The story of Nehemiah, found in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, is a great story of God’s blessing following obedience. In the book, On this Foundation, by Lynn Austin, the story of Nehemiah’s great challenge comes to life through the skillful and descriptive words of the author.
The very first paragraph of the first chapter in the book draws the reader in immediately. “Nehemiah descended the winding staircase to the palace kitchens, then paused in the arched doorway, savoring the warmth from the blazing hearth fires and enormous ovens. The aroma of roasting meat and baking bread greeted him. He enjoyed this part of his job, especially on early winter days like this one when it was difficult to heat the cavernous palace rooms upstairs. He watched the sweating, red-faced cooks and scullery lads bustle around, chopping vegetables, skinning a goat, and plucking waterfowl. These men would probably prefer to work in a cooler room.”
Ms. Austin weaves her words to create a beautiful, descriptive tapestry of the life of Nehemiah. Instead of looking at the story as an irrelevant Biblical tale, through her literary skill and prowess, Ms. Austin takes us into a world of colorful characters and events that are relevant for today.
The story begins in Susa, capital of Persia. Nehemiah, a Jewish servant, is employed as King Artaxerxes’ cup bearer. This position, which seems insignificant, is an extremely important one and Nehemiah does not take it lightly. The cup bearer’s job is to protect the king from would be assassination attempts by poisoning. Any drink prepared for the king would first pass the lips of Nehemiah. His dedicated loyalty and service to the Persian King prepared him to serve Almighty God in a very different way.
God tells Nehemiah that his job is to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the temple. After much prayer, Nehemiah approaches the king and finds favor with him. Nehemiah is appointed governor and is given permission to go to Jerusalem. When people find out what his plans are, they think Nehemiah has lost his mind. How can one person undertake such a monumental task? Nehemiah explains that with the Lord’s help, it can be done.
Ms. Austin takes time to develop each character in the story with great detail. She uses their frustrations and trials to help us understand exactly what they are feeling. Her careful attention to biblical customs and traditions are evident as the story continues to unfold.
As the story draws to a close, Nehemiah faces a personal challenge with his desire to be king. Ms. Austin graciously helps us understand his struggle and sympathize with him. Her ability to give her characters such deep emotion and commitment is a unique writing ability.
This was the first book by Lynn Austin that I have read. I enjoyed reading this book very much and would highly recommend it. Christians, familiar with the Biblical account of the story of Nehemiah, will be pleasantly surprised to find Lynn Austin’s account follows along very closely while adding much detail. Non-Christians will find the book an enjoyable story with much depth, colorful characters, detailed scenery, and expressive conversations.
I also enjoyed the glossary of terms used in the book that Ms. Austin provided. She also provides a list of Scripture references for the reader at the end of the book.
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Disclosure: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book. I was asked to read it and submit a review. The opinions I have expressed are solely my own and I was not influenced in the writing of this review by any members of the Bethany House publishing staff or their employees.
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