Bryan D. Estelle
Reviewed by: Jonathan Stark
Date posted: 10/08/2006
Salvation through Judgment and Mercy, by Bryan D. Estelle. Published by P&R Publishing, 2005. Paperback, 157 pages, list price $12.99. Reviewed by Jonathan Stark, an elder at Immanuel OPC in West Allegheny, Pa.
Through the generosity of her parents, my wife and I spent a memorable: (and slightly decadent) Christmas holiday aboard the Sapphire Princess as it cruised the warm western coast of Mexico. The weather was gorgeous, the company wonderful, and the food - well, I am unlikely to have food that delicious again this side of glory. But having said that, I can honestly say also that reading this book was one of the high points of the trip. I realize that any book will improve when read under blue Pacific skies with a tangy salt breeze riffling the pages, especially a book about seafaring Jonah. But this volume would have been a treat even in my dim, spider-haunted study in winter-bitten Pittsburgh.
Despite its relatively small size, Salvation through Judgment and Mercy offers much to the pastor, the Sunday school teacher, or even the layperson wishing to understand Jonah better. Though not a weighty book, it is a meaty one. In his unpretentious and sometimes humorous style, Dr. Estelle clearly explains the significance of Jonah for God's people today. His focus is very much on the church. Like all of God's Word, Jonah was written for our instruction, and the author writes not to impress us, but to instruct us. He gives Jonah a self-consciously Christ-centered reading, like the other volumes of this series, "The Gospel according to the Old Testament."
His exegesis is Christ-centered, but careful and free from interpretive flights of fancy or mere allegorizing. His approach is rooted in the belief that Scripture interprets Scripture, and he puts this belief into practice consistently and helpfully. His knowledge of Hebrew, of archaeology, and of literary criticism assist him considerably in this, but he appeals to this more technical knowledge only when it has a significant bearing on his interpretation. When he introduces a technical term, he defines it clearly and illustrates it. And while he knows and engages the scholarly writings on Jonah, his main interest is not in scholarly debate. Rather, everything is subservient to explaining what Jonah is all about, to the end that we believe and live to the glory of God.
Even the appearance of the book serves the end of instructing the people of God. The type is easy to read, and the chapters have been divided into convenient subsections. While I wish the publisher had provided an index, I found the questions for reflection at the end of each chapter helpful. Study groups can make good use of them too.
Dr. Estelle has done a great service to the church in writing this book. You should read it, even if you're not on a cruise, and explore the infinite "depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God."