I generally do not spend much time with books that I would classify as devotional guides, because it is so common to find them to be full of Christian principles that are only loosely connected to the Bible reading for the day. Carson reverses this trend. He tends to spend most of his time helping the reader to interpret important elements of the verses that they have encountered in their Bible reading.
For the Love of God by D. A. Carson lives up to its subtitle, “A Daily Companion for Discovering the Treasures of God’s Word.” These two volumes are set up to follow M’Cheyne’s daily Bible reading plan, which consists of four chapters per day. In volume 1, Carson comments on one of the first two chapters for the day. In volume 2, he comments on one of the last two chapters for the day. This is a convenient setup. If you only want to read two chapters per day, you only need to have one of Carson’s volumes in your possession. Carson’s volumes are rich in biblical theology. The reader will learn a lot about how to read the Bible and relate its various parts to the whole. Carson’s guidance will also make your daily Bible reading more productive.
One example that jumps out to me is Carson’s treatment of Ezekiel 40-48. These are probably not your favorite Bible chapters. They relate to Ezekiel’s vision of a new Temple in a renewed land. There is a lot of measuring of the Temple and details about the setup of the land. Carson rightly perceives that the reader will be at a loss as to what to do with these chapters. Therefore, he spends two days commenting on different common views regarding how to interpret Ezekiel 40-48 (see vol. 2, October 8-9).
Here is the view that Carson prefers:
“It is better, but messier to take these chapters as belonging to the borderlands of apocalyptic literature and typology. The symbolism includes numerical features; its future-orientation springs not from mere verbal prediction or simplistic symbolism, but from structures of patterns and events that point forward. We have glimpsed this sort of thing in chapters 38-39, depicting the final battle, when God sovereignly moves to destroy all his foes. Read this way, chapters 40-48 envisage the messianic future, but in the symbolic categories of Ezekiel’s present. The temple is a kind of enactment or incarnation of the presence and blessing of God in the age for which pious Israelites yearned. On this view, the theological themes and pastoral comforts of these chapters include: (a) God’s presence remains continuously as the fount of all blessing. (b) God’s people are perfectly restored, the perfection of his plan and of their experience bound up with the perfection of symmetry in the building. (c) Because God is perfectly present, fullness of life and fruitfulness flow from God’s presence to all the barren places of the earth. This is a transformed universe. (d) The worship of God is central, and undertaken exactly as God demands. (e) Justice and righteousness are the order of the day, seen in the perfect allotment of land and responsibilities.
If this is largely right, the ultimate hope lies at the very end of history—but that end has already invaded history itself, in these last days. The consummation is not yet, but the kingdom has dawned.”
As you can see from Carson’s comments here (and his previous comments), he intends to relate Ezekiel 40-48 to the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22. However, he also wants to relate Ezekiel 40-48 to what is happening in the present time.
The quotation above brings out the distinction between Carson’s two volumes and other Bible reading companions. Even if you do not agree with Carson’s view, he has presented you with something to think about. My wife and I have recommended this book to a lot of people. It is one of those books that we like to have on hand in order to place it in the hands of someone who is eager to know the Bible better.