James M. Hamilton Jr. Work and Our Labor in the Lord. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, January 31st, 2017. 144 pp.
5 out of 5
Over the years there has been more books coming out on a biblical view of work and vocation but what I like about this particular work is that the author James M. Hamilton Jr. takes a biblical theology approach to the topic. By biblical theology I mean a study of what Scripture has to say with the consideration of the progressive revelation of the Bible in terms of redemptive history and the canonical context of passages that is cited. I have been enjoying more and more books taking a biblical theological approach to a subject as it helps avoid some of the claims that systematic theology is merely engaged in proof text.
The book is divided into four chapters. The first chapter covered God’s design for work in creation, the second on work in a fallen world with the next chapter on work in God’s kingdom inaugurated and the final chapter on work in the new heavens and earth. This is a neat way of organizing the book in terms of the four epochs of Scripture.
Chapter one was very good and I don’t know how anyone could read chapter one would not want to finish the rest of the book. Here Hamilton looks at God’s original design of work before sin ever entered the picture. Hamilton moves from Psalm 128, Genesis 1-2 and also Deuteronomy 28:1-14. Readers might wonder why Deuteronomy 28 is under this chapter but Hamilton makes the point that Deuteronomy 28 gives us a glimpse of what life would have been like under God’s blessing in a sort of Edenic state.
Chapter two covers work in a fallen world. Here I thought the author did a good job of incorporating the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes into his biblical theology of work since often wisdom literature is neglected in “biblical theology” of a topic. While he acknowledges that these two books and the passages cited might not necessarily unfold redemptive history nevertheless they are still important since it shows the reality of work in a gritty fallen world and these work with the authorial intent of book books being meant to promise and encourage us to still work hard. Towards the end of the chapter Hamilton also looked at Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah and Ruth inters of their work and in regards to the first three how they were anticipatory types of Christ.
Chapter three looks at work from the standpoint of the reality that Christ has risen from the grave. In the beginning of the chapter Hamilton makes it clear that while he will look at many instructions for this chapter yet he’s not trying to preach legalism. In order to avoid legalism it is important for readers to understand all the instructions “against a wider backdrop of Christ’ work and victory on the cross…” The first set of verses examined addresses what Christians are not to do in relations to work. The second set of verses then looks at a positive presentation of what Christian work should look like.
Chapter four looks at work in the context of restoration. Half of the first chapter gives a Christian view of the restoration and general eschatology. This lays the foundation for the second half that examine the more specific passages concerning work in the New Heaven and New Earth. These include ruling and priestly roles. I do think this is one of the weaker chapters in the book. Largely I think he could have utilized more passages but I think this might largely be due to the author’s hermeneutics that see more symbolism concerning the end times and eternal state than what I’m comfortable with.
Overall a good read. I recommend it.
NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Crossway and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.