Witness by Ruth Chesney; published by, and available from, John Ritchie Ltd; 288 pages. Price £5.99. (9781910513620)
This is Book 2 in the Search for Truth series, and continues the fictitious story of the youngster called Seb, recently saved in the very congenial surroundings of relatives at a farm in the country. He is now back to the harsh reality of his large secondary school in Belfast, facing his previous wild and menacing companions, a threatening father, and a mother whose spirit has been broken through abuse. The many aspects of dysfunctional family life, and current dangers to young people in present-day society, are described with realism.
Seb has numerous obstacles to overcome as a young Christian. How he escapes from many tight and dangerous corners, how a few helpful adults support him, how the Bible - as the Word of God - becomes real to him, and how he reaches out in testimony to unlikely characters, all make this an absorbing tale. Evidences for Creation come into the story via confrontations with an atheistic Biology teacher, but there is less of this than in Book 1 which, ideally, should be read first, although Book 2 can be read and understood without it.
Ruth Chesney can tell it as it is. She has done another great job for the benefit of our young people, especially young believers who face serious challenges to faith in current educational circles, and in an arrogant and godless society. Although I found the cover rather uninspiring, and some parts of the story almost beyond reasonable expectation for a teenage Christian, it is a highly-recommended book which would be an ideal gift for any young believer. And adults also would find it interesting, even absorbing - a real page-turner!
R W Cargill
Samuel, Prophet and Kingmaker by A J Higgins; published by, and available from, John Ritchie Ltd; 157 pages. Price £14.99. (9781910513637)
Samuel, Prophet and Kingmaker is the first volume in the Ritchie Character Study series. The intent of the Publishers is to provide an overview of principal Bible characters in short hardbacks. The volumes are not verse-by-verse commentaries, but studies of well-known individuals. This volume sets a high standard for the series, and offers a model to other authors commissioned to write future volumes.
In the opening paragraph, Samuel the prophet is described as “perhaps the most unsung of the Old Testament worthies”, even though Paul identifies him as the end-point of the Judges’ rule in Israel in his phrase “until Samuel the prophet” (Acts 13.20). The author adds that Jeremiah quotes from Jehovah’s statement, in which Samuel is placed alongside Moses (Jer 15.1). To a Jew, there would be no higher honour than association with Moses.
The volume consists of an Introduction and 12 short chapters, the longest of which is 15 pages, so it is unlikely that any age group would find the book daunting. The Publishers comment on the back cover that the burden of the writer’s ministry has been to reach younger believers, and this volume would uphold that view. The language is elegant but uncomplicated, and the content of paragraphs measured.
From the 55 chapters of 1 and 2 Samuel, the author has identified key themes. He highlights Samuel’s parents; the people in his nation to whom he spoke, including the great and the not-so-great; his prophetic ministry; his preparation for service; and his pathway to service. He also deals with Samuel as a parent, and clearly sets out his principles, his prayer-life and his power, so that, no matter the maturity of the reader, there is much to ponder.
The final chapter of Samuel, Prophet and Kingmaker consists of an interesting compilation of 11 references to Samuel outside the books that bear his name. Eight of those references are in the Old Testament, but three are in the New. That both Peter and Paul pointed to Samuel in their preaching, about 1,100 years after his death, and the Hebrew writer likewise in his letter, is evidence enough to substantiate the view that, even long after his death, Samuel commands a degree of esteem to which few others could aspire.