Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On This Foundation

Looking for that one last Christmas present for the avid reader in your life?  Lynn Austin's third book On This Foundation in her "The Restoration Chronicles" series is a definite "yes" for anyone wanting to see the sparse words of Scripture come alive in historical fiction. 

In the first book Return to Me, Austin follows a family living in Babylon at the time when King Cyrus takes over the nation and decrees the Jewish exiles can return to their homeland and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  The pages track the struggles and persecutions those exiles endured upon their return. 

The second book in the series Keepers of the Covenant tracks the life of the prophet Ezra as he must lead the Jewish remnant living in Babylon back home to Jerusalem.

This third book continues forward in time, this time with the prophet Nehemiah and his quest to rebuild the fire-burned gates and stone walls of Jerusalem, which were destroyed when the Babylonians lay siege to the city before the people's exile.

As expected, Nehemiah meets with fierce opposition from the surrounding nations' leaders, some of whom want to rule Jerusalem, themselves.  What Nehemiah doesn't expect, though, is opposition from within, and he quickly learns he cannot even trust his own people, some of whom are related by marriage to his enemies.

As the wall rapidly takes shape, the reader follows the background story of a nation-wide drought and subsequent famine that leaves the poorer families with no choice but to sell their own blood as bond servants to the richer landholders in order to survive.

Austin's bringing to life the pages of Nehemiah in Scripture is, as always, enthralling and so very real.  The themes of forgiveness, perseverance, obedience to all of God's laws, and prayer intertwine into one fluid story. 

For instance, in one passage, the bondservant Nava bucks against her plight, her words sounding so similar to ones I've felt myself at times.  She says, "Sometimes I wonder if God is angry with me.  Why else would He put my family and me through all this hardship?  He could send rain, make our crops grow--He can do anything.  But he doesn't" (p. 323).   

Simon responds, "So you do believe in Him.  You just don't trust Him.  And you want your own way....These goats sometimes kick and fight and want their own way.  When we take them out to graze and make them walk through the hot, dry wilderness, they don't like it.  But we know it's for their own good to go up into those hills.  They'll find what they  need there.  You can either trust the Good Shepherd, girlie, or kick and fight.  Seems to me you're kicking" (p. 323).

Powerful words to ponder...