I am the LORD your God (The Bible Narrated for Young Adults, Vol. 1)

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I am the LORD your God is the first volume of a 5-book series by Wolf Meesters (a pseudonym for W Meijer who also wrote the church history series, Young People’s History of the Church). And it’s a gem! One of my sons systematically reads through the series to his family at the dinner table and likes it very much, also as basis for discussion. Indeed, it’s excellent for this purpose, and for teenagers (and adults) to read a chapter before bed.

Originally published in Dutch, the translation is very pleasing. The text flows well and the church’s youth should have no difficulty in reading it. In fact, much of it reads not unlike a novel. Once I was absorbed in the story, I found it difficult to put down.

This volume covers two Bible books: Genesis (which understandably takes up most of this volume) and Job (probably because Job is thought to have lived around the time of Abraham).

To give you a sense of the flavour, I’ll quote some segments of the book. Hopefully they’ll whet your appetite and encourage you to buy and read the book.

The narrative begins with the awesome birth of history as omnipotent God displays the brilliant power of His creative Word.

God spoke…

The thunder of His Word reverberated through the emptiness. In obedience to this word of command, heaven and earth formed themselves out of nothing.

Each day of God’s creative week is vividly retold. And it would be hard, when reading Meesters’ descriptive retelling of the awesome power of our God, to remain unmoved.

We see something of the author’s emotional empathy, for example, when he recounts Eve being presented to Adam.

Before him stood the woman given to him by God. She was wonderfully beautiful. Her bearing was proud and majestic, more than that of the lion or the eagle, and her spirit was brave and intelligent, far superior to that of any animal. In her eyes he could read the deep warmth of her heart. His glances penetrated her being, and great happiness engulfed them both. They gauged each other’s soul and tried to understand each other’s mind. Then they knew that they were not two, but one. For they could read what they were thinking in each other’s eyes, as if they were looking in a mirror. Adam stood up and there was great emotion in his voice as he approached her singing his wedding song. This one was different from all the other creatures in the garden. Her body had come from his body. And her soul was from God.

Such was their wonderfully innocent state before the fall into sin. But when Eve plucked and ate from the forbidden fruit…

Her face was contorted with fear, her eyes fixed and panic-stricken. Her body cringed in dread of what she did not know, but surely had to come: death!

The righteous anger of holy God and the practical consequences of their dreadful deed upon their work, in Eve’s childbearing, and in the lives of the children, are movingly described. We are shown how the fall also affected their marriage relationship:

Eve had joined him in his labours, and prepared the food. She served the man who now had dominion over her. But it was a service different from what it had been in paradise.

True, he still gave her his love. But it was a grubby shadow of his first rapturous love, of which he had sung in the garden. And in his eyes she often read dissatisfaction instead of kindness and peace.

We read of the tremendous spiritual forces at work in the heart of the children. When the LORD warns Cain that “if you do not do well, sin lies at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it”, we read:

Cain was silent.

But inside him raged the tempests of hate and envy and passion. In his heart the powers of hell let loose against the Word of God. What would it be? Blessing or curse? What should he do? Bow down, or arrogantly lift himself up? What would his soul answer? A prayer or a curse? One sigh to God and His power would come to his aid. One prayer for deliverance, and the monster that attacked him would lie tied up at his feet.

After the murder of Abel, when God asks Cain the whereabouts of his blood-brother, the narrative says:

Was the LORD still asking him about his blood ties? Had he not just torn them, trodden on them? Abel’s dead body lay there as proof, bare and lifeless under the blazing sun, the wind-born odours of decomposition already attracting the vultures. Cain did not wish for ties, neither with the God who had made him, nor with the brother with whom he had shared the one father and the one mother. ‘Let us break those ties asunder,’ growled his dark soul.

One begins to perceive, through the narrator’s empathetic style, something of how shocking it must have been for Abel’s parents when they discovered his lifeless body.

When Adam and Eve found their younger son, he was cold and stiff. The blood had set on his temple. The glassy eyes looked towards the evening skies. They leaned forward over his mouth, caressed his cheeks, and called his name again and again…

With a bitter cry they finally understood. This was death!

Only now did the curse of paradise become reality. It sounded in their ears, ‘You shall die!’

They chased the hungry birds away from the body, and carried it to their dwelling. And they mourned for their child until there was no strength left in them.

Abel, their dear son, had been murdered. By whom?

They hardly dared voice their terrifying suspicion. But see, when the sun set in the west Cain failed to come home. Neither did he turn up the following days to mourn his brother. Together with his wife – who was his sister – he had left, never to come back.

Then Adam and Eve understood…

They had lost two sons and a daughter in one day. How terrible was sin which produced such bitter and harsh fruits.

Abel was dead. He had been driven from this life.

Cain had left! He had been driven away by God.

This was death in its full breadth and depth. Their family life lay in shreds, torn apart by the monster called sin, which lies in wait at everyone’s door, waiting for an opportune moment…

There remained one comfort for them in this immense sorrow. It was the comfort of the Word God had spoken about the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head.

It is the comfort of this promise that runs like a golden thread through this book, as it does through the whole Bible. When God’s judgement falls upon Adam and Eve the world is not destroyed. Instead, there is that Gospel message of Gen 3:15. And although the world will be destroyed by the flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah will become incinerated, and other calamities befall many people, we are shown that it is because of this promise that the world, despite all its evil, continues to exist. We are shown how this promise is expanded upon when the covenant is established with Abraham, and, in subsequent volumes of this series, how history reaches a climax in the coming of Christ and then continues as Christ gathers, defends and preserves His church. His righteous judgement over the earth is postponed till the full number of the elect has been gathered.

This is a beautifully told narrative. The author adds archaeological information to help ‘put you in the picture’, brings forth ‘old and new treasures’, compares Scripture with Scripture, and in doing so makes Scripture live for the reader or hearer. One is struck by the majesty of God, the elevation of His thoughts, and the glory of the promised Saviour, through whom fallen man was to be restored to the right relationship with God. As each Scripture story is recounted, there is a depth and warmth which does not leave the reader untouched.

The author has done a superb job. It is interesting to observe in the preface to this volume (something not mentioned in the Dutch original), that such gifted theologians as K Schilder and B Holwerda provided the author with some assistance.

The translator, too, is to be commended for the monumental effort it must have required to turn it into English, particularly because the Dutch original contains so many colloquialisms and idiomatic expressions difficult to translate.

I am particularly grateful that this book is available for the youth of the church. Those who obtain a copy and read it, or hear it read to them, will be richly rewarded.

The publishers have produced a high-quality publication at a low cost. Indeed, according to Pro Ecclesia Bookshop’s website, the whole series of five books can be purchased for a mere $65 per set. A bargain in view of the rich content. An attractive, durable, treasure chest of very readable Bible narratives. Highly recommended!

The set would make a fine birthday gift for teenagers.