Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan EdwardsWritten by Owen Strachan Reviewed By Karin Spiecker Stetina
Like many people, I was introduced to Jonathan Edwards in an English literature anthology in high school as a cold-hearted fire and brimstone Puritan who preached about God’s wrath. The powerful images in the abridged version of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” supported this thesis well: “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; … there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell. O sinner!” In his new devotional, Always in God’s Hands: Day by Day in the Company of Jonathan Edwards, Owen Strachan seeks to overturn this bleak image by revealing a spiritual mentor who has a deep understanding of God’s gracious mercy and providence. In this inspirational day by day devotional, Strachan allows the reader to walk in the company of one of the greatest theologians and biblical pastors in American history by providing powerful, nurturing reflections on various quotes from Edwards’s sermons, letters, books, blank Bible, personal writings and more. Strachan’s entries provide the reader with biblical insights from a man who “is an inspiring motivator, counselor, and guide into the wonders of the God-made world” and our heavenly hope (p. viii). These devotions encourage the reader to follow in the footsteps of a man who desired more than anything to live for the glory of God.
Owen Strachan is an associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is considered an up and coming Jonathan Edwards scholar, having written several important works on the Puritan, including the five-volume series co-authored with Douglas Sweeney, The Essential Edwards Collection (Chicago: Moody, 2010).
This volume serves as a great companion to Kyle Strobel’s earlier practical work on Edwards, Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013). While Strobel focuses on Edwards as a model for Christian living, this book presents approximately 30,000 of Edwards’s words with Strachan’s practical reflections on them. Both books have the same ultimate goal: mining the thoughts and spiritual practices of Edwards for direction in living a life for the glory of God. Strachan’s insightful devotions, chock full of biblical precepts and practical wisdom, are appealing to scholars and popular audiences alike. You do not need to be an Edwards scholar to glean spiritual insights from these daily readings. He covers timeless topics such as the Trinity, justification, sanctification, temptations, anxiety, faith, eternal hope, election, love, the authority of Scripture, and many more. The author concludes each entry with a Scripture passage that relates to that day’s entry.
The one-page entries are deep and practical. They are written for a broad audience that will draw the mind and heart into contemplation of the glories of the Triune God. For instance, reflecting on Edwards’s meditation on the Trinity and God’s happiness, Strachan writes,
Knowing the character of God reframes our spiritual life. God is whole and pure; we are not. He is divine, and infinite, and holy. He deserves worship, not us or any other fallen person. Nothing in this world, however much we may appreciate it, qualifies as God: we dare not worship the creation, the human body, the mind, the scientific accomplishments of humanity, athletes, celebrities, or anything other than God. It is the perfect character of God that causes us to find total and unceasing happiness in him. We are never more like God than when we love, and rejoice in his essence and perfections. (p. 185)
He then follows this with Jeremiah 32:27. Gems like this are scattered throughout this work. While some of the daily entries are not as profound as others, the reader will discover many life-changing biblical insights throughout this work. The reader should be aware that Edwards’s quotes are not modernized, making some of them challenging to read. Strachan’s reflections, however, help one focus on the key insights within the passages. This daily devotional offers a venue for becoming conversant with Jonathan Edwards’s varied corpus of writings, while simultaneously encouraging readers to glorify God by living a life of joyful obedience.
Karin Spiecker Stetina
Karin Spiecker Stetina
Talbot School of Theology
La Mirada, California, USA
Other Articles in this Issue
A Generous Reading of John Locke: Reevaluating His Philosophical Legacy in Light of His Christian Confessionby C. Ryan Fields
Locke is often presented as an eminent forerunner to the Enlightenment, a philosopher who hastened Europe’s departure from Christian orthodoxy and “turned the tide” toward a modern, secularist orientation...