Reviewed by Aimee Byrd
If you haven’t read anything by Nancy Guthrie yet, you are really missing out. Her Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series is a gift to the church. I don’t know how many times women have asked me about finding a good resource for starting a Bible study. It can be intimidating to lead a Bible study, and there are many men and women who are looking for help. Just handing someone a few commentaries and leaving her on her own to come up with a lesson and questions for discussion can often discourage a gal from even trying. And yet people who are serious about the Word of God and who want to grow in their knowledge of Scripture are insulted by the countless fluff studies out there that seem to stray way off course from the meaning of the text.
The insecurities really seem to flair when it comes to teaching the Old Testament. In her series, Nancy Guthrie is able to paint the big picture of redemption for us while we study the details. Her last book in the series, The Word of the Lord, tackles what may be the most intimidating genre in Scripture: the Prophetic Books. Guthrie acknowledges and empathizes with this right from the start: “The Prophetic Books of the Old Testament are the books of the Bible I have understood the least and avoided the most” (11). She then reasons that if all Scripture is profitable for a godly life, and it is (2 Tim. 3:16-17), then every section is important – even the prophets.
Why are the Prophetic Books so intimidating? Guthrie addresses this in her great “Introduction to the Prophets” chapter to her book. First, she lays out the role of the prophet as a spokesperson for God. She teaches the specifics of their role, who they were, and how the Prophetic Books are God’s message for us still today. Then Guthrie suggests why they seem so daunting. We live in a much different culture from Old Testament times. And the average person frankly does not have adequate knowledge of the history and geography of God’s people, so we do not see the connections of how these stories fit together. Since the books of the prophets are not in chronological order, this can sometimes add to our confusion. And then there’s the language. Sometimes we just don’t follow what’s going on with all the “repetitive oracles.” This all makes it difficult to understand the relevance of the Prophetic Books to us now.
But Guthrie helps us to overcome these obstacles by breaking it down for the reader. She provides helpful maps, highlights the connections, and points out the main themes in every Prophetic Book: sin, judgment, and hope. And these are themes on which every reader can relate!
Jesus in the Prophets
Beyond simple comprehension, the author pledges to point us to “the Person in the prophets we must see.” She successfully delivers on this pledge in every chapter. But Guthrie gives us a delightful preview in the Introduction that really sums up her book well:
- In Jonah we’ll see by contrast the compassion of Jesus, who ran toward those under judgment rather than away from them.
- In Hosea we’ll see Jesus as our faithful bridegroom, who paid the price of his own blood to redeem us, his unfaithful bride, from our slavery to sin.
- In Micah we’ll see the humble justice and mercy of Jesus as the one whose life and death answers Micah’s difficult question: “What does the Lord require?” (6:8).
- In Isaiah we’ll see Jesus as the divine King seated on the throne Isaiah saw the year King Uzziah died, as the suffering servant who will be punished in place of his people, and as the coming conqueror who will put an end to evil.
- In Habakkuk we’ll see that Jesus is the one by whom sinful, faithless people are credited the righteousness needed to live by faith.
- In Jeremiah we’ll see Jesus finally fulfilling God’s promise of a new covenant that will implant in us a heart that wants to obey.
- In Daniel we’ll see Jesus as the glorious Son of Man who has received from the Ancient of Days a kingdom that will never oppress and never pass away.
- In Ezekiel we’ll see the promised presence of Jesus with us, never to leave us, in a new city called “The Lord is There” (48:35).
- And, finally, in Malachi, as we consider the question, “Who can stand when he appears?” (3:2) we’ll see Jesus, who makes it possible for us to say with confidence, “I will be able to stand when he appears—not because I am clean or good or worthy in myself, but because the Word of the Lord who came has come to me and made me his own.” (30-31)
If you are excited to learn about the Word of the Lord who has come to his prophets, and who has come to us, then you will not be disappointed with this study.
A major strength of this book is how it is organized. Each chapter opens with a personal Bible study section. The reader will answer questions while reading through the chapter’s particular book. Unlike Scripture, Guthrie has the Prophetic Books in chronological order to study. She covers nine out of the sixteen books. This section may include helpful maps, and the questions are mainly to guide the reader in comprehension, with some teaching peppered in.
Next, there is a teaching section that goes deeper into the meaning of the text. There are videos available to use for this section that reinforce the author’s teaching. Guthrie is a great speaker, so these videos are a helpful resource for a small group study. Following the teaching section is a brief “Looking Forward” segment that connects our particular reading to our future hope. This is a real encouragement and it helps the reader to see the big picture.
Each chapter ends with a helpful Discussion Guide to get the members of the group talking about the main points, personal connections, and again looking at the big picture. The whole study can be completed in ten weeks.
Since I was reading it for review, I just used the book for my own personal morning devotion/study time. I found it a joy even to go through alone. But an opportunity did come up for me to use one chapter with a study group. I was asked to substitute for a women’s Bible study class, and so I thought I would give the chapter on Jonah a go. However, I only had an hour to cover all three sections along with reading through the book of Jonah. The tables and maps that Guthrie provides made it very easy to do. I decided to pull out the questions that I wanted to hit for the lesson, and it went very well. Several of the women in the study commented that they had never noticed how much Jonah pointed to Christ. We also learned a lot about ourselves, as well as Jonah, God’s sovereignty, and his love for his people. I even used Guthrie’s words at the end of her teaching section in my closing prayer. As she contrasted Jonah with Christ, she offered short, correlating prayers for us to be less like Jonah and more like Jesus.
We indeed saw the Person of Jesus Christ in the book of Jonah. I think it was a slam dunk.
Aimee Byrd is a wife and mother of three and the author of Housewife Theologian. She is also the “Residing Housewife Theologian” here at Books At a Glance, reviewing books of interest to women.
Buy the books
The Word Of The Lord: Seeing Jesus In The Prophets