Friday, October 25, 2013

"Memoirs of the Way Home": A Review

This is my review of Memoirs of the Way Home: Ezra & Nehemiah as a Call to Conversion by Gerald Bilkes:

On the Amazon website I gave this book only 3 stars out of a possible five. However, upon reflection,  I think my relatively low rating is more a result of perhaps unrealistic expectations on my part, rather than any fault in the book itself.

This book is a Bible study on the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell the story of the return of the Jewish people from Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the Temple and the City of Jerusalem. I have long been a fan of those books, having found much inspiration in them. In fact, I've long considered Ezra 7:10 to be my "life verse," a description of how I see God working in my life. Therefore, I was excited when I saw Cross Focused Reviews offering this work for bloggers to read and review.

I have two positive comments about this book, and one disappointing negative one.

1), This is a good basic introduction to two important, but relatively little known, books of the Bible, The author more than adequately covers and explains the historical situation and events involved the the return from exile. Reading this book, in conjunction with the two Biblical texts, will give someone unfamiliar with this period of history good introduction that will help you get much more from your reading of the Scripture texts.

2.) The author does a good job in drawing spiritual lessons from the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah, lessons on leadership, ministry, character growth and faithfulness to the Lord. Learning these things can help any believer, and especially those serving in leadership roles. He also highlights the typology of the books, bringing out the fulfillment of their themes in the ministry of Christ, at least for the typology relating to the spiritual life of individual believers. Which brings me to my negative comment.

3). I started  this book hoping for and expecting a placement of these stories in the big picture, the overall salvation history of the Bible. I wanted to explore how these characters and stories fit into the overall arc of the Bible, the Eden to Jesus to Kingdom of God arc, the promise to Abraham to fulfillment by the Seed of Abraham (Jesus) story. I was expecting the author to explore how the themes of exodus, promised land, exile and restoration reverberate through out the Bible. I wanted him to interact with recent scholarship on these subjects.  None of this is in this book. I was probably wrong to expect it, but I was disappointed, hence the low 3 star rating.

For what he sets out to do, as expressed in the sub-title, the author does a good job. If you read the book with that expectation, I think you will be pleased. My expectations were higher and broader, and I therefore felt let down. You should know what you are getting before purchasing and reading this book.

(Note- I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from Cross-Focused Reviews. See my book review policy)