James Jordan's book, Primeval Saints is a fairly quick but interesting tour of the lives, characters, and symbolisms surrounding the saints of the book of Genesis. He highlights the major events, gives explanations, and makes application for us today.
We first read this book as a family for devotions a few years ago. I remember being pretty happy with it for that use. Of course it is aimed at an older audience and the older kids were able to pull more out of it, but the tone of the book is brief and conversational enough that the little kids didn't raise the chorus of "booooring" that they do sometimes. James Jordan seems to have a knack for explaining big theological concepts in everyday language so that they seem even a little obvious once he points them out, had a person thought of it. But of course, we hadn't. So it is well for us that we have someone to do it for us from time to time.
I had to reread it for the purpose of this review because it had been so long since we last read it. At first I felt a little stressed because I didn't know when I would find the time. But I did take a day and sat down and read it through and when I was done I was glad I did. The Old Testament saints may seem far removed from us, but they were real people who dealt with all the same things we deal-jealousy, understanding violence, perplexity in the face of considering how to behave in times of tyranny or errant authority, faithfulness in times when it doesn't seem to matter, how to earn proper authority (and what happens when it is grasped for out of time.), basically how live godly when the answers aren't easy to see.
We can draw courage and comfort from the lives of men such as Noah, Abraham and Joseph. Patiently building the church (symbolized by the ark) in times of violent men and ungodly rulers. Taking a long term view of God's promises as Abraham had to while waiting for Isaac. Avoiding conflict with envious men such as the Philistines when they stopped up Isaac's wells. Being faithful in prayer for our sons and daughters, as was Rebekah. Seeing that sometimes our difficulties and struggles in life are not a result of our own wrong doing, but they are God Himself wrestling with us to make us better and stronger, yet at the same time teaching us to lean on Him as Jacob had to learn. How Joseph earned a mantle of authority not through grasping but through patient, honest, godly labor.
But there are negative examples as well. Forsaking God's community, grasping at authority, fault finding, rallying around ungodly causes are pictured for us in the lives of Lot, Ham and the builders of the tower of Babel.
I also appreciated insights into some of the perplexing symbolism in the book of Genesis. Why did the Bible make so much of Esau being a hairy man? Why was Abel's sacrifice accepted and not Cain's? How is the symbolism tied to the two trees in the Garden of Eden carried through the other stories in Genesis? Seeing some of these details make reading Genesis more interesting and rich.
Obviously there is something of value for anyone to take from this book. Even if a person already knows the symbolism and theology the applications are ones that are always good to remind oneself with. I know as a mom it helps me to remember why I do what I am doing in the slog of everyday life with laundry, bills, phonics and diapers. We often need to be reminded that God has a plan, we are part of it, and He can use the smallest things, even when we feel small, powerless or just plain tired. I also think it would be really good for young men, as they look to find their place in society and hope to find their own mantles of authority to remind themselves not to be tempted by things that look like maybe a way to get things faster or to manipulate situations. But may we all remember to rest in God and allow Him to have His own ways with us, so that we may receive the best from Him.