Any book that sets out to unite the explicit Gospel of the New Testament with the implicit moving of God in the Hebrew Scriptures is going to get my attention. And ‘Memoirs of the Way Home’ by Professor Gerald Bilkes does exactly that. I am saddened that all too often, Christians are reluctant to mine the depths of the Old Testament in search for the undeniable working of our sovereign God in His unfolding drama of redemption. This book dives into the Hebrew Scriptures, and not even to the low-hanging fruit, but deep down into the neglected books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Professor Bilkes takes the reader on a journey beginning with the nation of Israel, held captive in a foreign land, led free at first by Ezra with subsequent waves eventually bringing Nehemiah to the home he longed to help restore. The book is littered with Scripture, both from the Old and New Testaments and testifies to the author’s thorough understanding of the subject and the significance of God’s restoring of Israel. The book is not a commentary and should not really be compared to as such. It really is telling of the God’s activity in the reconciliation of His people to Himself, focusing specifically on the characters of Ezra and Nehemiah and how so much of their combined stories applies to our personal lives.
This book, with the recap questions following each chapter, is probably best suited for individuals that desire to understand the God’s Gospel of reconciliation and for study groups interested in the same discussion. Students of the Word looking to exegete Ezra and Nehemiah could probably look elsewhere for better resources as a means to that endeavor. I enjoyed the book and do recommend it as a worthy addition to any theological library.
‘Memoirs’ does have a couple of issues however. First, and this may fall to the publisher-I could find no reference to which translation of the Bible Professor Bilkes quotes from. Perhaps he has translated the text himself, and if he has done so, I would have liked to know that before hand. Regardless, I think it is a potentially dangerous practice to quote as much Biblical text as he has without citing which translation this comes from and if permission has been granted to the author to use said text. Secondly, the prose can be laborious at times. I buy into the vision the author was providing the reader, but at times it comes of more like a clunky sermon than a smooth narrative of God’s desire to redeem a rebellious people. Finally, and this is rather minute, but in the introduction to the book, the author tries to connect the Parable of the Prodigal Son with the return of Israel from captivity-and I can see the connection. However, he also references the prodigal son as being ‘dead’ and thus without a free will to return on his own. I fully support the Reformed understanding of the will, but this text is not the text to make this argument and the book would have been better had it been left out.
Overall, an easy recommendation from this review.
By way of disclosure, a copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in return for an honest evaluation, which I have provided.