Sunday, November 6, 2011
Review: Song of Redemption by Lynn Austin
Song of Redemption (Chronicles of the Kings #2)
By: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House
About the book:
He has been challenged on every side -- can his newly discovered faith help him preserve a nation?
As King Hezekiah embraces God's Law, he leads his country into renewed prosperity. But following the will of Yahweh is a perplexing process, requiring unpopular choices -- for both his personal life and political career. Now his archenemy's demands for tribute are forcing Hezekiah into a precarious situation.
Jerusha, a young Jewish woman far from home, has seen firsthand what the dreaded invaders are capable of doing. As the powerful Assyrian army sweeps through the northern provinces, leaving little but devastation in its wake, Jerusha longs to escape. Her desperate will to live could become a link to Jerusalem's survival.
With Assyria on the march, moving closer to the heart of Judah, Hezekiah's decision to follow the everlasting One is about to face the ultimate test.
After surviving a tumultuous childhood, when Hezekiah is at last crowned king of Judah he determines to purge his country of idolatry and return to the worship of Yahweh. But years of idol worship are not set aside so easily by all of his subjects, and his sweeping religious reforms meet with stiff opposition. When the Temple is rededicated and the celebratory feasts are re-established, Hezekiah sees the beginning of God's answer to his heart's cry -- his people are turning back to God, and prosperity is returning to his ravaged land. Longing to shake free of the last vestiges of Ahaz's rule, Hezekiah decides to forego the annual tribute payment to Assyria, a risky move as the dreaded Assyrians outmatch the Judeans in strength and funds. Faced with the most terrifying army in the world, Hezekiah confronts his greatest challenge yet -- to bow to what the eye can see, to fear, or gamble everything on faith in an unseen and unshakeable God's promises.
Song of Redemption is a novel saturated in biblical history and the faith of the ancients that still has the power to speak to us today. Taking the accounts in 2 Kings 17-18 and 2 Chronicles 29-32 as her basis, Austin brings ancient Judah to life at the crossroads of idolatry and religious revival. Hezekiah and his contemporaries leap living and breathing from the page, very relatable human beings faced with one of mankind's oldest conflicts -- the choice between faith and fear. I absolutely loved seeing worship come alive through Austin's prose. Her well-researched, biblically grounded storyline breathes fresh life into the Old Testament texts, giving the reader a relatable example in Hezekiah as to what the Temple, what the revival of this time meant to the Jewish people. Austin's representation of Hezekiah's character is a sterling example of what I love about biblical fiction -- it can be a powerful reminder that the people immortalized within the pages of the Bible were not superhuman giants of the faith, but very much fallible human beings, assailed by the same struggles we face today -- the pitfalls of pride, fear, and doubt.
The first third of Song is a bit slow-going, but by the second third, when Judah is faced with annihilation by the Assyrians, the novel becomes unput-downable. This history absolutely fascinates me. Faced with the promise of an Assyrian siege, Hezekiah took steps to reinforce Jerusalem's walls and to secure the city's water supply from the Gihon Spring. The engineering of Hezekiah's tunnel is nothing short of miraculous, a fascinating slice of history Austin deftly brings to life. While I love Hezekiah's character, I think I most relate to the storyline Austin introduces involving Jerusha, an escaped Assyrian captive, and Eliakim, the chief engineer charged with improving Judah's defenses. Jerusha's faith and self-worth have been shattered by the atrocities she endured, while Eliakim places his faith in himself and what he can see, the work of his hands. They are powerful reminders of mankind's never-ending tendency to make any given problem bigger than the God we claim to serve and believe in. His capacity for redemption and His power to save know no bounds, and Eliakim and Jerusha's story is a challenge to live lives with faith unleashed.
While I was a bit struck by the dialogue, which at times seemed entirely too modern, that is a minor qualm. Song of Redemption is biblical fiction at its best, a story that brings the forefathers of the faith to vibrant life and will inspire you to look at the source material with fresh eyes, to live your faith out loud.