"Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope" by Philip Graham Ryken

Robert M. Norris
Thursday, June 7th 2007
Jan/Feb 2002

Biblical preaching has always driven Church reform. To be sure, programs and personalities have had their place; yet it has been expository, doctrinal, evangelistic preaching that has given Reformation longevity and depth. Though almost always under fire, expository preaching remains a foundation stone in godly parishes.

Edited by R. Kent Hughes, Crossway Books’s “Preaching the Word” series offers examples of expository preaching that inform ministers and inspire readers who love biblical teaching. The series thereby attempts to help solidify churches and ministries and to reform preaching and worship where they have strayed from a biblical norm. Until now only New Testament volumes have been issued. The publication of Ryken’s Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope marks an excellent beginning to the inclusion of Old Testament expositions.

Ryken preached the contents of this hefty volume at Tenth Presbyterian Church, where he now serves as senior minister. Each of the sixty-six messages exhibits his ability to be clear, doctrinally sound within the Reformed tradition, relevant, and scholarly. Short passages are almost unfailingly divided accurately, explained in appropriate depth, illustrated from current events or Church history, and applied specifically to individuals and churches. Longer passages, such as the whole book of Lamentations, are broken into meaningful units based on theological or thematic truths found in the text. Ryken’s expositions are guided by the passage at hand, not by any preconceived notions of his own.

Perhaps the book’s best feature is that it is an excellent model for expository preaching from prophetic books. Ryken handles well-known passages such as Jeremiah’s call (1:1-19), the Temple Sermons (chapters 7 and 26), and the New Covenant (31:27-40) impressively. In each case there is a careful blend of interpretation, theology, and application. He treats Jeremiah’s personal laments (e.g., 15:1-21) with pastoral sensitivity. Just as importantly, he opens up lesser-preached texts (e.g., 35:1-19), thus exposing readers to what may be for them fresh light on God’s Word. Thoughtful readers will note that the book offers them a method for examining, dividing, and applying each chosen text. They will find it easier to do the same sort of preaching-and not just repeat Ryken’s sermons-after reading this book.

I strongly recommend this book. I have already given it to members of my seminary biblical preaching class and recommended it to university students interested in Jeremiah’s message. Bible preachers and Bible students will enjoy it and be enriched by it. Those who teach preaching courses will find it a helpful model for their students. May this work fuel Church reformation by encouraging more ministers to engage in expository preaching on Old Testament books! If it does so, then this first full-scale exposition of Jeremiah to appear in generations will surely have met its author’s expectations.

Thursday, June 7th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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