Leap Over A Wall by Eugene H. Peterson–Book Review

Eugene Peterson is best known for his translation of the Bible published in 2002 when Peterson was seventy years old. He spent many years before then as a college professor (teaching Hebrew and Greek), then a small-town pastor but became known all over the world with the publication of “The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.”

Though long familiar with “The Message,” Leap Over a Wall (1996) was new to me. A picture on instagram of a book labeled “reflections on the life of David” and subtitled: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians quickly caught my interest, and it was well worth my search.

 

Peterson’s mother’s possessed fantastic storytelling abilities, so Peterson grew up being fascinated with the characters of the Bible–not because of their spiritual depth or insights–but because of their stories. “Story is the primary way in which the revelation of God is given to us. The Holy Spirit’s literary genre of choice is story.”

Of all the people in the Bible, David is one with an overwhelming presence and gives us some of the Bible’s greatest stories. Who doesn’t know the story of David and Goliath? David and Bathsheba? God uses his life–in all its sordid details–to teach us about Himself and how we should respond to our Creator. Though we often think of the Bible as being full of doctrine, laws, and theology (and it is), God uses the stories of His people to teach us.

“God reveals himself to us not in a metaphysical formulation or a cosmic fireworks display but in the kind of stories that we use to tell our children who they are and how to grow up as human beings, tell our friends who we are and what it’s like to be human.”

In each chapter, Peterson goes through different areas, specifically relationships, of David’s life and how he responds to God in each one. How did these various relationships in David’s life (Saul, Jonathan, Abigail, Doeg, etc.) help him to see God? To turn to God? To trust in God? Peterson’s own imagination combined with his scholarly knowledge of theology creates a book full of wisdom and insight told in his own “earthy” way. If you’re familar with “The Message,” you won’t be surprised to see a chapter titled “Boneheads–David and the Sons of Zeruiah.”

Peterson explains how in much of David’s story, it’s not how he lives or the decisions he makes that put his story in the Bible. They are there to teach us about God and how He continually works in our lives and in those around us. “God’s salvation, not David’s shoddy morals or clever genius, is the subtext here.”

Though David seems to spend much of his life going from one disaster to another, he ultimately ends up praising and trusting in God as expressed in the title taken from one of David’s more lengthy psalms of praise. “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” Psalm 18:29

“The primary concern of the spiritual life isn’t what we do for God, but what God does for us.”

Crossing the Waters by Leslie Leyland Fields

What first grabbed me about Crossing the Waters is the subtitle: Following Jesus through the storms, the fish, the doubt, and the seas. Fields, originally from New Hampshire, married a fisherman in Alaska changing her life completely as they built a house on a small island, raised children and caught fish. Not sugar-coating anything, Fields shares her own struggles as a wife, mother, and a disciple of Jesus. She retells the stories of Jesus and the fishermen He called to be His disciples. Most of her experiences come from fishing in Alaska, but she also retraces Jesus’ steps around and on the Sea of Galilee.

Reading again of Jesus walking on the stormy water or waking from a deep sleep to calm the sea through the eyes of someone who has been on stormy waters, both literally and figuratively, gave me a new appreciation for the experiences of the disciples and the awesome power of our God.

Favorite quotes: “They are believing in their fear of the deep more than in Jesus. They do not yet know that he is with us wherever we are, that he will even walk on water in the middle of the night in a storm to come to us . . .”

“Jesus has not come to save them from the waters–death is not the enemy–but to save them from unbelief and their still small faith.”

Fields has written an enjoyable, thought-provoking book helping us to reconsider what Jesus meant when He said, “Come, follow me.” This is a book I highly recommend and am sure I will read again.