Book review: Song of Redemption by Lynn Austin
Someone once said to me, “If you can’t fall asleep at night, try reading the books of Kings and Chronicles before switching off the light. It works like a charm.”
I never did try it, but I’ve just finished a historical novel about the reign of King Hezekiah of ancient Judah. Not only did it not put me to sleep, it kept me turning pages well into the small hours of the morning.
The story takes place during the period 716 BC to 687 BC. The southern Kingdom of Judah has lapsed into idol worship and the Temple at Jerusalem is in a state of disrepair. Under the guidance of his grandfather Zechariah, King Hezekiah resolves to restore both the Temple, and the people of Judah back to worshipping the one true God. However he has no idea of the magnitude of the task or the fierce opposition he will encounter.
After a brief, terrifying picture of the Assyrians invading the northern Kingdom of Israel, we are taken back to the yet peaceful Kingdom of Judah where the inhabitants are slowly turning towards idolatry. Few turn up at the Temple for the morning and evening sacrifice, the Levites are barely able to eke out a living, and the country is already paying heavy tribute to the Assyrians. And they are known to be marching in the direction of Jerusalem! Hezekiah makes unpopular choices and difficult decisions as he follows the path back to the true God.
As we Christians read the Bible from the distant perspective of the 21st century, it seems difficult to understand how God’s people fell into idolatry, especially to the unthinkable excesses of child sacrifice. Those people knew the true God. How did they allow themselves to be led into such evil?
In ancient times, the God of Israel was unlike any of those of the nations close by. They had exciting, interesting gods which they had fashioned themselves and which they could see. There were colourful ceremonies and enticing sexual activities which glamorized their whole existence. No doubt the Israelites felt like the odd man out, and were tempted to join in. Why try to constantly swim upstream to please an invisible God whose existence they began to doubt?
After reading this book, I’m sure it’s happening the same way today. God and the Bible are old fashioned and boring. The same old stories, the same old problems and as for Jesus, He hasn’t returned yet to put everything right. Is He for real, or should we just pull ourselves together and make life happen?
Lynn Austin breathes life into the characters of the Bible as she describes the hopes, fears, concerns and attitudes of those ancient peoples. The reader gets a sneaky feeling that we are not much different today.
‘Song of redemption’ is an inspiring book for modern Christian readers, a faith building experience and an excellent read.