Friday, December 7, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You, by John MacArthur


Well-known preacher John MacArthur walks the reader through the stories of twelve 'unexpected' Bible heroes (in ten chapters--Gideon and Samson are paired, as are Mark and Onesimus).

I confess that I was expecting something a bit ... different. With a title like Twelve Unlikely Heroes, I somehow got it into my head that the stories would all involve lesser-known bible characters--some of the more obscure judges, perhaps, or Jael, or Abigail, or Haggai or Titus or somebody. So when I flipped to the Table of Contents and saw names like Joseph, John the Baptist, and James, I was a little disappointed. Not that they're all big names--MacArthur includes Enoch, Miriam, and the aforementioned Onesimus. But still, his focus was different than I'd anticipated.

The overall point is that God is the real hero, and He is most glorified when He uses, well, unlikely vessels. Which makes sense when you look at the stories of Gideon (a coward), Samson (an arrogant fool), Jonathan (son of a king yet not heir to the throne), Jonah (a disobedient, grump), Esther (a (conveniently gorgeous) Hebrew orphan), Onesimus (an escaped slave), and John the Baptist (a crazy hermit man). Enoch (?), Joseph (a slave-turned-convict), Miriam (a ... Hebrew?), James (the skeptic), and Mark (the runaway?) are a bit more of a stretch--to me, anyway. Me, I would have picked different characters--more women, for starters. I mean, women as heroes? In Bible times? Talk about unexpected!

Still, MacArthur does his best to play up the weaknesses of the men (or women) in order to highlight God's power and grace working through them. And maybe it's for the best that he tends to pick better-known heroes. He has a tendency to 'fill out' the narrative, adding details for context and making the characters more real and relatable. But I am leery of adding anything beyond what is included in Scripture. So concluding that, say, Mark was raised in a Christian home simply because Peter came to his house after escaping from prison seems ... like a bit of a stretch. I mean, maybe. But maybe Mark's mom was a recent convert. Maybe Mark was already an adult when she converted. Maybe the church met there because of Mark, and not because of his mom. I mean, it's a plausible explanation, but it's one of many. And MacArthur does this a lot, attributing thoughts or feelings to characters without backing it up from Scripture.

Not that he teaches anything blasphemous. He doesn't. Simplistic, yes, but not wrong. Yes, his chapter on Enoch contains--rather unnecessarily--his views on creation and pre-flood weather, but the substance of his points is valid, even if some of the peripheral statements may be less well-supported. And he's strong on the gospel, which, let's face it, is by no means a sure thing when you're dealing with modern 'Christian' writers.

I didn't find the book to be terribly challenging, spiritually speaking, but it's by no means bad. If you're looking for a jumping off point for a bible study, or even for a fairly straightforward devotional, this might be a decent option. I didn't love it, but you might.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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