How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens
Author: Michael Williams
Paperback: 288 pages
When I first heard about this blog tour, I was leery about signing up. My biggest fear was the immediate context of the biblical books was going to be ignored. For those who you who might share my concerns, let me put your mind at ease. Williams does take into account the immediate context of the book. As I read some of the other reviews, I feel that I should point out that I am one of the more liberal Christians reviewing this book and I am not coming at this book or biblical interpretation from the Historical-Grammatical Method. That’s not how I was trained. I come at biblical interpretation from the Historical-Critical Method.
Fore each of the biblical books, Williams has four major sections: the Theme of the Book, the Jesus Lens, Contemporary Implications, and Hook Questions. In the theme of the book, Williams discusses the immediate context of the book. So, for example, in discussing Hosea, Williams briefly describes the context to which Hosea was prophesying and very briefly discusses the overall theme of the book. The Jesus lens discusses how the biblical book points us to Christ. The contemporary implications discuss how both the theme and the lens relate to us today. And the hook questions are questions to consider as we read and dig into the biblical book.
The one feature that I really liked was the chart at the end of the book that listed all the biblical books, their themes, Jesus Lens’, Implications, and Hooks. It made for a quick and easy reference instead of having to turn to the individual book and flip through. Also, each book is dealt with very briefly; each one is discussed in four or five pages.
I chose to take a specific look at the Prophets. I picked to look at the Prophets because I think it is in these books of the Bible that we can most clearly be pointed to Christ. Biblical prophecy was as much concerned with calling Israel to account in its current context as it was with pointing to the coming Messiah. Because that is such a big section, I narrowed it down a bit to my favorite prophets: Amos and Jonah.
Throughout the Book of Amos, the prophet hammers home that fact that Israel is acting unjustly and God’s judgment is upon them for those acts of injustice. Williams is correct is his assessment that the theme of the books is “God judges his people for their social injustice.” (121) So if the theme of the book deals with social justice, what is the Jesus lens? According to Williams, the Jesus lens is “Jesus communicates by his words, his actions, and his emotions God’s compassion, mercy, and justice.” (123) I absolutely loved Williams treatment of Amos in the contemporary implication section, “When we read the prophecy of Amos, if we’re honest with ourselves we will has to admit that God’s people there often look an awful lot like us.” (123) If this doesn’t sting, I don’t know what will. But, I think Williams is right. In fact, I would say he is dead on! Tying this in with the Jesus lens, Williams goes on to say, “As those called to Christlikeness, we should communicate truth about God’s compassion, mercy, and justice through the way we live.” (123) And Williams isn’t done yet. The hook questions sting even more!
- “How do others see God’s compassion, mercy, and justice by your behavior?”
- “Have you given false witness about God’s character by the way you have lived?”
Williams states that the theme of Jonah is “The Sovereign Lord’s compassion extends beyond Israel.” (129) I agree with this interpretation of the theme of Jonah. Jonah was called to prophesy to the situation in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. And, despite his short sermon, the people of Nineveh repented and God spared them…for a time. While I agree with the theme, I disagree with Williams’ statement of the Jesus lens. Williams says the Jesus lens is “Jesus is the good shepherd, who gathers his sheep near and far.” To me, it just doesn’t fit. I was expecting something along the lines of Jesus came so that all may have the gift of eternal life, that God’s gift of salvation isn’t just limited to Israel. They may sound similar and they might even imply the same thing, however, with the lack of the shepherd metaphor in Jonah, I just don’t see Williams’ Jesus lens. That said, I had no issues with the rest of the discussion on Jonah. I think the contemporary implication (the Great Commission) and the hook questions tie in well with the rest of what Williams has written on Jonah.
Overall, I think this book is a great resource for people looking to see Jesus in the whole Bible. I’m glad that I joined this blog tour, despite my early misgivings.