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Believer’s Bookshelf

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon by John M Riddle, 2016; published by, and available from, John Ritchie Ltd; 300 pages. Price £10.99 (9781910513552)

Those who have encountered previous volumes in this continuing series will know exactly what to expect from John Riddle’s eminently readable verse-by-verse commentary on the New Testament Pastoral Epistles. The page layout allows the text to breathe while breaking it down into manageable sense units which facilitate understanding; the exegesis is rigorous in its careful unfolding of the meaning, but always practical in its application; the style is engagingly conversational rather than formal, spiced with appropriate anecdotes and moments of humour. Good Bible teaching, we discover, can be faithful without being miserable. Although the book is not meant to be a technical exposition, it quotes liberally and helpfully from the relevant works of J Allen, J R Baker, D E Hiebert, M R Vincent, W E Vine and D E West.

The preface informs us that the book is the fruit of Bible Class discussions conducted some 20 years earlier, but there is nothing dated or tired about this exposition. God’s truth is timeless. Particularly incisive are the comments on local assembly elders (1 Tim 3.1-7; Titus 1.5-9), the cost of Christian service (2 Tim 2.1-7), and the harmony between divine sovereignty and human responsibility (2 Tim 1.6-10). But the book sparkles throughout with memorable summaries of truth: “spiritual strength in the past is no guarantee of spiritual strength now” (p 10); “a Bible teacher is not necessarily an elder, but an elder is necessarily a Bible teacher” (p 66); “God did not choose us because of the decision we made: we decided for Christ because God had first chosen us” (p 148); “God’s grace is infinitely greater than bare necessity” (p 299).

In 300 pages the reader is offered a challenging elucidation of four vital New Testament letters. Young believers especially are strongly urged to buy and read.

David Newell

The Saviour God and His Servant King by Malcolm C Davis; published by, and available from, John Ritchie Ltd; 259 pages. Price £7.99 (9781907731839)

With the exception of the four Gospels, most of the larger books in the Bible are less read than the smaller books. This reluctance to read the larger books earnestly is even more evident with those in the Old Testament such as Isaiah, and other prophetic books like Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Zechariah. Many of the Christological passages in Isaiah would be well known to Christians, but not necessarily the context in which they were placed by the Holy Spirit in Isaiah’s prophecy.

Malcolm Davis’ The Saviour God and His Servant King is a 259-page volume written to help the reader to become familiar with the whole of Isaiah, a book from which New Testament writers have drawn 65 quotations, as the author notes. It does provide all that its sub-title promises – “An Introduction, Concise Commentary and Practical Studies in … [Isaiah’s] Major Themes". All three sections of the book will be profitable to readers of all ages. Its author’s in-depth knowledge of the Hebrew text and related historical contexts is evident throughout.

The author’s doctrinal basis is sound. He accepts that Isaiah was the single prophet the Spirit of God used to provide the wide-ranging prophecy carrying his name, about whose family life we know a little and into whose activities 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles provide some insight. The sufferings of Jehovah’s Servant are seen as prophecies about Christ’s literal sufferings. The glories that Peter said would follow are again seen as literal fulfilments of Isaiah’s prophecy. Not less so the future glory in which the nation of Israel will be prominent; it is traced out carefully and in the context of Christ’s Millennial reign.

In the light of the reviewer’s earlier comments, the Concise Commentary will prove of great value to anyone beginning to study Isaiah diligently. In beautiful, clear English the author deals with each chapter in turn, giving due emphasis to its salient lessons. Few readers would find difficulty in progressing through Isaiah with such an aid. The Major Themes are also of great value: they include the Character of God; The Messianic Prophecies; the Day of the Lord; Idolatry and the Gentile nations. Also included in that section is The Way of Salvation, so often not as carefully considered as one might assume, given that Isaiah is called the Evangelical Prophet.

The Saviour God and His Servant King is a book that can be heartily commended to a wide audience.

Tom Wilson

Insects of the Bible by Tom Ratcliffe, 2017; published by, and available from, John Ritchie Ltd; 81 pages. Price £6.95 (9781871642810)

In this short, easy-to-follow and well-illustrated book, Tom Ratcliffe draws out spiritual lessons from the natural world, each chapter being devoted to one of nine Bible insects. Ants (Prov 6.6; 30.25) are small, but they work hard, and a busy ant’s nest is comparable to a smooth running local church. Worker bees (Jdg 14.8) feed the queen with royal jelly, and die if they use their defensive sting. Similarly, Christians ought to refresh Christ with their worship, and be willing to lay down their lives for the truth. When David described himself as a tiny flea (1 Sam 24.14; 26.20), he was emphasising his own littleness, and the utter absurdity of Saul hunting him down.

“Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour” (Eccl 10.1). Christian, take heed, and avoid small sins that mar testimony. Christ likened the Pharisees’ focus on minutiae, to the exclusion of more important issues, to straining out a little gnat (for example, a mosquito), and swallowing a massive camel (Mt 23.24). Just as God used noisy, flying, painful, stinging hornets (large wasps) to expel the Canaanites (Ex 23.28; Deut 7.20; Josh 24.12), He often pricks a Christian’s conscience through painful experiences. 

The plague of lice (Ex 8.16-18; Ps 105.31) assaulted Egyptian pride in physical cleanliness. As locusts devastate vegetation (Ex 10.4), believers can waste their precious time and energy (see Joel 2.25). Instead of laying up treasure “upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Mt 6.19), Christians should lay up treasure in Heaven.

I remember a prayer meeting when a simple believer thanked God for His beautiful butterflies. Having read this book, I concur with that heartfelt prayer. We should praise God for His wonderful creation.

Jeremy Gibson


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