If you haven't discovered Charles Swindoll's bestselling The Great Lives series, then you've been missing quite a treasure. In this in-depth, well-written series, Swindoll explores the lives of Bible greats such as David, Esther and Joseph. This new devotional, GREAT DAYS WITH THE GREAT LIVES, serves as a "best of" from the series.
Divided into daily readings, the devotional focuses on one Bible character at a time, beginning with Joseph. The short entries illuminate a particular facet of his journey, lessons to be learned from his life, and reflections on the legacy he has left behind. Along the way, short but valuable details are explored.
Swindoll writes, "Why does the writer add these details? First I think he wants us to know that Joseph was monogamous. He didn't fall into the trap of polygamy, like so many surrounding him --- even his own family. He had one wife, and she bore him two sons. Second, and even more important, the writer wants us to realize the significance found in the names of Joseph's sounds. Both names are a play on words. The New International Version footnotes state, 'Manassah sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for forget,' and 'Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew for twice fruitful."'
It's these kinds of little "insights" that add depth to the text. In addition to the life of Joseph, a variety of other stars from the Bible are examined. Moses's journey is recounted as an up-and-down adventure of both leading people and following God. David, known as a man after God's own heart, is treated with tenderness and care. Other sections of the devotional look at Elijah, Job and Abraham. Throughout the text, Swindoll isn't afraid to look at each person's life objectively. While he acknowledges a person's strengths and successes, he doesn't shy away from some of the more difficult struggles and even failures these individuals faced.
In reflecting on Elijah hiding under the shadows of a tree, Swindoll writes that Elijah was "not thinking realistically or clearly." He points out that the prophet had made some vital mistakes, including separating himself from strong relationships, getting caught in the "backwash" of victory, and giving in to self-pity. Such an honest assessment is extremely helpful and valuable for readers who may have explored or researched these Bible passages on their own.
Surprisingly, few individuals besides Paul are looked at from the New Testament. As a result, this book is largely a treasury of insights from the Old Testament, but that doesn't mean it should be missed.
Overall, GREAT DAYS WITH THE GREAT LIVES is an exceptional devotional that lacks much of the fluff found in contemporary writing. Instead, it digs deeply into the Bible and uncovers multiple treasures along the way. Whether you're new to the faith, a veteran believer, or someone who just wants to learn more about the Bible, you'll enjoy this valuable resource. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg on November 13, 2011