“Moses: In the Footsteps of the Reluctant Prophet,” by Adam Hamilton. Published 2017 by Abingdon Press. This review refers to the hardcover edition of the book.
So I read a lot, and I post a lot of reviews of those books here on the blog. Particularly I read a lot of nonfiction about Christianity, theology, and the Christian life. These are often some of my most popular posts.
Quite a few of those most popular posts have been reviews about books by Adam Hamilton. He is the Pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, and his church has been dubbed the “most influential mainline church in America.” I don’t doubt that that is true for one second, and Hamilton is certainly one of the most influential mainline thinkers, speakers, and authors out there.
His books have certainly been very influential on my thinking as a United Methodist, and it seems like no matter how basic I find some of his books, they always still find a way to reach me and challenge me. “Moses” is the next book in one of Hamilton’s signature styles: a book that is an enchanting hybrid of biography/history/theology/and commentary for modern life. Make no mistake, I’m not throwing shade at Hamilton or his books when I talk about them being basic. Basic is what Hamilton does best, and in my opinion it’s something that the church and many Christians need so badly. I’ve sat in many studies with people who have gone to church their whole life, who have read the Bible inside out, and still don’t realize that Jesus’ last name isn’t Christ and that the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles refer to some of the same sets of events in 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings.
I think our churches need basic, and as I said, basic is what Hamilton does best, God Bless him for it!
This book is an account of the life Moses as described in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It follows this great hero of both the Jewish and Christian faiths through his birth, his exile from Egypt, his return as a liberator, his roll as a law giver, his leadership through the Exodus, and finally his death on Mount Nebo. Hamilton hits all the highlights of the story of Moses and offers keen insights and commentary on living our modern Christian lives from each phase of Moses’ life.
Some of the highlights for me were:
How do we treat refugees and immigrants?
How should we react when we come into the presence of the Living God?
How do we look to God for support when we don’t feel like we are up to the tasks he gives us?
Are God’s laws just rules meant to keep us down, or are they meant to set us free from certain behaviors and ways of thinking?
How do we effectively pass on our faith to a younger generation without “forcing it?”
Hamilton explores these questions and many more throughout the book. It kind of feels like he strays from Moses a little bit during the middle of the book, but in return he offers a very well put together commentary on the Ten Commandments and how they still apply to our lives today.
Throughout the book he also offers an account of his trip to Egypt that he took while researching the book and putting together the DVD that accompanies it. He tends to sprinkle these little passages in just the right places, and for me, someone who would love to travel but has to be resigned to armchair traveling, these were the most interesting parts. I’ve been interested in ancient Egypt since I was a little kid. My first reports in school were often about Egypt, and I vividly remember visiting the Ramses II exhibit when it came through Utah back in the 80s. To this day I still have a fascination not just with Egypt, but also the Sinai Peninsula. I just can’t imagine what it would be like to go there and stand in a place where YHWH revealed his presence in all of his holiness. Of course, that can be a rough trip these days, and Hamilton says that he was only allowed to travel to certain sites with an armed escort from the Egyptian military. That was kind of scary to read, and I hope one day to be able to go there in better times.
All in all this was not my favorite of Hamilton’s books, nor would I say that it’s his best book, but it’s still really good and would be a great addition to your library if you like reading about Moses, the Pentateuch, the Exodus, or Bible History. It’s not meant to be a scholarly work on any of those subjects, but Hamilton provides many resources for further reading if this book wets your whistle and you want to explore further. I’ll be teaching it in our adult Sunday School class later this year, and I can’t wait!