Keller, Timothy, Judges for You: For Reading, For Feeding, For Leading. God’s Word for You. The Good Book Company, 2013. 224 pp. $22.99.
Tim Keller’s, Judges for You is his second installment in a series written with the average Christian in mind. The entire series has been written in such a way as to serve the reader as a book, as a devotional book, or as a teaching resource completely dependent upon the desire of the reader.
Judges is a difficult book of preach or teach. It tells stories of God’s work in spite of Israel’s infidelity through sinful judges, lustful priests, and warring nations. Judges is a book that ends with less hope than it begins because in it we see the deterioration of Israel’s worship of their covenant God and their increased infatuation with and incorporation of the pagan religions and cultures surrounding them. What, then, can be learned from such a book?
Keller introduces the reader to the book of Judges by demonstrating the similarity between our day and the days described in the book. “Our era can be characterized by the phrase which sums up the book of Judges: ‘Everyone did what was right in his own yes” (Judges 21:25 ESV).” (p. 9).” Concluding the book, Keller quotes Daniel Block:
“No other book in the Old Testament offers the modern church as telling a mirror as this book. This book is a wake-up call for a church moribund in its own selfish pursuits. Instead of heeding the call of truly godly leaders and letting Jesus Christ be Lord of the church, everywhere congregations and their leaders do what is right in their own eyes” (195).
Keller works systematically through the text with great skill and insight. As a a masterful expositor, Keller helps the reader draw the connections between Israel’s sin and the reader’s own, doing so in such a way as to teach the reader to anticipate the connections and begin “discovering” them without his guiding hand. The author takes great pains to stop when needed and work through more difficult subjects such as Deborah’s actions as prophetess in light of the Biblical restriction of the teaching and authority office in the church to men.
Though one might disagree with his conclusion (that in 1 Tim 2, Paul is referring to “disciplinary authority” rather than teaching and/or authority in the church), he does not shy away from commenting on a sensitive subject. It is also notable that those with disagreements on the matter must discover a manner of cooperation as brothers and sisters in Christ. We may disagree, but we must do so in a Christian manner that testifies to the grace of Christ.
And as one might expect, Keller’s exposition through Judges is intensely Christ-centered. Keller – who has been quoted as saying, “Until you get to Jesus, it’s not a sermon. It’s just a Sunday School lesson.” – masterfully ties the text to the hope of Christ at every turn. They are shadows, to be certain, but shadows that direct the reader to Christ. Ehud was an unexpected deliverer. Deborah was a ruling judge who was not a warrior at all. God showed his power through Gideon’s weakness. Jephthah refused to save unless he was given authority to rule as well. Samson was the promised deliverer, devoted to God from the womb despite the reality that Israel did not even ask for who crushed his enemy upon his death. Keller takes great pains to help the reader grasp the scarlet threads woven into the text of Judges and follow them to the person and work of Christ.
In our day’s resurgence of Christ-centered preaching, little books like Tim Keller’s, Judges for You are tremendous resources that serve pastors by coaching them to faithfully teach God’s Word, and to help them uncover some of the typological treasures that are so often left just beneath the stories.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Cross Focused Reviews book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.