Today I am fulfilling something of a dream! Albeit a sad one.
Due to my love of books I often find myself day dreaming about how great it would be to get paid for reading books. Unfortunately I am not getting paid for this, but Evangelical Press did send me a free book to review for their ‘Sounding the depths book review blog tour’ from 10th-14th February.
Sounding the Depths is a short collection of six expository messages on John 17 (Jesus’ High Priestly prayer) preached by Dr. Michael Milton at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rather than moving through the passage verse by verse however, Dr Milton moved through the passage topically as displayed by the chapter titles – Jesus’ prayer of compassion, If the truth be known, Four myths about submission in the Christian life, Five facts of true Christian faith, Humbled to death and Trusting in the Christ who prays for you.
Milton is both a scholar and a pastor, having served in a number of seminaries and churches. Currently he is the teaching pastor for Truth that Transforms, a Christian radio programme.
Initially, I must say I was disappointed with ‘Sounding the Depths’.
To begin with I was a bit letdown by the chapter titles. They are perhaps some of the driest chapter titles I have read – especially on the back of the intriguing title ‘Sounding the Depths’. This does not encourage you to read further.
Secondly, ‘Sounding the Depths’ read very much like a sermon manuscript at times. It appeared like there was little to no editing. It read as it would be said. This irritated me and if I had purchased the book I would feel somewhat robbed. I would not want to purchase unedited sermon manuscripts.
Finally, some sections were excessively repetitive. Philippians 2 made an appearance in most chapters, and naturally more than once or twice in chapter five (Humbled to Death). While there is no harm in appealing to a passage which complements the current passage, a consistent appeal to one other passage in particular muddies the water so to speak.
However, having continued to read, I am glad I did so.
Jesus prayer for his disciples (both the 12 and all who follow) is a magnificent portion of Scripture. To consider the fact that Jesus prayed for us, to have an extended insight into the Son praying to the Father and to have someone with the pastoral heart of Milton walk you through it is edifying.
The first strength of ‘Sounding the Depths’ was Milton’s use of illustrative material. He begins chapter one by speaking about knowing the words of a song, but forgetting the tune. We have all had that experience – knowing the words of a particular song but forgetting the tune, forgetting how it goes. This, Milton says, happens all too often in the Christian life – we know the ‘words’ but forget the tune, melody, music of it all. This continued as throughout Milton makes use of excellent illustrative material which draws us into his message and strikes home his application.
Secondly, each chapter ends with some discussion questions and a short prayer. These facets of the book are much appreciated. The questions always push you to think beyond what has been stated in the chapter and the prayers consistently show the pastoral heart of Milton. Both these aspects, when time is given to them, impress upon the reading the central truths of the chapters.
Thirdly, there are several excellent sections within the book that touch on significant issues in today’s culture. In particular I found his discussion on truth in chapter two, submission in chapter three and Jesus praying for his disciples in chapter six of benefit. I appreciated greatly Milton displaying the glory of submission and felt keenly my reluctance to submit in all areas of my life to God. Although, as chapter six explains, to have Jesus pray for you is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the prayer, and indeed this book. The book is probably worth its price for chapter six alone.
In the introduction we are told by Rev. John Guest, “It is an amazing thing to hear the Lord Jesus praying to the Father when you realise that ‘He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature’ (Heb. 1:3)”. And it is.
On a number of occasions, Milton says that we are only in the foothills of God’s glory with his study, and we are, but it is worth taking that journey, even to the foothills.
This is not the best book I have ever read. Nonetheless, it was worth the read, even if only it reminds us once again of Jesus’ High Priestly prayer for his Saints. To be reminded that Jesus not only consistently intercedes for us, but while on earth prayed for us before we existed, warms the heart inexpressibly.
So, if you are a keen reader this book won’t take long and you should probably read it. If you aren’t such a keen reader, find something else to read that will be more rewarding for the time invested in reading it.