Memoirs of the Way Home: Ezra and Nehemiah as a Call to Conversion, is a recent title from Reformation Heritage Books and written by Gerald M Bilkes. Memoirs provides both a survey of the often overlooked Old Testament accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah and a devotional tool enabling us to extract and apply Biblical principles to our ever reforming faith.
Each chapter is written for a better understanding in context, carefully explaining the historical background as the author recounts each passage of Scripture in its respective book. The Sovereign acts of God are first and foremost mentioned in respect to the events at hand and we come away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of God’s hand in both the time of Nehemiah and Ezra and in our present age.
In addition, each chapter closes with a small list of study questions to provide the reader a chance to reflect and meditate upon the previous reading, a must for self study or in group settings. Memoirs is an excellent study in this regard and I believe will prove profitable for deepening the Christian faith.
Even though the professing church of God finds itself, like Israel, in a sad and dilapidated condition, there are those today who, like Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, long to see it restored to its former glory. Psalm 102:14 describes people who “take pleasure in [Zion’s] stones, and favour the dust therof.” They are elsewhere called “God’s remnant.” Isaiah says, “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorroah” (1:9). God has promised to leave such a remnant in every time.
It by grace alone that He preserves us and Bilkes calls upon us to draw upon and drink at the well of wisdom learned in the accounts of Nehemiah and Ezra. God is working in our lives and Memoirs helps us to clearly see His handiwork and to give us hope as we seek His will in our lives.
Author Gerald Bilkes explains that in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we have two first-person accounts, or memoirs, of Israel’s return from exile to the Promised Land. In this winsome Bible study, with questions for individual or group reflection at the end of each chapter, the author introduces readers to the lesser-known Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah and helps us understand that these are not the records of historic feats but rather the confessions of a humble prodigal on a profoundly spiritual journey home. With pastoral warmth, Bilkes demonstrates these biblical memoirs’ relevance for us today as they challenge us to consider whether we are in the far country or, by grace, on our way back home to God.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: A Prodigal People
The Lord Is First
Tokens of Mercy
Adversaries, Subtle and Sever
Fresh Courage through the Word
Joy through God
A Further Reformation
A Fresh Exodus
A Time for Brokenness
Breaking with Sin
On His Knees before the Court of Heaven
From Burden to Boasting
Submitting to the Yoke of God
The Crucible of Conflict
A Redeemer Comes to Zion
A Fearless Leader
We Have a Strong City
A Fresh Sinai
The Prayer of Returning Prodigals
The Holy City
Looking Back in Wonder
Appendix 1: Lessons for Ministry from Ezra
Appendix 2: Lessons for Prayer from Nehemiah
Author Gerald M. Bilkes is professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids.
Endorsement “Few people know the history of Ezra and Nehemiah and their God-given work to reestablish Israel in the Promised Land after their Babylonian exile. Memoirs of the Way Home offers an easily accessible survey and devotional reflection upon these overlooked but nevertheless vibrant books of the Bible. Readers will certainly benefit from this simple exploration of the many rich and vital truths that we find in Ezra and Nehemiah and the way Gerald Bilkes connects them to Christ and the church.” — J. V. Fesko, academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology, Westminster Seminary California
“God’s people are a redeemed people; that fact is evident in that the Old Testament both begins and ends with redemption, first from Egypt and then from Babylon. In these events, God prepared his people for the great act of redemption through Jesus Christ. In this study of Ezra and Nehemiah, Dr. Bilkes focuses on elements of the redemption of God’s covenant people from the power of Babylon. As he works his way through these great books of the Old Testament, Dr. Bilkes shows us how God’s prodigal son—Israel—returned home, to the Father’s house. This is a wonderful resource: penetrating in analysis, faithful in interpretation, personal in application. It shows how the gospel is the means by which God gathers sinners into His kingdom and has powerful lessons to teach us on the nature of individual conversion, as well as on the need for prayer and the place of preaching in the contemporary church.” — Iain D. Campbell, minister, Free Church of Scotland, Isle of Lewis.
I received this title free of charge from Reformation Heritage Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.