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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"The One Year Holy Land Moments Devotional"

TITLE: The One Year Holy Land Moments Devotional
AUTHOR: Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and Tremper Longman III
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2013, (400 pages).

This big book contains daily devotionals for 52 weeks. Based on a "Holy Land Moments" daily radio program by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, it attempts to bring together both Christians as well as Jews to build trust and goodwill based on their acknowledgement of the common Scriptures and devotions to God. After each daily commentary by the Rabbi Yechiel, Tremper Longman III contributes "A Christian Reflection" on that holy land moment. The devotions are classified according to themes. Each theme is based on a particular Scripture passage from the Old Testament.   While the Rabbi focuses the majority of the devotions on the Old Testament, only four are based on the New Testament. For example, Week 11 Day 2 is from 1 Corinthians 14:33 which is a prayer for peace.  Week 13 Day 6 is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:17 which is on the theme of thanksgiving. Nevertheless, with the help of his Christian co-author, there is ample usage of both Old and New Testaments in the devotional.

As I read the book, I wonder what is so "Holy Land Moments" about the devotional? There are three ways to look at it. Firstly, it is the awareness of the place. Beginning with the Word of God is one holy land moment, for God's Word is often based on a particular context in space. Being thankful for a place to express that devotion is also crucial. For example, in the reflection on the creation of the Jewish state the Rabbi is grateful to God for "bringing his children home." At the same time, he is thankful for Christians and others who have helped make it possible. Looking at the "homeland of Israel," the Rabbi lets his devotions move from gratitude to worship.

Secondly, as far as the Christian reader is concerned, having a Rabbi teach about the origins of Jewish words and customs is very illuminating. For example, the word "Hebrew" comes from a word for "side." Being a Hebrew literally means that the world is on one side, and the Hebrews are on the other side. Abraham is the world's first Hebrew (Genesis 14:13).

Thirdly, the inclusion of a "Sabbath Reflection" each week that supplies just questions rather than many words or answers is symbolic. Each week, readers are encouraged to seek God for themselves, to do their own devotions, assisted by some guiding questions. Here, readers can move from being limited to "Holy Land Moments" toward entering into the presence of a Holy God. This is what the Sabbath is about. Being free from the works of the other six days, and to rest in the presence of Almighty God.

This book is a devotional that is lightly written so that readers can understand the idea quickly, and to gradually move toward prayer and meditation. In a world of cluttered stuff and wordy literature, there is beauty in brevity, and depth in simplicity. Not only will this devotional bring Christians and Jews closer together with common Scripture knowledge, it helps demonstrate to the world that in a profound way, they are brothers and sisters.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Tyndale and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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