Book Review – The Message of Judges (Michael Wilcock)

This volume in the Bible Speaks Today series contains a brief introduction and the full text of Judges from the RSV. As with many commentators on Judges, Wilcock highlights the recurring pattern of rebellion, retribution, repentance and rescue. However, he is also eager to point out that there are many things in the book that don’t fit neatly into that pattern. In fact, he argues that rather than having a cyclic structure, the book of Judges portrays a downward spiral.

His comments on Ehud are interesting. Ehud is the story of the unexpected. Wilcock considers it more likely that he was disabled in his right hand rather than left-handed per se. Ehud is in fact the first of a whole series of unlikely heroes that characterise the book of Judges. The rescuers God sends so often come from the places we least expect (as was true of Jesus).

God repeatedly allows his people to get their fingers burned in order that they come to see that ‘Canaan’ is in fact the great enemy. With each rotation of the cycle (or spiral), we see how shallow Israel’s repentance is.

Another interesting section is on Jephthah – another unlikely hero, “despised and rejected by men”. He discusses how come Jephthah comes to get a mention in Heb 11:32 for being a man of faith, despite doing what seems a shockingly immoral act. Jephthah had not “heard” many of God’s commands, but he had at least heard the command to keep your word.

The final judge, Samson, was a man who had the Spirit, but not wisdom, or a “clean heart and a right spirit”. But even in the story of Samson, Wilcock points out parallels with the story of Jesus – handed over to death by his own people, and winning a great victory in his death.

Judges ends with a shocking account of just how far Israelite society had fallen morally, with God virtually absent in the closing chapters. But yet he declares that the book of Judges is ultimately a story of grace. God doesn’t abandon his people, though they richly deserve it, but ensures they don’t completely destroy themselves by their own wilful folly.

Although the commentaries of Dale Ralph Davies on the Old Testament Historical books remain firm favourites of mine, I have to say that I enjoyed Wilcock’s approach to Judges, particularly his attention to how each judge’s story contributes to the overall message of the book.

Book Review – The Message of 2 Corinthians (Paul Barnett)

Paul Barnett is also the author of the much larger volume on 2 Corinthians in the New International Commentary series, so this book is clearly his area of expertise. Having said that, I think that this contribution to the Bible Speaks Today series precedes his work for the NICNT.

2 Corinthians is a more personal and emotional letter than 1 Corinthians, but that does not mean it is without theological contributions. Barnett picks out several of these in his introduction including teaching on the new covenant, the death of Christ, and giving.

As he works through the early chapters, Barnett explains the nature of the opposition that Paul is facing from the “super-apostles”, who he sees as having an Old Covenant mentality. He highlights several places in which Paul’s Damascus road experience is behind what he says.

Perhaps some of the best material is the discussion of the relation of the Old to New Covenants, which he explains as “promise” and “fulfilment” – there is continuity between them. Paul opposes a “back to Moses” program, but is not anti-law. “Until the law had been internalised by the Spirit, it remained a letter, which kills.”

Barnett sees “God’s strength in weakness” as the chief theological theme that ties together the whole letter. The new ministers in Corinth, unlike Paul, had nothing to say about suffering, death and judgment – theirs was a superficial message. They were fixated on Israel, the temple, and the law – “things seen not unseen” (2 Cor 4:18).

He makes an interesting point on 2 Cor 5:11,14 that Paul’s two motivations were fear of the Lord and love – these two are not incompatible. He explains the teaching on the atonement in 2 Cor 5:21 by saying that Christ’s death is for us both as representation and as substitution.

Another strength is Barnett’s comments on the nature of true Christian leadership, which is sacrificial rather than boastful and triumphalist. “Sacrifice is at the heart of the gospel and also at the heart of ministry.”

The age of the book is betrayed as he discusses how Christians are to share their surplus, rather than indulge in luxuries such as microwaves and “videos”, though the point is just as timely:

Through our labours many of us have more than we need. But to what extend to we give to those in need? Instead, those who have one house buy a holiday home; those who have progressed from black and white to colour television add a video; those who have an ordinary oven want a microwave too. The surplus is for sharing; but few of us do so.

This is the only commentary on 2 Corinthians I have read so I have nothing to compare it to, but overall I would say it fulfils the goals of the Bible Speaks Today series admirably. It explains the meaning of the text clearly and brings out plenty of helpful doctrinal and practical application. 2 Corinthians can be a bit neglected since much of the material is directly about Paul and countering the “new ministers” in Corinth, but Barnett shows that the letter still has much to say to us today.

Book Review – The Message of Ecclesiastes (Derek Kidner)

This is one of the earliest volumes of the Bible Speaks Today series, having been written in 1976 and only later incorporated into the series. In a brief introduction Derek Kidner asks what Ecclesiastes is doing in the Bible. He introduces us to the author, Qoheleth. He thinks that this teacher puts himself in the shoes of a “super-Solomon” for the purposes of writing the book.

Kidner interprets the book as being written from “ground level” – the author deliberately views life “under the sun” from a human perspective – if you like, from a secularist vantage point. Qoheleth will explore path after path to the point that it comes to nothing, and in the end, only one way will be left.

Kidner makes regular references to various stories, quotes or poems that make similar points to Ecclesiastes. In Eccl 3:1-8, he does not take the common approach of assuming it is about the idea that there is an “appropriate” time” for every activity. Rather he sees it as a comment on the perpetual pattern of change – everything has a beginning and an end. However, he does see Eccl 3:11 as a key verse – part of the very reason that we find so many seemingly good things unsatisfying is that we have eternity in our hearts.

Every few chapters, Kidner inserts a brief “backwards glance”, summarising the argument so far, which is a helpful touch. He thinks that Qoheleth’s mission, like Jeremiah, is first to tear down and destroy before he eventually gets round to building up (Jer 1:10). Kidner sees a turning point coming after Ecclesiastes 9, by which time Qoheleth has made his case against human self-sufficiency.

Overall I think Kidner has done a good job of interpreting the train of thought in this book that can be quite perplexing at times. I find it interesting that many of the better known verses in Ecclesiastes seem to have a different meaning to their popular interpretations when considered in the light of the whole book’s progression of thought.

Book Review – The Message of Acts (John Stott)

This volume of the Bible Speaks Today series runs to over 400 pages (plus study guide), making it one of the longest in the series. Rather than simply providing commentary on the text, Stott seeks to show how the message of Acts applies to us today.

I have tried, therefore, to address myself with integrity to some of the main questions which the Acts raises for today’s Christians, such as the baptism of the Spirit and charismatic gifts, signs and wonders, the economic sharing of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, church discipline, the diversity of ministries, Christian conversion, racial prejudice, missionary principles, the cost of Christian unity, motives and methods in evangelism, the call to suffer for Christ, church and state, and divine providence.

His attention to contemporary issues raised by the text makes this commentary a much more vibrant read than several other commentaries I have read on Acts (TNTC by Howard Marshall, NICNT by F F Bruce, NIBC by David Williams). Stott does address issues of historicity, geography and historical background, but not to the same depth as these other commentaries, leaving him plenty of space to reflect on theology and practical application.

The group of churches I am part of, newfrontiers, tends to favour different interpretations of the book of Acts to Stott in several places. First of all, Stott is convinced that the concept of an “apostle” belongs to the first century only, arguing that there are no more apostles today, since apostles must be directly appointed by Christ. This causes him to make less emphasis on Paul’s church planting methods and relationship with those churches as a paradigm for modern day church planting and apostolic ministry.

Second, Stott is not a charismatic, and so plays down expectations that gifts of tongues and prophecy as well as signs and wonders may occur today. Third, he strongly disagrees with the Pentecostal (and Catholic) understanding of baptism in the Spirit as distinct from conversion. There are other places where his Anglicanism is noticeable, such as his plea not to abandon the “institutional church”, as well as his views on the mode of baptism.

Notwithstanding these differences of opinion, there is a wealth of profitable material to be gleaned from this commentary. He highlights some interesting parallels between Luke’s gospel and Acts, including the way Paul’s journey to Jerusalem mirrors Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. In addition, the arrest and trial narratives of both Jesus and Paul have various parallels. Another is the similarity between the Emmaeus road and Ethiopian eunuch stories. By telling these stories in parallel ways, Luke shows how the early believers (and Paul especially) walked in the steps of Jesus.

Just as the Spirit came upon Jesus to equip him for his public ministry, so now the Spirit was to come upon his people to equip them for theirs.

Though he does not take it up at every point, Stott chooses a few key places to defend the historicity of Luke’s account, such as the ascension and the relationship between the three tellings of Paul’s conversion.

Stott brings out plenty of helpful principles for evangelising and for communicating the gospel as he works through the various stories of the mission of the early church, especially in how different approaches were needed for those of different religious and cultural backgrounds.

Although in Acts 19:1-6 Stott is adamant that the Ephesian disciples were clearly not believers, his language sounds remarkably similar to David Pawson’s concept of the “normal Christian birth” consisting of distinct elements:

The norm of Christian experience, then, is a cluster of four things: repentance, faith in Jesus, water baptism and the gift of the Spirit. Though the perceived order may vary a little, the four belong together and are universal in Christian initiation.

Though Stott’s views on the Spirit will not be agreed with by those like myself from newfrontiers, we do find a lot of common ground on his comments on eldership. He sees eldership as being “local” and “plural”, with no pyramid structure, but rather a team. “Elders”, “pastors” and “overseers” are all terms referring to the same office.

This was my second reading of Stott’s commentary on Acts, and it only serves to cement its place as my favourite on this book. I would recommend consulting it to all who preach from or study the book of Acts.

Book Review – The Message of Esther (David Firth)

The Bible Speaks Today series is still missing a few Old Testament volumes, and it has been a while since a new one came out, but it looks as if they are rectifying this, with this volume on Esther being published recently and a couple more due to come out later in the year (Obadiah, Nahum & Zephaniah by Gordon Bridger and Ezra & Haggai by Robert Fyall).


The introduction fills us in on the historical background to Esther, and tells us about the three versions there are of the book. Firth describes the book of Esther as a ’dramatized history’. He introduces us to each of the main characters, and explains the significance of Haman being an ‘Agagite’.


Though the book of Esther is notable for its lack of explicit mention of God, Firth does think we can detect various allusions to other Biblical passages. He is cautious not to read more into the text than the author says, but on the whole interprets Mordecai and Esther’s decisions positively – e.g. “Esther neither sought entry to the harem, nor advancement within it, yet both came to her”. He does however think it likely that her failure to reveal her Jewish identity would inevitably mean that she could not retain a kosher lifestyle.

He draws out lessons of remaining faithful to God’s purposes, even in an antagonistic culture, and it is as we do this that we see his providence at work. He picks up on the foolishness of alcohol-fueled decision making. He also reflects on the need for God’s people to challenge evil when we see it, and to speak out from a biblical perspective, taking the risks of faith that God has led us to.

He sees Esther as embodying wisdom in contrast to Haman’s folly. As one would expect there is plenty of discussion of the providence of God, working in ways and with timing that are not what we would expect. He attempts to soften the rather bloodthirsty sounding edicts issued by Esther, by proposing that they were only to be fulfilled in self-defence against those who explicitly attacked the Jews.


I found this an interesting read and a good guide to the book of Esther. It fulfils the goals of the Bible Speaks Today series as it both illuminates the text and draws out principles for application. Sometimes I wondered whether he overlooked some of the moral ambiguities surrounding Mordecai and Esther’s behaviour. There was no real attempt to find echoes of the gospel story in the book. Arguably that may be a good thing, as those who do so often seem to need to put a lot of “spin” on various characters and events to make it fit, but I would have appreciated some discussion of where Jesus is to be found within the book. My favourite Esther commentary is Karen Jobes’ NIVAC commentary, but this one has a slightly different perspective so complements it well.

Book Review – The Message of Ezekiel (Chris Wright)

This volume of the Bible Speaks Today series takes a slightly different approach in that it does not work through the book in strictly linear fashion. Wright prefers to group together passages with similar themes, and there are even one or two bits that don’t get covered at all.

In his introduction, he helps us understand Ezekiel’s context and life story. One of Wright’s strengths is bringing Ezekiel as a person to life, so we can understand how he is feeling, and his hopes and aspirations. Ezekiel is passionately God-centred, and understood that the reason God saved people is ultimately for his own glory. In fact, Wright is almost Piper-esque as he shows how Ezekiel’s primary motivation, even above compassion for people, is the glory of God in everything. Ezekiel is appointed by Yahweh as a “watchman”, but ironically, it is Yahweh himself who is the enemy that Ezekiel must warn the people about.

Wright is very good at helping you picture the scene as Ezekiel performs his bizarre prophetic mimes, becoming a virtual tourist attraction. In keeping with the goals of the series, he also brings out plenty of practical application both personally and for the church as a whole. He prophetically cautions that the church, like ancient Israel, has often been tempted into unholy and idolatrous alliances with the world.

Misson is another theme he picks up throughout the book, showing Ezekiel does have a concern that the nations come to know Yahweh in a saving way. His treatment of the final chapters of Ezekiel avoid fanciful speculation and show how the vision primarily is concerned with the return of the presence of God and the restoration of the worship of God.

The exposition runs to 368 pages, so the book is covered in good depth. I would wholeheartedly recommend this for those who find Ezekiel an impenetrable book, and especially to those willing to take the time to work their way through the whole thing. His breadth of concerns is impressive, ranging from social issues such as the environment and the poor, through to mission to the nations, through to matters of great theological importance such as holiness and the glory of God. It’s one of my favourites in the BST series, having read it twice now.

Book Review – The Message of James (Alec Motyer)


In his introduction, Alec Motyer argues that James is a preacher, and that his book is a sermon with a coherent plan. In other words, despite the often abrupt changes of topic we find, Motyer thinks he can determine an overall plan. This basically involves James introducing his key topics in chapter 1, expanding on them in chapters 2-4 and returning to them in chapter 5.


The commentary includes the text of the RSV version and, like a number of the Bible Speaks Today volumes on New Testament letters, is very thorough. Every phrase of the book of James gets attention. Motyer is careful to show how each section relates to what has gone before, and I think manages to demonstrate some persuasive evidence for his proposed structure.

Of course, a practical book like James lends itself extremely well to an expository commentary – there is lots for us to take on board and apply. In particular the challenges concerning our care for the poor and our attitude towards money are made forcefully.

The Bible never teaches that wealth is wrong … everything depends on how it has been acquired, how it is used, and what place it holds in the heart of the possessor.

If we would follow the Lord Jesus then it must be our glory, as it was his, to be incessantly and preponderantly on the side of the poor, the underprivileged, the disadvantaged and the oppressed.

Money still does the talking far too loudly in Christian circles, and where and when it does, the glory of Christ departs.

When he comes to the supposed tension between Paul and James, he resolves it as follows:

To Paul the question was “How is salvation experienced?” and the answer “by faith alone”. To James the question was “How is true and saving faith recognized"?” and the answer “by its fruits”.

He says that for James, “works” means all that should be distinctive about the person who believes and is saved. Faith promotes works, faith needs works and faith precedes works. One of the applications he draws out is the need for Christians to pressure governments to address human need.

Motyer’s understanding of the structure of the book is that the main three “points” of James’ sermon are three characteristics of true religion: the controlled tongue, care for those in need, and personal holiness.

He shows that for James, control of the tongue is not merely evidence of spiritual maturity, it is the means to it. Motyer is also very challenging on the issue of divisions amongst Christians, which we tend to treat as of little consequence – we should consider these as grievous as wars and murder.

Another point of interest is his handling on the matter of prayer for the sick person. He takes some time to disagree with the Roman Catholic concept of “extreme unction”, and steers a moderate line on the subject of healing. The onus is placed on the elders of the church to pray genuine “prayers of faith” that a person will be healed, although Motyer notes that there are also times for “prayers of rest” where we commit ourselves to whatever the will of God may be. His take on confession is also interesting. He discourages generally confessing sins to those we have not sinned against – the confession to one another in view then is confession to those we have wronged.


Bible Speaks Today volumes are great for personal study, as well as aids for preparing small group studies or sermons, and this is no exception. Motyer doesn’t simply explain the message of James, but drives home the challenge of his message. At over 200 pages it is not as concise as some of the others in the series, but it is worth making the effort to reflect in depth on this powerful book of the Bible.

We need to examine ourselves; … A thing as potent as the new birth, if it has taken place, cannot be hidden; it cannot fail to make its presence felt. To have the life of God in us and to remain unchanged is unthinkable.

Book Review – The Message of Jonah (Rosemary Nixon)

This is one of the most recent additions to the Bible Speaks Today series. It immediately stands out for its size. 220 pages for just four chapters of Jonah, which is significantly longer than Kidner’s contribution on the 52 chapters of Jeremiah. It averages out at just over four pages per verse.

There are effectively two introductions to the book. The first is a general introduction, and the second examines the literary genre of Jonah. Nixon starts by examining the history of interpretation of Jonah. She compares and contrasts the book with the other Old Testament prophets, and also contrasts Jonah himself with Jesus. Under literary genre she points out that chapter two is almost entirely poetic, and argues that we do not necessarily have to take the whole account as historical – it may be some sort of parable. Having said this, she appears to hold that Jonah was a real person, who really went and preached to Ninevah, and presumably really boarded a ship to Tarshish, so I was left a little unclear as to how exactly she combines a historical / parabolic interpretation.

One of the main reasons for the length of the commentary is that Nixon will regularly take a word or theme found in the text and explore where else it is used in Scripture. Thus there is actually commentary on much more than the text of Jonah in here. For example, there is a discussion on Cain in the land of Nod, as well as word studies on “swallowed”, “walk” and “message”.

Jonah’s problem was that cooperating with God in the salvation of his enemies was anathema to him. To go to Ninevah, the evil city, was for Jonah, to go to hell. Jonah is an image of resistance to God.

On chapter 2, Nixon points out a chiastic structure to the Psalm. Though Jonah had been ‘saved’ by the fish, in its belly he was hardly better than dead. Similarly, the people of Israel at this time had been ‘saved’ by forming an alliance with Assyria. Thus Jonah becomes a parable of Israel running from God towards their death. After being vomited up, Jonah has been delivered, but not transformed.

In chapter 3, Nixon sees another chiasm, and points out that God does not negotiate mutually agreeable callings with us. His call is ‘unreasonable’. In the fourth chapter, we slowly come to see Jonah’s real problem – he thought God was weak on sin and justice. He appears as a legalist reacting against the salvation by grace alone that God had offered to the Ninevites.

The commentary closes with an appendix considering the theme of repentance. The repentance of Ninevah was effectively a judgement on the lack of repentance in Israel. Nixon concludes by examining Paul’s anguish over the unbelief of Israel in Rom 9-11.

Despite being initially put off by what appeared to be a long-winded volume by BST standards, I thoroughly enjoyed working through this book. The slower pace allows a lot of interesting themes and angles to be pondered and explored. She even cites a few poems in between chapters. The end result is a commentary that not only sheds light on the book of Jonah but develops several key biblical themes, especially God’s indiscriminate grace. There were one or two places where I wondered whether she was hinting at a universalist position, but it was no more than a hint.

Overall I would say that if you have the time to read it, this will be a very profitable read, and will be especially useful for preachers looking for fresh ways to present one of the most well-known stories in the Bible.

Book Review – The Message of Galatians (John Stott)

This is one of the first volumes in the Bible Speaks Today series, and was originally published 40 years ago in 1968. Unlike later volumes in the series, there is no introduction. Stott dives right in and begins his exposition of the text. Naturally, he covers the issues like authorship, dating, recipients, and themes along the way, but not in so much detail as a typical commentary might.

Paul is writing, he argues, to the churches in South Galatia to defend his apostleship and his gospel, both of which have come under attack from false teachers. Stott often points out that Paul still has many modern day opponents who deny his authority and reject his gospel message.

Each chapter of Galatians is dealt with in three or four chapters in the commentary. Stott sees Galatians as more or less falling into three main parts which roughly correspond to two chapters each. The first (Gal 1,2) deals with a question of authority. Paul defends his authority based on his apostleship. Those who are familiar with Stott’s writings will know how keen he is to emphasise the uniqueness of the 12 apostles, and his denial of any kind of apostolic succession or modern day apostles, both of which he would view as challenging the apostolic authority of Scripture.

The second section (Gal 3,4) deals with a question of salvation. The gospel is presented as salvation through the death of Jesus Christ, and is received by faith alone. He sees the false teachers as proponents of salvation through keeping the law as a necessary ‘supplement’ to what Christ has done. He shows how the law of Moses ("thou shalt…") is contrasted to God’s promises to Abraham ("I will…"), and therefore the gospel is analogous to the promise, not the law. He regularly quotes Luther in this section.

The significance of the law is to show us our need of the gospel. Stott argues that this step cannot be bypassed – we must let the law show us our sin, before we can understand what the gospel is. Come to Moses first, and let Moses lead us to Christ.

The third section (Gal 5,6) deals with a question of holiness. Up until now, Paul’s message of Christian liberty may lead some to assume that anything goes in terms of behaviour. But liberty does not mean license. Stott argues that Christian freedom is primarily a freedom of conscience – we are not guilty before God. But freedom from law does not mean freedom from keeping the law – our sanctification involves us fulfilling the law, which Paul says is summed up in the command to love your neighbour (Gal 5:14). Similarly, we are called to fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).

Stott argues that the Christian has a conflict between what he is by nature (the flesh) and what he is by rebirth. In both Gal 5 and Rom 7 Paul presents walking by the Spirit as the solution to this conflict. We have nailed our flesh to the cross, but we need to keep it there until it dies. He describes holiness as a harvest. Paul speaks in Gal 6:8 about whether we sow to the flesh or to the Spirit. Holiness then is not automatic, but depends on where and how we sow.

Although the book has no introduction, a summary section at the end reiterates the main themes of the book and its key points for application. There is also a study guide at the end.

As with John Stott’s other contributions to the Bible Speaks Today series, this volume comes highly recommended. Due to its age, he does not address the question of the "New Perspective on Paul" (in particular, were the false teachers really teaching salvation by works?), and perhaps his approach to the issue of modern day apostles would be tempered by some of the clarifications that have been made by groups such as newfrontiers (that modern day apostles are not seen as having an authority equivalent to the 12, who were unique in that sense). I also felt that he could have explored more what it means to walk in the Spirit. Stott makes several comments throughout the book to state that the church are the inheritors of the Old Testament promises, and are in full continuity with the Old Testament believers, which is another key theme found in Galatians.

The strength of this commentary is an uncompromising proclamation of the message of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Having laid this foundation, Stott then goes on to show how exhortation to holiness is not in conflict with this message. It will prove a valuable resource for anyone wanting to study or teach through the book of Galatians.

Book Review – The Message of Amos (Alec Motyer)

Brief Summary

Published in 1974, this is one of the first volumes in the Bible Speaks Today series. It is an 208 page exposition of the book of Amos, with a short introduction. It is subtitled, "the Day of the Lion", drawing on Amos’ striking image of God as a fearsome Lion roaring out before he pounces on his prey.

The Introduction

Amos is introduced to us as a prophet living in similar days to our own – a society of affluence, exploitation and greed for profit. It was also a religious society, yet one that didn’t really care how far standards had fallen. Amos was effectively a prophet of doom – the people assumed they had privilege and security when in fact they were in peril.

One of the key themes of the book is the importance of ‘evidences’ to accompany the claim to be God’s people. Religion is repulsive and useless if not verified by evidences. Motyer does not believe though that Amos was prophesying an end to the covenant, but rather that the curses of the covenant were coming into effect.

The Commentary

The commentary takes the form of an exposition rather than merely an exegesis of the text, and Motyer unashamedly takes Amos’ message to be directly relevant to Christians today.

As he goes through the first chapter of Amos, which starts pronouncing judgments on the foreign nations around Israel, he shows how God judges these nations according to how they have treated their fellow man, irrespective of the fact that they have not been recipients of the same special relation as Israel.

But these judgements on the surrounding nations are in fact a noose of judgment that is tightening around their own necks. Israel’s sins are revealed as covetousness, indifference, oppression and self-importance – the very same sins the surrounding nations have been condemned for.

Motyer tackles the subject of "vengeance" within the covenant – yes there are blessings associated with the covenant, but there are also curses. He cites the churches in Revelation as examples that this truth still holds valid even in the New Testament era.

On Amos 5, there is an interesting section dealing with the way the Israelites flocked to visit shrines at Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba. These were places that God had met with the patriarchs, and there was an almost superstitious assumption that by visiting these places, they would meet God. But they were returning from their pilgrimage unchanged. They needed to make God himself, not Bethel, their place of pilgrimage.

Ultimately, Motyer shows us that Amos is speaking to a people whose religion was simply one of self-pleasing and pretence. The lack of justice (right behaviour in respect to fellow man) in society was evidence of the shallowness of their religion.


The main strength of this exposition is the way that the challenge of Amos’ message is taken seriously for today, both at the level of the church and for society in general. He cites global corporations forcing small local companies out of business and our lack of care for the environment as examples of the same kind of selfishness that characterised those who Amos spoke to.


Not a criticism as such but, one subject that will probably raise questions in the minds of readers is the relationship between law and grace, and how this applies to those in the New Covenant. Motyer does tackle this subject, and talks of the "law of grace" and the "grace of law". It is obviously a subject on which there are a spectrum of opinions amongst Christians, but I think he maintains a good balance here that does justice to the message of Amos without ignoring the rest of the biblical witness on grace. Here is a quote concerning Amos’ vision of the plumb-line to give a flavour for his approach:

When the Lord draws near with the plumb-line … [it is] to declare condemned all who try to live by law and forget grace, to declare equally condemned those who have sought after the grace of the sacrifices but who have forgotten the righteousness and the justice of the law, but to accept all those who have constructed the fabric their lives according to the horizontal foundation of grace and according to the vertical erectness of law. The plumb-line will try such and pass them as approved.

Why Buy It?

As usual with the Bible Speaks Today series, this is well suited for those who want to personally study or teach their way through a book of the Bible. It is valuable to have the necessary background (historical, cultural, geographical etc) explained where relevant so you can properly grasp the force of the message of Amos.