I have to confess that my first thought when I saw Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin mentioned favorably around the blogosphere was, “Hey! She took my title!” That’s not a very spiritual reaction, I know. 🙂 I’ve been blessed to have been able to compile a ladies’ newsletter for our current church for a couple of years and for a former church for about 9 years, and one column I’ve had in it for a long time has gone by that same title, “Women of the Word.” It began after a discussion about devotions during one of our ladies’ meetings and the realization that no matter how long one has been a believer, there are always going to be struggles either maintaining a devotional time or making it what it ought to be. So I began the column to encourage ladies along that line and have begun to wonder lately if perhaps I might put them all together and see if they might possibly form a book.
My second thought, after reading a little bit about this book, was that I must get it. Everything I’d heard about it indicated that the author had the same passion as I do for getting women into the Word of God.
And the book definitely did not disappoint in any way.
Jen is not content to just get you into the Bible, however. She wants to equip women to dig for the true meaning of the Bible rather than using the Xanax approach (just seeking something to get through the day) or any number of other faulty approaches. She reminds us that God wants us to love Him not just with our hearts and souls, but also with our minds. She says that when she first began to read her Bible, she approached it with questions like, “Who am I?” and “What should I do?” Though the Bible did give her some insight for those questions, she eventually realized that “I held a subtle misunderstanding about the very nature of the Bible. I believed that the Bible was a book about me…I believed the purpose of the Bible was to help me” (p. 24). She learned that “We must read and study the Bible with our ears trained on hearing God’s declaration of Himself” (p. 26).
When I read that God is slow to anger, I realize that I am quick to anger. When I realize that God is just, I realize that I am unjust. Seeing who He is shows me who I am in a true light. A vision of God high and lifted up reveals to me my sin and increases my love for Him. Grief and love lead to genuine repentance, and I begin to be conformed to the image of the One I behold.
If I read the Bible looking for myself in the text before I look for God there, I may indeed learn that I should not be selfish. I may even try harder not to be selfish. But until I see my selfishness through the lens of the utter unselfishness of God, I have not properly understood its sinfulness (pp. 26-27).
“It’s possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story” (p. 11). In our quest for Biblical literacy, “we may develop habits of engaging the text that at best do nothing to increase literacy and at worst actually work against it” (p. 37). “We must be those who build on the rock-solid foundation of mind-engaging process, rather than on the shifting sands of ‘what this verse means to me’ subjectivity” (p. 87).
The author then shares ways to read the text within the context and to read it for comprehension, interpretation, and application. There is an excellent chapter as well for teachers, one section of which makes an excellent case for women Bible teachers. She appears to believe, as I do, that women should teach women rather than men, but she gives some excellent reasons why women should teach other women.
I also appreciated how she dealt with an issue in the conclusion that I have seen some up in just the last couple of years. These days, when you try to encourage Bible reading and study or try to bring to bear what the Bible says on a conversation, you can sometimes be accused of “worshiping the Bible.” Jen answers:
I want to be conformed to the image of God. How can I become conformed to an image I never behold? I am not a Bible-worshiper, but I cannot truly be a God-worshiper without loving the Bible deeply and reverently. Otherwise, I worship an unknown God. A Bible-worshiper loves an object. A God-worshiper loves a person (p. 147).
In short, I love this book and highly recommend it. I do more than recommend it: I don’t often do this, but I encourage you to get it. I’m more than happy that the title I was considering using for a book has been attached to such a one as this.
I’ll close with one last quote:
We must make a study of our God: what He loves, what He hates, how He speaks and acts. We cannot imitate a God whose features and habits we have never learned. We must make a study of Him if we want to be like Him. We must seek His face…
We see Him for who He is, which is certainly a reward in itself, but it is a reward with the secondary benefit of being forever altered by the vision (p. 150).
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)