ruth is used in this book to present the compelling message of God's sovereign rule in our lives.
The subtitle of the book is somewhat misleading in terms of the major themes of the book. The sovereignty of God is the primary theme; sex and race seem to have been sub-points. Not being a Calvinist, and not having read much on the subject of God's sovereignty from the Calvinist perspective, I was surprised to see how much I resonated with the message of the book.
The message of the book is that God in some way is behind everything - yes, everything - that happens to us.
As I listened to the book I thought of people I wish could hear this message. Please consider giving this audiobook as a gift to someone who has experienced grief or disappointment. It may bring hope and comfort to someone who is afraid that God is not good.
- John Piper’s “A Sweet and Bitter...
John Piper’s “A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God” (hereafter, SBP) is brief reflection on the biblical book of Ruth. Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Piper is one of the leading Calvinist voices in America today, influencing a number of younger Christian leaders not simply into Reformed theology but into actual five point Calvinism. And it shows.
Piper doesn’t lay out in detail the framework of his Calvinist theology, which he has long called “Christian hedonism.” He does that in “Desiring God” (also available in audiobook and in a free PDF print version on Piper’s website), which isn’t a bad book. The basic premise of Christian hedonism: the purpose of human life is to glorify God by enjoying God forever.
You may not see that Christian hedonism directly in SBP but it’s everywhere present. Piper argues that the bitter experience of Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, in losing her sons to death (widowhood in that ancient society almost certainly meant a hard scrabble life) is actually a sweet act of God’s providence. Why? Through this, Naomi gets Ruth, who gets Boaz, who gets Obed, who begets Jesse, who begets David, who eventually begets Jesus. If your life stinks, no worries: you may be the great-grandma of the Savior.
Though I appreciate Piper’s careful attention to the text and some of his insights, I’m in no way convinced of his Calvinism. Technically, I’m Wesleyan-Arminian with a partiality to Molinism, but I digress. My point is simple: if you don’t swallow Piper’s Calvinism, you won’t fully appreciate his reading of Ruth. Piper is persuaded not simply that God orders and uses evil actions for God’s good ends but that God ordains evil actions for God’s good ends. It may sound like theological hair splitting but with longer consideration, I assure you it’s not.
Moreover, the subtitle of his book oversells the content. This is not a biblical theology on sex and race. Far from it. Other reviewers have caught that Piper’s emphasis on sex (what little there is) distracts from the story, often winding into puritanical sermonizing on the side. Once again, Piper’s views of sexuality and gender difference are just below the surface without being explicit. On a side note, I thought it amusing how Piper turns the steamy night of Ruth and Boaz on the threshing floor into a moment of Victorian purity. Who knows what really happened but whitewashing the Bible of any hint of sexual trespass doesn’t really help anyone.
Finally, race is virtually absent. Ok, so Jesus’ ancestor was a Moabite, not Israelites alone. This may have been a subversive message to those in ancient Israel who emphasized Jewish purity, but Piper needs to build strong connection points here.
Overall, not bad but not great either.
Grover Gardner narrates the audiobook version (available at christianaudio.com). Gardner is a great reader. Good diction and all that. He does get a bit dry after a while and it would be nice to hear some emotional diversity in his reading, but I’ve heard MUCH worse. I’ll take Gardner any day.
*My review was made possible by Christianaudio.com which freely provided me a copy of the audiobook version, narrated by Grover Gardner.
- Fans of John Piper should get...
Fans of John Piper should get ready for another great work. This book hits all the right notes - excellent content, thoroughly biblically inspired, and presented in an easy-to-understand, logical way.
Piper looks at all his favourites - suffering and providence, grace, manhood and womanhood, sex, and issues of race and ethnicity. His development of a picture of the Christian life as a winding mountain track is really useful.
I'd have liked him to develop his argument on race a bit more as it focussed more on the non-Jewishness of the Moabites than on the biblical need for diversity, but thoroughly recommend it.
The narrator is Grover Gardner, who also read Desiring God. A very neutral voice yet not boring, I couldn't imagine a better presentation.
- John Piper is perhaps best known...
John Piper is perhaps best known for his teaching on and passion for seeing the glory of God in all things. You cannot read or listen to him without him making a beeline for proclaiming the wonder of the sovereignty of God. I was excited to have the opportunity to read his newest book, A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race & the Sovereignty of God and see how the sovereignty of God played out in the Biblical story of Ruth. I was not disappointed.
According to Piper, the book of Ruth is for those who, like Naomi, see God’s hand against them but cannot see that even in these dark times of suffering, God is working for their good and His glory. The question Ruth attempts to answer is “Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life?”
Much of the book’s focus is on God’s sovereignty and how He is “plotting” for our good. Comparing the Christian life to a curvy, dangerous mountain road, Piper says Ruth was “written to give us encouragement and hope that all the perplexing turns in our lives are going somewhere good….In all the setbacks of our lives as believers, God is plotting for our joy.” In the narrative of Ruth, Naomi could see that it was God’s hand working against her in events such as the famine which drove them to Moab and the subsequent deaths of her husband and sons. It isn’t until later in the story that Naomi also sees God’s hand in bringing her through these trials.
As expected, Piper does a great job of pointing us through the story of Ruth to the comfort of knowing that not only is God in control, but He is “plotting for our joy.” Even though I was familiar with the book of Ruth, it was refreshing to read it in the light of God’s sovereignty, seeing how God was working even in circumstances that seemed to offer no hope. It was also interesting to read how Piper tied this book in with the ultimate Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Although the book talks about sexuality and racial diversity, these two areas didn’t get very much attention and I felt they could have been flushed out a little more. Additionally, while many of the statements Piper makes regarding sexuality are true, he seems to be reading too much into the text, making it say something that it doesn’t with assumptions about the situation’s context that aren’t stated. But these do not detract from the greater message of God’s sovereignty in all circumstances.
On a note regarding the narration of the audio version, Grover Gardner is, as always clear, precise and easy to listen to. His voice seems to lend itself more to academic books and doesn’t feel like it fits quite right with the book’s poetic, pastoral style, but this doesn’t overly distract from the book’s message.
I would recommend this pastoral book for a study on God’s sovereignty in our circumstances, but not necessarily for the issues of sexuality and racial diversity.
- As God’s word teaches us all...
As God’s word teaches us all things necessary for life and godliness (II Tim. 3:16-17) and for forming a proper Christian worldview, it is fitting for John Piper (by means of the voice of Grover Gardner, who has such a clear and pleasant reading voice) to walk us through the book of Ruth in order to teach us about the all-important doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I was quite delighted to be shown the fullness of God’s sovereignty in such specific aspects as shown in Ruth ; though, I was expecting the doctrine of the sovereignty of God to be shown by means of various citations. This could have easily been done as Dr. Piper points out (there are hundreds of texts that show this), but I appreciate the demonstration of the practicality of God’s word for our daily lives from the narratives of the Old Testament. I actually believe this to be the more practical method, as it encourages thoughtful and attentive study of the Bible’s biographies.
The practicality of the life of Ruth (and Naomi) for our lives is what I see as the most important focus of Piper’s book. Characteristically of John Piper, he applies the whole message of the book of Ruth (God’s sovereignty, the significance of interracial relations and equality and our sex lives) to the most practical aspects of our lives and calls us to form a proper Christian worldview by applying these truths. How ought we to live in light of these truths? That is the real question we should be asking, and it is for God’s glory and our joy that we must think about it. I invite you all to take and read (or in this case listen).
- Why does God allow the righteous...
Why does God allow the righteous suffer? Perhaps no other question has been asked more than that one. John Piper in his newest book, "A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God" seeks to provide an answer to that question. As the title suggests, in moments of despair, we must turn to God's Sovereign Providence. Despite what we want to be true, God's Providence is both sweet and bitter. At times we rejoice in God's providence, while at other times we suffer in bitter despair.
Piper looks at the story of Ruth, verse-by-verse, as an example of sweet and bitter providence. Ruth and Naomi was in a dire situation. Husbands and sons had died. They were alone. They were in dire poverty. And it seemed that God's providence had turned against them. But that is only the beginning.
Piper walks the reader through this fascinating, yet neglected, story with incredible insight. I have never read a better book on Ruth or on Providence than this. Piper reminds us the unique advantage we have as readers: we can skip to the end. As we read Ruth, we know what happens in the end. Marriage, a son, a king, and a Messiah. But Ruth and Naomi remained ignorant of these things until they happened. What we see is God's providence, what they experienced was God's providence. The issue is one of perspective. Let us not forget that though we suffer, God is sovereign and good, He is provident and is working all things for His glory. Let us have a more correct perspective.
This is a fascinating book that is timely. In an age of economic turmoil, terrorist attacks, deaths, and scandals, we need to be reminded of God's providence. Piper is known for his firm belief in the sovereignty of God and Piper shows how practical such a doctrine is. It gives us comfort in the midst of bitter despair and gives us joy in the midst of wondrous sweetness.
I read this book through a audio download attained at christianaudio.com. Audio books have allowed me to use my time at my desk or in my car more wisely. The reader is Grover Gardner who has read several books in his career and has one of the best voices I have heard in the industry. I therefore recommend both the print and the audio version of this book.
This is a message we all need to hear, especially as Christians. Ruth is more than about widows, marriage, and a baby. Its about God, His providence, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. Piper shows us how.
- A Sweet and Bitter Providence is...
A Sweet and Bitter Providence is a new book by John Piper examining the applicability of the themes in the book of Ruth for Christians today. The main themes he deals with are the sovereignty of God, gender & sexuality and race relations. I was particularly glad to see him deal with the issue of race relations and the racial diversity of God's kingdom because it is an important topic but one that doesn't always get dealt with well in the Christian community.
Compared to many other Piper books, this one is relatively short. This makes it a fairly easy one to get through, although there were some points where i thought further depth was warranted. The book did tend to jump backwards and forwards in the book of Ruth and to other scriptures so I would recommend you read Ruth first to better grasp where Piper is going with his ideas.
I reviewed this book in its audio format. The narration was clear and easy to listen to. It would have been nice to have the author reading the book as he is quite an expressive speaker/reader.
Overall, while not my favorite John Piper book, I'll still think this one is a worthwhile read.
- As I began to listen to...
As I began to listen to A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper, I thought my familiarity with the story of Ruth combined with the pedantic narration was going to put me to sleep before I could get through the five relatively short tracks. Piper’s continued use of scripture and the complete reading of the book of Ruth is paradoxically both reassuring and at the same time a bit dull. In continually referring back to the scriptural text Piper suggests he respects the truth of God’s Word-I like that. At the same time, however, it becomes a bit tedious for one familiar with the scriptures. Listening to the book as an audio track took away my ability as a speed reader to skim through sections that were readings of overly familiar text. Instead I had to wait to hear the portions of Piper’s book that redeem the time spent experiencing his perspective and insight. Piper spends a lot of time familiarizing us with Ruth and waits almost to the end of his exploration to make the experience relevant. I wish he had reversed the process. Late in the book he writes:
“One of the great diseases of our day is trifling. The things with which most people spend most of their time are trivial. And what makes this a disease is that we were meant to live for magnificent causes. None of us is really content with the trivial pursuits of the world our souls will not be satisfied with trifles. Why is there a whole section of the newspaper devoted to sports and almost nothing devoted to the greatest story in the universe, the growth and spread of the church of Jesus Christ? It is madness that our insignificant games should occupy such a central role in our culture compared to the work of God in Christ. It is one of the many signs that we are enslaved to trivialities. We live in the Swiss village but stare at the wooden figurines in the window rather than lifting our eyes to the everlasting snows. We live in a perpetual and hopeless struggle to satisfy our longings on trifles. So our souls shrivel, our lives become trivial, and our capacity for magnificent causes and great worship dies. “
Had the following paragraph been placed near the beginning of the book I would have been instantly drawn in and would have hardly noticed the portions of the book that were more expository. I give this audio book a 3 out of 5 points. Piper’s final conclusions are motivation for living a holy and eternally mindful life. These are worthwhile lessons for our jaded and trivialized society!
- John Piper’s book A Sweet and...
John Piper’s book A Sweet and Bitter Providence is a great book on Ruth and a look into the deeper meaning behind some of the key passages in it. While Piper does a good job making and backing up his points, he is sometimes repetitive. Often going over or making the same point over and over to drive it home which gives the book at times a feel of a sermon. The main context of this book I would say is hope and joy regardless of the situation. He makes several points on how to deal with hard times (or God’s bitter providence as Piper calls it) and find Gods plan in that which Piper backs it up with scriptures and stories.
I agree with the other reviewers in saying that it would be much better if John Piper was speaking on it. To me the speaker was a bit monotone and slow which led to me getting distracted at times. But the speaker did do a good job pronouncing all the cities and names correctly along with emphasizing the major points even though he didn’t get excited like Piper does while preaching. Overall this is a good book on the subject and worth the 3 hours that it took to listen to it.
- In A Sweet & Bitter Providence,...
In A Sweet & Bitter Providence, John Piper explores the story of Ruth and its impact on all mankind. The lineage of David and Jesus Christ emerging through Ruth is astounding and wonderful, and a testament to the fact that God can use anyone for his glory.
I have read a few of John Piper’s books, but I was a little disappointed with some of the ideas that he explored in this book. The subtitle of the book was Sex, Race and the Sovereignty of God, and he eloquently covered the role of race (Ruth was a Moabite) and the sovereignty of God (Naomi’s role of hearing her heart); however, I think that he stretched the role of sex a bit too far for application. It is not that I disagree with his statements (masculanity / feminity roles) in general, but it seemed that they did not fit in the context of the story of Ruth.
Piper beautifully illustrates God’s wonderful plan for Ruth and Naomi, and although Ruth is barren for ten years, God is preparing her for history. Ruth’s faithfulness to Naomi is a testament to the power of family. The book was a good listen, and I received many good insights into the role of Ruth for future generations that I was not aware of previously.
The book has some good insights, and it is worth a listen if you like the story of Ruth or are a John Piper fan.
- John Piper does it again!...
John Piper does it again! The book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, beautifully portrays the book of Ruth as nothing less than one of the greatest love stories ever told, written not by some chronicler or historian, but by the sovereign will of God. Piper explains through this story how both the good and bad things in our lives are both determined and controlled by God, telling a story that is greater than you or I could tell, ultimately bringing glory to God and bringing us joy and pleasure in Him.
Though this book is one of his shorter ones, Piper has crafted a masterpiece worthy of the fame his other works have gained for him. He provides comfort to the weary and hope for the suffering.
The narrator, Grover Gardner, also narrated Desiring God, another book by Piper that I downloaded a few months ago. Combining the voice of the narrator with the style and prose of the book, it feels like you’re wearing pajamas in front of a warm fireplace listening to a kind grandfather sharing his wisdom after a life of great heartache replaced by joy. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in love stories or God’s providence, or just wondering about how the negative experiences in this life could glorify God or ultimately bring you joy.
- This is the first audio book...
This is the first audio book of John Piper's that I have listened to, and I principally checked it out as part of the Christian Audio Book Reviewers program, but I have to confess straight away that I have been impressed by it.
The book itself, and the pace and tone of the narration, is scholarly in approach, and initially it was a little difficult to get into. However, John Piper soon impressed me with his knowledge of the book of Ruth, and specifically his insights into Old Testament culture, tradition, and customs. The scripture is expounded in a chronological way, but the author allows himself apt digression.
The principle message within Ruth, of God having a greater purpose for our lives than we can see is clearly dealt with, and Piper's view of growth through adversity is at first a little awkward, but eventually persuasive.
This audio book is a mine of scriptural information and you will learn so much by taking the time to listen to it, and I would strongly recommend that you pause the recording and look up the extra scripture references.
- I am a big fan of...
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 1985 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:
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.
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)
- I also listened to this as...
I also listened to this as part of the review program and I must say that I was very disappointed. I've never listened or read any of John Piper's work before and this has certainly put me off. From the title I thought it would be very interesting to listen to, but it didn't live up to my expectations. In fact I had to force myself to finish it, as it was extremely repetitive and lifeless. Saying that I did have to remind myself that this was a reading and not someone preaching, but it didn't help.
The book mainly focuses on the sovereignty of God and I found the author has a very dogmatic approach to it with no room for questions. At the start I accepted it, but now have since had all sorts of questions, which I won’t go into here.
The narrator was very clear and easy to understand but he didn’t sound very interested either. Like a previous reviewer said, maybe it would be better to have the author reading their own book.
I won't be recommending this to anyone unless they need to do a very in depth theological study on the book of Ruth with differing opinions.
- Christianaudio.com has blessed me by allowing...
Christianaudio.com has blessed me by allowing me into their reviewer\'s program. So from now on, I will be writing audiobook reviews ever so often and will post them on here and on their site. The first audiobook on my list is: A Sweet & Bitter Providence by John Piper.
If you were wondering what kind of book this is, I would say this is a pastoral commentary on the book of Ruth. In this book, John Piper dissects and applies the meaning of the book of Ruth as a pastor. Interestingly, He started the book in an unusual way in his introduction. Normally, introductions introduce the topic to the reader. Piper writes to the reader about why he/she would want to read the book and why Ruth is an important book of the Bible during these days.
As you get to the main content, Piper brings out the great truths from this book of the Bible and shows us the wonderful news of having a sovereign God ruling over us and how this news should change our lives. He also deals with issues of sex and race, but the majority of the book is about the sovereigntyy of God.
The speaker on this audiobook was the Achilles heel however. Piper has a unique style and having another person speaking hurts the styles of his books. If Christianaudio could get John piper doing his own books, it would help the listener retain and understand better.
This should not keep you from getting this audiobook though. It is an audiobook that will help you understand God\'s sovereignty and how His sovereignty should change your life.
- The original review is available at:...
The original review is available at: http://jacobscafe.blogspot.com/2009/12/gleaning-jellyfish-from-john-piper.html
This review of John Piper's A Sweet & Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God was made possible through receipt of a complimentary audiobook copy through christianaudio's Reviewers Program.
In having the opportunity to review, I thought it would be good to finally hear some of Piper's word directly since I have heard almost unilaterally negative things about him. It's much better to be informed about good or bad things about an author, speaker, etc. than just hearsay.
That said, this book met my expectations. And I have to say, Piper is not quite as bad as I had heard. It's an okay book, but one I would generally recommend not reading (or listening to).
First of all, christianaudio lists the audiobook as running 3.8 hours. All the files downloaded fine, but it only ran about 2.8. That was about 2.7 hours too long. I actually almost stopped listening a couple of times because I got so frustrated with Piper's writing and assumptions. He does not back up what he says, and he often repeats himself (not even phrasing his arguments in new ways). And then there's the metaphors. Random, non-applicable metaphors. Like Piper saying we should look to the snow instead of our statues in our Swedish home and that we should be dolphins in the ocean of culture instead of jellyfish. I still don't understand that one... However, I wanted to finish the book so I could give it an honest review.
I think the best way to break down the review is by breaking down the title.
First of the all, the title is misleading. It sounds like a bit of a devotional book: Seeing God's providence in one's own life. Piper states this is the purpose of the book. However, my wife, who listened to most of it with me, stated, "How does anyone actually get anything out of this? It sounds more like a linguistic, historical book." That's pretty accurate.
It really is an exegesis of the Book of Ruth that wants to be a devotional, but doesn't achieve either well. Each chapter starts with a chapter of the book of Ruth (Chapter 1 of Piper to Chapter 1 of Ruth, and so on), and then Piper analyzes it verse-by-verse. The problem is he does not explain his analysis well. He constantly cites Bible verses without explaining their relevance and his interpretation of them. This really distracts from the narration, particularly in an audiobook format. It would have been better to have the citations listed as footnotes. And even though he does not explain his analysis well, his citation of verses and absolute statements make it appear that he cannot deal with ambiguity well, but rather has to state that everything he believes is absolutely true with no possibility of error despite human frailties.
Piper also seems to base linguistic interpretations based on a modern English translation. I have not studied Ruth in depth, so I cannot speak to the original author's intent for sure, but I'm guessing Piper read into some phrases that were more figurative colloquialisms than literal declarations.
For a devotional text, whichever translation he used (not sure which) was not very friendly to associating with the text. For instance, my wife started counting the number of times the word glean (and its derivatives) was used in just a couple of minutes. While most of us know what it means, it's really an outdated term.
Piper focuses his analysis on three primary themes: sex, race, and God's sovereignty/providence. Let's look at each of these themes separately:
God's Sovereignty/Providence. I'm starting with this theme because it really is the predominant theme. Most of the book looks at this. I don't disagree with Piper that God is sovereign and makes all things work for good. However, Piper made me realize that I am not a strict or strong Calvinist. He seems to go out of his way to defend God's sovereignty and providence, again reading into the text things that really aren't there, or at least not meant to be as strong as he makes them out to be.
Also, he is clearly a strong Calvinist, advocating strict predestination to the point that everything is not only in God's control, but caused by God. He references a missionary whose wife and kid were killed by a single bullet. The missionary and Piper argued that God ordained the bullet to kill them. Piper argues if that's not the case, then God is not sovereign and everything would fall apart. God is sovereign (in complete control) and his providence is good (he works through all things to make them good) but that does not mean he causes everything bad. Sometimes he lets bad things happen because of our own sinfulness (or others' sinfulness) and because we are in a broken world. That does not mean he is not able to intervene; he just does not always. But that also does not mean he cannot or will not use the bad to create something good, which I think is what happens. John Eldredge would argue that a lot of the bad is not caused by God, but in fact by Satan. Piper has a de-facto belief in the absence of Satan by attributing all activities to God. It's a slippery slope (and that's not arguing for the existence of Satan as an actual entity).
Sex. This is the next largest theme for Piper. And it's a stretch. I agree with his value of saving sex for marriage, but he also promises that all will be blessed for doing so. A friend and I were talking recently that just because we may save our sexuality for marriage does not mean it all works out beautifully. And Piper goes into random tangential mini-sermons on sex, detracting from the overall narrative. Again, he just reads too much into things.
Race. This is the biggest stretch of all and the most minor part of the book. It should not be included in the title. Piper argues that the inclusion of a Moabite (Ruth) in the lineage of Jesus shows that we should not be racist. Okay, racism sucks. Agreed. But find a better way to argue against it. Seriously.
Finally, to the narration. Grover Gardner is the narrator and is an excellent narrator. He is easy to listen to, and he enunciates well. I've listened to plenty of audiobooks where it can actually be hard to understand the reader. However, the problem is that this books comes off in a very intellectual, lecture-like way. Piper says a main point of the book is to advocate for "radical, risk-taking love," but I did not hear any heart in the book. I don't know if that's because there was no heart in it or because Gardner read it more as an intellectual lecture than something from the heart. My preference is for authors to read their books themselves. John Eldredge is a good example of that. The author's intent and heart really comes through much better that way.
So if you're really into theology or are a strong Calvinist, you may like this book. Otherwise, don't bother.
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