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Reviews | A Time to Hear

A Time to Hear

S. J. Knight

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

576 pages

A Time to Hear

The Christadelphian review (from June 2006)

A novel idea

GOD has revealed His purpose with mankind through the pages of His word and in the person of His Son. He could have produced a document full of technical information about the human condition, and His offer of salvation, but instead He revealed His purpose by describing the lives of men and women and the history of His nation Israel. Similarly, when Jesus began to preach about the coming kingdom of God, he could have given long and scholarly discourses, but in fulfilment of what had been prophesied about him he spoke to the people in parables: accounts of men and women in different situations, containing an underlying message for those with ears to hear.

We are therefore familiar with the style where important principles and lessons for life are woven into daily events; in the process we are taught that God’s offer of salvation affects every aspect of life and is to be acknowledged in every part of life.

Imaginative accounts

But when it comes to using the same method to convey divine principles and the message of the Gospel, only rarely as a community do we produce material in the style of a parable, story or drama. There have been some notable exceptions. Brother Roberts, for example, produced The Trial, a book reviewing in a dramatic form the evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and The Final Consolation, where his scripturally attuned imagination was directed towards producing a word picture of life during the millennium. There have also been some children’s stories published, either in a biblical or a contemporary setting, aimed at presenting Bible principles.

The recent publication A Time to Hear, however, is a full-length work of fiction aimed at adults and older teenagers. The author has imaginatively set the story in the early years of the first century AD, describing events in the life of a fictional character: a shepherd’s son called Daniel. Through careful research, details of daily life in a Galilean home are faithfully presented, and they provide colour and background to the events that gradually unfold.

In the book, Daniel and his family muse about the scriptures, and what the promises made two thousand years earlier to Abraham really mean. In particular, what was meant when Abraham was promised descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand by the seashore? Daniel and his family were descended from Abraham. Were they stars? Were they grains of sand? There was talk of a coming Messiah, with many hoping that he would rid the country of the hated Roman occupiers.

As the story unfolds, the reader is introduced to an aged shepherd who remembers a night on the hills outside Bethlehem, and to news of a wild and stirring preacher calling on men and women to repent and be baptized. Each chapter in the book contributes towards a compelling account of one person’s journey to learn about the Messiah. In the process various passages of scripture are brought to life; sometimes shown in a different light, revealing how the hope of Israel focused at that particular time, when men and women in Israel were in eager expectation.

For young Daniel, it was a time to hear. He learns that “Each star, each grain of sand — matters! Not just as one of millions needed to group together to form the whole heaven, or the whole beach — but as special — yes, precious — on its own as well”.

It is no less true for modern readers, for the Gospel call goes out to individual men and women in each generation: “Today, if ye will hear his voice …”

MICHAEL ASHTON

The Testimony review (from August 2006)

A Jewish boy in the first century

A VISIT TO any Christian bookshop will confirm that Christian fiction is a fast-growing literary genre. American publishers in particular have printed hundreds of such books, and it is clear that they are very popular. Some, like the Left Behind series, have been best-sellers, with sales running into the millions. These books cater to a demand from Christians for wholesome values-based fictional works in a world where much modern fiction is debased and unedifying.

Many Christadelphians read Christian fiction for relaxation. Some of these works, such as the Left Behind series, promote teachings at odds with Scripture, whilst others promote Biblical values but place relatively little emphasis on doctrine. It is a pity, therefore, that there are not more fictional works written by Christadelphians, promoting Biblical values while at the same time reinforcing true Scriptural understanding. In recent years a few such works have become available, including Anna Tikvah’s In Search of Life and the anonymous Cornelia’s Story (both published by the Christadelphian Scripture Study Service), and Sister Debbie Wood’s books The Early Years, The New Century, A Precious Hope and Year by Year (published by The Christadelphian Advocate). To that list can now be added a new publication from The Christadelphian, A Time to Hear.

This book is a substantial work of 570 pages. Set in the Holy Land in the days of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, its central character is a Galilean boy named Dan, the son of a widowed shepherd. Growing up in a humble, devout family, Dan has an enquiring and spiritually alert mind. We join him and his family circle on a spiritual journey as they become increasingly aware that they live in momentous times. The book provides an insight into Jewish life in Galilee at the time of our Lord’s first advent, and as such is valuable for any Bible reader. More importantly, however, it also has profound moral lessons for this generation, which lives on the eve of his second advent.

The author’s incisive comments on the covenants of promise provide valuable insights about their centrality to the gospel message. The book also refers incidentally to many aspects of the Law, the Psalms and the prophets, and in the process offers much interesting instruction. As with the cultural aspects of the book, these expositional comments are evidence of the high standard of scholarship that underpins the work. In relation to the cultural matters, it would have been interesting to know about the source material from which the picture of life in first-century Galilee was drawn (this was done in Cornelia’s Story, also set in the first century, where information is included as end notes), but it is acknowledged that this would have added substantially to the size of the work and might have been a distraction to many readers.

The author has a colourful and expressive writing style which at times borders on the poetic. The plot is well paced and has several unexpected twists and turns that sustain the reader’s interest. It runs the gamut of emotions from mirth to pathos, but never becomes cloyingly sentimental or stilted. The characters are real people, their strengths and weaknesses sketched eloquently. This book will appeal to readers of all ages and backgrounds. In particular, however, the book is ideal for both interested friends and senior Sunday School scholars because it reinforces many fundamental first principles, including the importance of repentance and preparation for the Messiah. A Time to Hear is heartily recommended, and it must be hoped that the book enjoys a wide circulation and readership.

GEOFF HENSTOCK

(Originally published in the August 2006 edition of The Testimony Magazine (page 306), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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