God’s Presence in the Wilderness

Book Details

Discerning Reader Editorial Review

Reviewed 01/15/2008 by Tim Challies.

Recommended. Here is an energetic commentary that guides expository preachers through the book, employing a Christ-centered hermeneutic.

I have never preached through the book of Numbers, although I have taught a few lessons on the book in the past in an overview sort of lesson. Nor do I own more than a few reference works on this book.

So, I picked up this volume with some bit of excitement for learning new things. I already have a great appreciation for the “Preaching the Word” commentary series. Most of the volumes I own in this series are written by Kent Hughes (who is also the General Editor of the series), but this volume comes from the pen of Iain Duguid. He is Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California and co-pastor of Grace Presbyterian church in Fallbrook.

The book of Numbers contains 36 chapters and this commentary contains 37. So it is fair to say that Duguid keeps up a good pace as he moves through the text. Keep in mind that this commentary series has proven to be of great benefit in helping expository preachers gain a feeling for how to break down books into individual sermons. Too much text or too little? This is not always an easy decision, and I am always glad to have gifted expositors around to show me how they have done it. We are not to be slaves to the work of others, but neither should we be so prideful as to always reinvent the organizational wheel. I have taken some texts under the microscope of 3-4 sermons that in retrospect should have been handled (at least by me) in one or two.

Duguid says that he himself was hardly an expert on the book of Numbers:

“Before I began work on this volume, I had little exposure to the book of Numbers. I had never preached on a text from Numbers, nor, as far as I know, had I ever even heard a sermon on the book of Numbers. …When I told another Old Testament professor that I was currently preaching through the book, he expressed the opinion that it was scarcely meant to be preached.”

And here is how Duguid explains his approach to the book:

“I understand the central message of the Scriptures from the beginning to end to be the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. I believe that a Christ-centered approach to preaching, which seeks to explore the way in which Old Testament passages prepare for and foreshadow the gospel, makes its truths accessible again to God’s people. This approach feeds the hearts and souls of believers, as well as challenging unbelievers, with the result that even less familiar passages can speak powerfully to our congregations.

What I found as I proceeded was that the book of Numbers confronted us week by week with the challenge to live faithfully as pilgrims and aliens in a wilderness world and the encouragement to look to the One who has gone through this wilderness world ahead of us.”

With such a perspective guiding Duguid in his writing, I look forward to reading through the remainder of this text. As with all the commentaries in this series, reading a chapter always has the feel of reading a vibrant expository sermon. There are illustrations, anecdotes, cross-references, and homiletical development.

I’ve never met a “Preaching the Word” commentary I did not like, and this one gets a thumbs up too.