Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: The Child's Story Bible

The Child's Story Bible. Catherine F. Vos. (1938, 1949, 1958,) 1969. Eerdman's Publishing Company. 733 pages.

First sentence: GOD IS AND WAS Long, long ago - nobody knows how long ago - this world on which we live, this big ball that we call earth, was not here. The earth did not exist. There was nothing but emptiness, wide empty space. That was before the beginning of the first things, before the beginning of time.

While I have very clear memories of reading the early stories in this bible story collection, I am not sure I made it all the way through this book as a child. I've been meaning to read this one for a few years now, I really feel it is important (for me) to read and review bible story book collections. I think christian parents and caregivers need to be aware of what's available. I think christian families need to be reading together. (Perhaps just as important is the need for children to see people in their lives reading the Bible.)

The Child's Story Bible is one of the most complete story collections I've read. It features 110 stories from the Old Testament; the Old Testament section is divided into seven parts: "Creation," "Wandering," "Laws," "Settlement," "Kings," "Prophets," and "Exile." Almost every narrative section of the Old Testament is represented in some way. (The sacrifices, laws, begats, tabernacle/temple instructions don't get full coverage.) The Child's Story Bible wouldn't be a good introduction to the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Amos. But. For the basics, the essentials, it is complete enough. The Child's Story Bible features 92 stories from the New Testament; these stories are taken from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Revelation. (The letters written by Paul, Peter, James, Jude, John, etc., are mentioned briefly--Vos mentioning that the apostles wrote letters to churches--but not summarized or discussed.) There are 202 stories in all!

This story collection is so thorough that it almost feels more like a paraphrase. It includes so much more detail than most other children's story book collections I've read. The Child's Story Bible could never be a substitute for the Bible, but it could be a good way to introduce the narrative content of the Bible to readers of all ages. The book summarizes and instructs. It adds details, makes conclusions, and seeks to create teachable moments. The book can be creative, descriptive, unique. In an old-fashioned, comfortable way. I love how evangelistic (gospel-oriented) it is. I would definitely recommend this one!

Favorite quotes:
In the city of Nazareth there lived a young girl named Mary, who was a cousin of Elisabeth. She was not yet married, but she soon would be, for she had promised a man named Joseph that she would become his wife.
There was only one place where they found a welcome. That was a stable where animals were sheltered. Here Mary and Joseph found a bed of soft, sweet hay. That night was a blessed night, and that lowly stable became a holy place. For on that night the Saviour of the world was born. God sent His own son into the world to be Mary's baby. How happy Mary was, now that she held the promised child in her arms! Her heart was filled with love and adoration. This tiny child was her own baby, but He was also the son of the great and mighty God. Mary looked at Him tenderly and adoringly, for she knew that this tiny child was to be the Saviour of the world. She put some clean hay in the manger out of which the cattle ate, and laid the baby on this soft bed.
Great crowds came out to hear John preach. And what was this strange man saying? He was telling the people that they were sinful, for before people look for a Saviour, they must know why they need a Saviour, and what they must be saved from. "Turn away from your sins," John said to them. "For even now the axe is laid at the root of the tree. Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and burned."
Sin and death had come into the world when Adam and Eve listened to Satan's lies and disobeyed God. Jesus had come to save people from sin and death. Now Satan tried to persuade Jesus to do wrong, as he had persuaded Adam and Eve so long ago.
Now I shall tell you something very hard to understand. Before Jesus was born as a little baby in Bethlehem, He was with God in heaven. He Himself was God. Jesus always has been God. He was God long before God made the world and the first man and woman. He is God the Son. We know that there is only one God. But that one God is three persons - three separate and equal persons - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus came to earth as Mary's son, He already was God the Son. He lived in heaven with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. The Father created the heavens and the earth. The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts today, and makes us love what is right. The Son, Jesus, died for our sins. These three are one God, and have always lived.
Keeping rules does not get us into the kingdom of God at all. Unless the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, and we put our trust in Jesus who died to pay for our sins, we cannot see the kingdom of God.
The people were astonished at the words Jesus spoke, for He talked as if He had a right to tell them about God and to teach them how to live. And indeed He did have this right, for He was the very Son of God Himself. When the people heard His words, it seemed as if a great light had come into their souls.
Don't you wish you could have been one of the people who sat on the hillside that day and listened to Jesus? We cannot see Him and hear Him talk, as they did that day. But even though we live long afterward, we, too, know what Jesus said as He talked to the people. One of Jesus' disciples was Matthew, who had been a tax collector when Jesus called him. God told Matthew to write down Jesus' words, so that this wonderful sermon on the mountain would not be forgotten. God helped him to write it without a mistake. So, you see, Jesus talked that day not only to that great crowd of people who were sitting on the mountainside below Him, but also to us, and to all the people in the world.
Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. Looking up to heaven, He thanked God for the food. Then He broke the five little loaves into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, and they gave them to the people. Jesus did the same with the fish. The disciples put the pieces into baskets and passed them to the people, so that everyone could take just as much as he wanted. No matter how much was taken out of the baskets, there was always plenty left. The people seated at the outside edges of the crowd were probably wondering if there would be any left when their turn came. But there was enough, and indeed more than enough!
But Jesus did not come to be an earthly king. He came to be king over the hearts of men. All the people who have ever loved and trusted Jesus are the subjects of His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus took the seven small loaves, and the little fish, and, lifting up His eyes to heaven, He thanked God for the food, as we also ought to do before we eat. Then He broke the seven loaves and the fish into pieces and gave them to the disciples to give to the people. The hungry people took all the bread and fish they wanted, and ate till they were satisfied. Oh, how good that food tasted! After they had eaten, the disciples gathered up seven baskets of pieces that were left over. Some of these people were seeing their friends for the first time in their lives, and their faces shone with happiness that they were no longer blind. There were people walking there who for years had been helpless cripples. There were deaf people who were listening to the voices of their friends for the first time. There were many who had come in pain and suffering. Now their happy faces showed that all their pain was gone. The hearts of the people were filled with love for the Lord Jesus who had healed them! Was there ever such a happy picnic as that one held on the grass among the sweet-smelling flowers of Galilee?
What does this prayer mean? Our Father means that God, the great creator and ruler of the world, loves us as a father loves his children. Hallowed be Thy name means "May everyone in the whole world worship God." Thy kingdom come means "May the time come when all the people in the world will love God." Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven means "May the people on earth do what God wants them to, just as the angels in heaven do God's will." Give us this day our daily bread asks God to take care of us, and give us food and whatever else we need. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors means "May the heavenly Father forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." Lead us not into temptation means "Guide us so that we may be kept from doing wrong."
After the Passover supper Jesus said many things to comfort His beloved disciples before He left them. "Do not let your hearts be troubled," He said. "I am going to My Father. In My Father's house there are many beautiful places. I am going to prepare a place for you." The disciples knew that these were the last words Jesus would teach them. How eagerly they listened!
What joy the enemies of Jesus felt when they heard Pilate give the order for Jesus to be crucified! At last this troublesome fellow would be put out of the way! The Roman soldiers bound Jesus to a post. They beat His back with a cruel knotted whip until Jesus' back was covered with blood. It was you and I who deserved to be beaten that way because of our sins, but Jesus bore it for us. 
Many of the Jews did love Jesus. But most of Jesus' friends did not know what was happening to Him. The priests had been careful to arrest Jesus when no one would know about it. It was evening when Judas came to the garden to betray his Master. Jesus had been kept in Caiaphas' house all night, and had been brought to Pilate's judgment hall in the very early morning. Even now it was only nine o'clock. Many people were quietly eating their breakfast, not knowing what was happening to Jesus. Probably they planned to go to the temple a little later, and expected to hear Jesus teaching there as He had done on so many other days.
It is very painful to you and me to see our beloved Lord hanging there on the cross, with His blood dripping down. But even though it is painful, we need to look, for He hangs there because of what we have done. His blood is being shed to pay for our sins. He loved us so much that He chose to die in our place.
Jesus was suffering pain from the nails in His hands and feet, but He was also suffering a much deeper kind of pain. For during these three hours God Himself turned His back on His dearly beloved Son and left Him. 
All His life on earth Jesus had loved God and served Him perfectly, without any sin. But now He had taken upon Himself all the sin that ever has been done or ever will be done in the whole world - your sin, and my sin, and the sin of every single person who puts his trust in Jesus as his Saviour. God gave Him the punishment you and I deserved to suffer. God separated Himself from Jesus so that Jesus felt only God's anger against sin and no longer His love for His Son. And that is the worst punishment any person can ever suffer. 
If sometimes you get tired of going to school and studying your lessons, remember Paul. Someday God may use you for some great work. God has work for all of us to do, and a child is serving God when he studies to prepare himself for the work God has for him.
And Paul wrote letters to the churches he loved so dearly. The Christians in these churches read Paul's letters in church on Sundays, just as we sometimes do. These letters are God's Word, for God told Paul what to write. God helped every one of these men to write. He told them exactly what to say, because He wanted these books to be part of the Bible, without any mistakes in them. God's telling the writers what to say we call inspiration. The whole Bible is God's book, although it was written by many different men at different times. Everything in it was put there by God.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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