Shelf Life Book Review: The Message Study Bible

Elliot Ritzema

The Message Study Bible
NavPress, 2012

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The Message Study Bible is a new edition of The Message, Eugene Peterson’s contemporary rendering of the Bible, with notes drawn from Peterson’s books, sermons and essays. Since Peterson has not written equally on all parts of the Bible, some biblical books have more notes than others. Even the reader who is familiar with all of Peterson’s books will discover new material, culled from unpublished writings. For the curious, the source for each note is given in the back.

While many study Bibles focus on connecting passages and giving background information on people, places, and things, The Message Study Bible takes a more contemplative, devotional track. Just like the text itself, Peterson’s notes emphasize the contemporary relevance of the Bible, inviting a personal response from the reader.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4


Jessi Gering

I spent a significant portion of my teenage years looking after other people’s children. I quickly discovered that the easiest way to end bickering and prompt students to do their homework was to give the kids whatever they wanted. I turned in my discipline card after a vegetable showdown with a 7-year-old and enrolled in the business of bribery. Twinkies and potato chips supplemented Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Strawberry Nesquik purchased fickle, childish goodwill. While I liked my young charges, I didn’t love them enough to stand up to them.


Parents instill boundaries because they want their children to grow up into healthy, balanced people who can both give and receive love. They withstand the demands of their children and discipline them when needed. Proverbs 3 tells us why:

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (3:11). 1

The goal of discipline is not to punish. Though some people fail at this, true discipline isn’t an expression of anger, and it’s not designed to cause harm. True discipline corrects, sparks change, spurs on growth and helps us become better people. Parents, motivated by love for their child, actually endure the pain of enforcing discipline, while lesser mortals can’t be bothered.

The writer of Hebrews draws on the Proverbs father’s wise words when he encourages his readers to struggle against sin. He says, “we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?… For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:9–11).

Often I react to pain the same way a child kicks against eating vegetables, studying and going to bed on time: avoidance. If I can keep myself out of difficult situations, I won’t have to react to them. Even more dangerously, if I can keep myself from reflecting too closely on my spiritual state, I won’t be required to change habits. If I can keep from getting too involved with my church, maybe no one will notice my shortcomings.

It’s difficult to chart spiritual growth in the midst of pain. I may see growth in retrospect, but while I’m experiencing it, all I want to do is return to my comfortable, pain-free and growth-free state. But being open to God’s work in my life means being open to His correction. We are not called to remain spiritual 7-year-olds, attempting to sneak broccoli off our plates. We are called to seek Christ and be changed into His likeness.

Want more out of your devotional time? Pick up Opening Up Proverbs by Jim Newheiser at

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation . Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 3

1. All biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Battling Voices

Wendy Widder

Proverbs opens on a battlefield of a young man’s life, where competing voices are vying for his heart. His father recognizes the power of words and their influence on his son. Wanting to combat these dangers, he adopts the voices of those who present the greatest threat to the young man—a malicious gang and a seductive woman. The father is accompanied in the pursuit of his son’s heart by both Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly, who speak truth and ignorance. Their speeches present the son with a choice:

Who Will You Listen to?

The Father


The father is a wise man, and his words are based on experience and verifiable facts. He does not distort or twist his words to persuade. He always has his son’s best interests in mind. Everything he says is spoken with honesty and exemplified in his own life.

The father distills his son’s greatest temptations into the spoken invitations of a gang (“men of perverted speech”) and a seductress (“the adulteress with her smooth words”; 2:12–16). By describing scenarios involving each, the father brings to life the destructive nature of speech as he seeks to help his son see what lies behind temptation.

The Gang

The gang invites the son to join them in violence against an innocent man: “Come … let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason” (1:11). A real gang is unlikely to describe their behavior in such terms, but since the father is the one speaking on behalf of the gang, he can expose the truth behind their words. The gang urges the son to throw in his lot with them: “We shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse” (1:13–14). The destructive power of their speech lies in its promise of easy gain through violence.

The Seductress

The sweet-talking woman and her “smooth” words drip honey (2:16, 5:3, 6:24). When she speaks in chapter seven, she vividly portrays the dangers lurking behind her words (7:12–20). There is little description of her appearance when she enters the scene with the “young man.” It is her speech—not her beauty—that seduces. She describes the extravagance of her bed, spread with fine linens and spices, and boldly invites him to have sex. She even provides a safety net—her husband is far away, and they will not be caught.

When her speech ends, the father tells his son the rest of the story. She persuades the man, but her house leads to destruction (see 2:18–19; 6:26–35). The young man pays for his pleasure with his life (7:22–27).

Lady Wisdom

The voice of Lady Wisdom is interspersed among the father’s lectures. On the heels of the gang’s enticement, she speaks to whomever will listen, and she warns of dire consequences should they ignore her voice (1:22–33). Later, she praises her own words and the effect they will have on those who embrace them (8:4–36). Unlike the seductress and the gang, she speaks candidly, uprightly and truthfully. Her words can be trusted—and when they are, the benefits exceed silver and fine gold (8:19).

Dame Folly

Alongside Lady Wisdom is Dame Folly. Her description is reminiscent of the seductress in chapter seven, but Dame Folly’s words are not smooth and sweet; they are loud and ignorant (9:13). She summons listeners with the same words as Lady Wisdom—“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (9:16; compare 9:4). But the rest of her speech reveals her true character. while Lady Wisdom invites the simple one to eat her bread and drink her wine and walk in the way of insight, Dame Folly extols the sweetness of stolen bread and water (9:17). Dame Folly is a cheap imitation of Lady Wisdom, and her invitation is one that leads to death.

Whether the son of Proverbs 1–9 matures into a wise man or lapses into an idiot will be determined by his ability to sort out the voices, evaluate their words and choose the right path. The interplay of speech highlights the need to truly listen. The one who chooses thoughtfully can turn the page to chapters 10–31, where wisdom for all of life can be learned.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4

Freedom and Response

Rebecca Van Noord

Micah 4:1–6:16; Acts 14:8–15:21; Job 23:1–17

Freedom from sin gives us the power to love. But freedom from poverty or oppression or guilt sometimes makes us complacent. We forget our inclination to wander away from God’s will and pursue our own, and we overlook that God will eventually call us to account. Although Micah prophesied during a time of prosperity in Israel, it was also a time of spiritual deficiency. The powerful were oppressing the weak (Mic 2:1–2; 3:2–3) politically and economically.


Micah holds Israel to account in this passage. The prophet paints a courtroom scene with God judging His people for their unfaithfulness: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does Yahweh ask from you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8).

The mountains and the hills listen as Yahweh accuses Israel, and the evidence He presents is startling. God has been active and present in His people’s lives, turning what was meant for evil into good. He brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt. When Balaam tried to curse Israel on behalf of Balak, the Moabite king, God turned that curse into blessing.

We know where we stand in the courtroom drama. Our sins condemn us, but God has provided new evidence that changes our fates. What prosecuting attorney becomes a defender of the accused—a mediator claiming their cause? Through His Son, God frees us from our sin. Indeed, we should say with awe and humility, “Who is a God like you?”

Our story should be a response of humility and love for God. What story will your life tell?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

Shelf Life Book Review: Revelation for Everyone

Clifford B. Kvidahl


Revelation for Everyone
Westminster John Knox Press, 2011

In the final installment of his For Everyone series, N.T. Wright offers his comments on the last book of the New Testament. Wright seeks to make the book of Revelation accessible to readers. He successfully explains passages without trivializing the text—something that makes this series valuable.

Wright includes his own translation of the original Greek. The commentary includes both exposition and application of the text, which reflects Wright’s role as a pastor more than his role as a scholar.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 5