As a preacher I am expected to spend time in the Word to know the text. I’m expected to look at other sources to find out what the text is truly saying, and I’m expected to be able to take that text and show my listeners what they need to learn from that text. This is often a daunting task filled with many hours reading boring books.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the bible is NOT boring, but often the commentaries trying to explain what the bible is saying are as dry as the desert.
I was asked by Michael Whitworth if I would read his commentary on the book of Ruth (in the Old Testament of the Bible). It seemed like such an honor at first, but the more I thought of it the more I regretted accepting his request. You see, I don’t read commentaries for fun. I don’t read them for personal devotions. I read them because I need to.
So, when Michael sent me his book I began to read. Remember, I had all these negative assumptions about how this endeavor would turn out.
I dove in quickly to the introduction and found that Michael wasn’t just giving a list of facts about this book. Sure, there are countless facts to be derived from the pages of “Bethlehem Road”, but this book didn’t read like a commentary listing facts and references. I quickly found myself eagerly turning each page to see what jewels I could find on the next.
This is NOT a traditional commentary. I would read this book for enjoyment. I would read it for my personal devotions. I recommend this book to everyone, and here’s why: this book is personal.
Michael begins by relating the story of the loss of his father and the dark places that took him to in the grieving process. Then he begins to tell the tale of Ruth and Naomi and show how their loss sets the stage for the main character of this book to do His work. That’s right, the main character of Ruth is not Ruth – it’s God.
Through page after page the reader is taken on a journey through this time of Israel’s history. You feel like you are there, in Israel, with the characters. You can see the struggle and feel the pain. Then, you are invited to celebrate the unfathomable foresight and workings of the merciful, loving God.
If you are dealing with loss and sadness, then may I recommend a commentary to you? Naomi knows how you feel. God does too.
Are you struggling to see that God is really working in the lives of those who love Him? Then it’s time to look at Ruth again, and I recommend you do it with your bible in one hand and “Bethlehem Road” in the other.
Have you thought the God of the Old Testament was a mean-spirited, vengeful deity? Then I hope you can see through this commentary that He was not and has never been that way. He does not change like shifting shadows.
I am so grateful that Michael has taken on the challenge of writing a commentary that breaks the commentary mold. It was truly refreshing to see this book come to life.
It is my honor to recommend to you “Bethlehem Road” by Michael Whitworth. Look for it soon online and ask for it where books are sold.