I learned years ago to admire the work of Dr. MacArthur and "12 Unlikely Heroes" [mostly OT characters] gives an interesting synopsis of who they were and what they did to earn heroic status. I've chosen 10 of the 12 to use as my current series in teach an adult SS class.
I received this as a review copy from BookSneeze. Pastor-teacher John MacArthur has composed another volume of biblical character sketches for the purpose of exhorting believers in their service for Christ. The book is introduced with MacArthur's take on the contemporary culture's view of "heroes." He is on target with his synopsis. Culture's view of what it means to be a hero is lacking. It does not take much to be a hero today. In fact, true heroes of today are largely ignored and unappreciated.
The chapters include accounts of the lives of Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon and Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, Mark and Onesimus. Obviously, some of the individuals mentioned have less biblical information recorded about their lives than the others. Yet, the central message of the book is clear. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present, and entirely sovereign. He chooses sinful, inherently limited people to carry out His purposes on this earth for His eternal glory.
When believers look in the mirror each day and are reminded of the fact that they can do nothing in-and-of-themselves to accomplish eternal good, they can be reminded of what MacArthur highlights in this book. God, by His grace and according to His good pleasure, has chosen to shower His love, favor, and grace upon undeserving people. He has also chosen to use those same undeserving people whom He has redeemed through His Son to accomplish His plans upon this earth. We are inherently limited as people, but God is not limited by us. He will accomplish His will in and through us.
"Twelve Unlikely Heroes" explores the stories of twelve biblical characters that God used to further his purposes. These men and women were not your typical hero material. Some were weak, some sinful, some fearful, some disobedient, some failures. They came from every walk of life. Some were slaves, some prophets, some princes and queens. Yet each one was used by God. They warned of impending judgement, saved nations, and wrote and preserved Scripture. If God could use such people to do great things, then He can use us to do His work, no matter our shortcomings or sins.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. The dramatic retellings of the Biblical stories enabled me to look at them in a different light, and pointed out things I had never considered before. For instance, for some reason it had never really sunk in that Haman's decree to destroy the Jews would have even extended to Israel itself. I also really enjoyed the story of Jonathan, and the comparison MacArthur drew between him and Saul.
The issues I had with the book were minimal. There were a few times I felt like things unverifiable from the Biblical account were being presented as entirely factual, instead of "perhaps this happened." I also felt like MacArthur was grasping at straws to make a chapter out of Enoch's story, since we really know so little about him. Finally, I would have liked to see some more applicational material. But I suppose that's what one is supposed to buy the study guide for. :)
Overall, a book I would recommend without hesitation.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Having read some of John MacArthur's other works, I was excited for the opportunity to read one of his latest, "Twelve Unlikely Heroes". After introducing the concept of the word "hero" in today's culture, he contrasts the world's view by providing a definition for a biblical hero, namely one who has faith in God and lives a life of faithfulness. The book then offers an in depth look into the lives of twelve people mentioned in the Bible. Some of these people were only given a few verses of Scripture, while others have whole books devoted to them. Although many other individuals could have been written about, MacArthur singles out Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon, Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, Mark and Onesimus as unlikely heroes. By doing so, he shows that biblical heroes are not defined by gender, physical stature, or social and economic status.
I appreciated how MacArthur chronologically devotes almost a chapter apiece to each individual. He frequently references Scripture so that the reader can follow along in their own Bible. I also appreciated that he not only used the Bible as a reference, but other biblical scholars as well as early church and Jewish historians.
Because of this, the reader is able to better understand the culture of the time, connect the dots between different books of the Bible and ultimately relate more personally to the character being studied. For example, he mentions of the military conquests of Xerxes to explain the four year gap before he chose Esther as queen, as well as other instances of his volatile temperament, the royal preparations that would've been given to Esther and the roots of the deep hatred and bitterness between Haman and Mordecai. Another example is showing the reader how John Mark is restored by Peter to become a close companion of Peter and Paul, and the slave Onesimus is forgiven to become a bishop in Ephesus. Throughout and at the end of each section, MacArthur shows that God can take any sinner and transform them to do His work.
I would definitely recommend this book (and will most likely read it again), as it goes beyond the simple Sunday School lessons to provide a rich account that will strengthen and encourage your own faith.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ® book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255
All throughout history, select individuals are remembered as heroes for what they did in their lifetime. Some people are born into greatness, such as a prince inheriting his father's kingdom; other times a person rises up from relative insignificance to stand in the gap. Literature abounds with stories of heroism, and the Bible is no exception. John McArthur, in his latest book, "Twelve Unlikely Heroes," introduces us to several of the most unexpected candidates in Scripture for this distinction.
So, who are these unexpected heroes, and what makes them special? Enoch walked with God for 300 years, showing that God doesn't limit based on age. Joseph endured betrayal and false accusations before leaving prison for the palace, showing that God's ways are higher than man's ways. Miriam played a key role in assisting her brother lead the nation of Israel out from bondage, showing that God uses women as well as men. Gideon and Samson showed that God can work with or without the benefit of human strength. Jonathan understood that David would become king and was loyal to the end, setting the bar high for friendship. Jonah was a unique case, but he showed that even being a knucklehead doesn't faze Godâ€”His purposes will be accomplished no matter what. Esther was an orphan girl living in a foreign land yet was hand-selected to become queen, showing that God looks after His children. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Messiah after 400 years of silence, showing that God does not forget His promises. James was skeptical of his half-brother, Jesus, but later believed and became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Mark and Onesimus were living proof that being a coward or a runaway in the past does not preclude one's ability to be useful in the present, as they both ministered effectively to Peter and Paul after being restored.
Using his knowledge of Biblical history and customs, Pastor John McArthur paints a very real portrait of each of the heroes we meet. The characters' virtues as well as their mistakes are discussed in ways that apply easily to the reader. This book is a very good supplement to Bible reading, and I especially enjoyed reading the background of Jonathan's story as I was already studying it in my personal devotions. Throughout the pages of the book, the real Hero behind the victories and successes becomes apparent. When it's all said and done, what a joy it is to know that anyone can be used by God!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of "Twelve Unlikely Heroes" through Book Sneeze, in exchange for my honest review.