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A Sweet and Bitter Providence

By John Piper
September 2010 | Review by Jonathan Bayes


In 'A Sweet and Bitter Providence', John Piper teaches through the book of Ruth to reveal how God can use the most dangerous and tenuous circumstances to accomplish his purposes. Read the narrative of Ruth in a new way and be inspired to take great risks for a great and sovereign God.

  • Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press
  • ISBN: 978-1844744244
  • Pages: 160
  • Price: £8.99
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Book Review

‘Sex, race and sovereignty in the Book of Ruth’ — so reads this book’s subtitle. Of the three themes highlighted, the one which came across most strongly for me was God’s sovereign providence over every event, whether pleasant or painful.

Piper explains that even life’s sorrows come under the sway of God’s providence. He acknowledges that the godly life is not a straight line to glory. Life is more like a winding back road through the mountains than a motorway. There are many perplexing twists and turns en route, and frequent obstacles. However, the winding, troubled road of life is in fact leading somewhere. Every twist that seems to take us backwards is actually a necessary turn on the forward journey.

This is, as Piper declares, a most comforting theme. ‘God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles’.

To know that a loving Father has ordained our pain is far more reassuring than the teaching that God is unable to stop us getting ill or having an accident or being shot. There is no good news in such a weak view of God.

To see that a sovereign God controls everything compels us to admit our need for him. Admitting our need for God is precisely how we honour him. We are never rewarded for any merit of our own, Piper insists. But God’s heart does respond to those who take refuge in his generosity alone. Knowing this helps us to cultivate that humility which is always amazed whenever we are treated well.

Piper finds the key to the Book of Ruth in its final few verses. Ruth the Moabite finds a place in the ancestry of Jesus Christ. And all the mysteries of providence, both on the world stage and in the minute details of our personal lives, are leading ultimately to his glory.

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