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Book Review: Surprised by Grace

29 Sep

Recently, I’ve become more and more interested in how Jesus is pointed to in the Old Testament. The other day I saw a small YouTube clip where Tim Keller was briefly showing how all of the Bible is about Jesus. Beginning with Adam all the way through the prophets, priests and kings the Old Testament is about Jesus. For example, we often hear the story of David and Goliath taught as one that primarily should encourage us to slay our giants (sin, problems, idols, etc), but actually David is a type of Christ here. Jesus is the one who has beaten our greatest enemy while we were helpless and afraid like the rest of the Israelites.

So, all of this has been stirring my interest and then this new book by Tullian Tchividjian comes out. It’s a book about the book of Jonah called: Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels

As soon as I got it I noticed that the book felt and looked good (this doesn’t always mean the content follows suit, just an observation).

I did not know what to expect on starting this book; having never read a book by this author before. Reading through the introduction Tullian immediatley takes us to the gospel and helpfully tells us of our ongoing need of the gospel at every point in our life. He moves from this to where Jonah comes in as “a storied presentation of the gospel.” How Jonah actually has much to offer, in story form, about what the gospel is and it’s implications for us.

Wow, what a great grasp of Biblical Theology! This book drew me in right from the beginning. As I began reading Chapter 1 I started to realize that this is a very clever book. It is in many ways a commentary on the book of Jonah. The entire book is written around the text of Jonah and the flow of it. In fact, you could call it an expository book. While being like a commentary in following the flow of the text it is so much different than the average commentary in that so much of it is directed to us and to the gospel of God’s grace. It helps us to step back and lift our eyes from merely the events recounted in Jonah and see the full picture of God’s gracious plan of redemption, His gracious pursuit of rebels, being played out and foreshadowed in this story.

We may come to the book of Jonah thinking it will “be a thrilling scene-by-scene unfolding of how an obedient messenger courageously carries God’s warning to the very face of his enemies – followed up perhaps by plenty of wrath-of-God fireworks? But already we’re in for a second huge surprise in this narrative.” Tullian shows us how the people of Ninevah, Jonah, us and the rest of the world are the ones in need of God’s gracious pursuit! And pursue and save He does!

Taking a look at the Table of Contents really helps you get a feel for what the book will be about:

A Cure for Gospel Confusion


The Story’s Beginning: God Calls

Scene 1: In a Great Storm

Scene 2: In a Great Fish


A New Beginning: Again, God Calls

Scene 3: In a Great City

Scene 4: In a Great Rage

Scene 5: Outside and Alone

Part Three: NEVER-ENDING SURPRISE The Larger Scene: The Gospel according to Jonah

The Later Scenes: Something Greater than Jonah

I have been very pleasantly surprised by this book and the grace of God so powerfully pointed to in it. I highly recommend this book and hope that the book of Jonah will become for you what it has become for Tullian, he says: “I’ve come to deeply appreciate the book of Jonah. I can honestly say that through this book I’ve seen the gospel – and allowed it to work in my life – in ways I’ve never before experienced.”