In Honour of Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019)
I had the great privilege of being one of Warren Wiersbe’s many students. I studied under him in a class called; “Imagination and the Quest for Biblical Preaching”. Warren began by presenting the class with two preachers – one who failed at his task, and one who succeeded. He was speaking of Ahithophel the Gilonite and Hushai the Archite. We read about these two men in 2 Samuel 17.
Wiersbe said that at the outset, it would seem that Ahithophel’s sermon would surely sway Absalom, the young man who was seeking to lead a rebellion against his father, King David. After all, the Bible teaches us that in those days, “Ahithophel’s counsel was as if one consulted the word of God.” Furthermore, Absalom was disposed to trusting in the counsel of his most esteemed advisor.
With a skill I had never witnessed, Wiersbe dissected the difference between the counsel of the two advisors.
Ahithophel presented Absalom with the facts he needed, but Hushai presented an alternative counsel in language replete with images, and a call for Absalom to imagine himself as a great conqueror in the battle with David. Hushai spoke of the army of Absalom that was coming upon David as the dew falls on the ground. He presented David as an enraged man, like a bear robbed of her cubs. In the end, he told Absalom of his victorious leadership uniting all of Israel from Dan to Beersheba. Wiersbe pointed out that even though it is clear that Hushai’s counsel was bad counsel intended to lead Absalom to defeat, he succeeded because of his ability to appeal to Absalom’s imagination.
With that as an introduction, Wiersbe then took us through large sections of Scripture, showing the class how the Bible frequently appeals to images that excite the reader’s imagination. He showed us how the Bible not only presents us with God’s truth, but that it does so in a manner that engages us deeply. Whether it was the image in James of illicit desire conceiving and giving birth to sin – then growing up to become death, or Paul’s image of Israel as broken off branches of an olive tree – Wiersbe was fascinating. I told my wife that after taking Warren’s class, I had a distinct feeling that I had never read the Bible before.
Warren Wiersbe was both the Bible Teacher and General Director of Back to the Bible from 1980-1990.
He wrote over 150 books. His well-known “Be Series” covered the entire New Testament and most books in the Old Testament. In his distinguished life of service, he was a pastor, educator, author, and a radio Bible teacher. Most importantly, Warren Wiersbe was a devoted follower of Jesus who was thoroughly committed to the Scriptures. In his own words, he said, “I had developed an insatiable appetite for the Word of God, and I wanted to study and understand the Bible more than anything else in all the world.”
His impact at Back to the Bible is profound.
Warren Wiersbe passed into the presence of Jesus on May 2, 2019, at the age of 89. We here at Back to the Bible Canada are grateful beyond words to our Saviour for having blessed this ministry with such an able servant of the word.
Dr. John Neufeld
Bible teacher, Back to the Bible Canada