Longtime readers know that I am a hardcore Julie Davis fan, so I was thrilled to receive a review copy of her latest book, Thus Sayeth the Lord: A Fresh Take on the Prophets. Though it took me far too long to get this review together, I can give it an unqualified buy-recommend.
What it is: An introduction to the Biblical prophets, including both those we think of as “the prophets” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) and personages like Moses, Miriam, Anna, and Simeon who served as prophets though they are not authors of one of the prophetic books. The survey doesn’t cover every single prophet in the Bible, but it does hit enough of the major and minor players to be considered a thorough initial look.
What’s inside: For each prophet, there are suggested Bible readings either authored by the prophet, or telling essential parts of that prophet’s life. Julie explains in conversational terms an overview of the person’s work, including wading into any common misunderstanding or controversies. Finally she concludes the chapter with reflections on how we ordinary readers can relate to or be inspired by the prophet’s life, regardless of where we are in our relationship with God.
What makes this book especially good: Julie writes the book from the perspective of a former atheist, of a faithful-but-normal Catholic, and as someone engaged for decades now in a constant two-way conversation with the wider culture. You can tell that she really understands how people struggle with the faith and what it’s like to be looking at Christianity and scratching your head and wondering if the Catholic faith has anything, at all, to offer somebody like you.
Her depth and breadth of experience shows on every page, and the end result is a book that is exquisitely suited to parish Bible study groups, where participants may vary from curious-non-believers to earnest disciples, all thrown together in one classroom to puzzle out what can be a very daunting topic.
Who’s it for? I recommend this book for:
- Teenagers and up. This book is ideal for youth groups because there is no expectation of a particular level of faith.
- Individual or group study. It’ll work very well either way.
- People who appreciate the informal, conversational tone.
- Beginner to intermediate level students.
What the book is not: This is not an exhaustive study, nor is it written in a formal, academic style. For me as someone who’s been reading the Bible more or less daily for about two decades, but who is not a Bible scholar by any stretch of the imagination, I found that every chapter included information or perspectives that were new to me, and insights that were inspiring to me as a long-time disciple. Julie has done her research, and she digs into quite a few “everybody knows” truisms and provides solid answers pulled from reputable scholars. –> If you are already that scholar or already reading the scholarly resources yourself, you may be inspired by the personal application portion of each chapter, but I hope you already have mastered the basic knowledge base.
Can an average Jane or Joe lead a study on this book? Absolutely. Julie’s done your homework for you, so your only prep would be to read the chapter and read the recommended Bible passages. She takes care of the fact-finding, and then provides ample fodder for discussion on a more spiritual level, so your main job will be facilitating the conversation among members of your study group, focused primarily on their personal response to the reading.
Final verdict: This is a fantastic offering that fills a void in the Bible-study literature. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a readable, down-to-earth introduction to the prophets that is a balanced combination of Bible study and reflections for personal inspiration and spiritual growth.
This book has earned a permanent spot in my library and is now in my queue for next time I am tasked with leading a Bible study.
Other Julie Davis books I have reviewed:
You can’t go wrong with any of these.