1. What initially prompted you to write this book?
In my experience, Christians have a deep and largely unsatisfied hunger to be challenged in their reading of the Bible. There’s no shortage of shallow, sugary devotionals that read like a spiritualized version of a romance novel. Unveiling Mercy takes a radically different approach. I wrote this so people can chew on the Word of God. Experience Aha! moments as they trace connections between the Old and New Testaments. I want them to get their hands dirty as, with me, they dig down beneath the English to the Hebrew, to see what treasures await them there--treasures that always lead us to Christ and his good news for us.
2. You mention in the introduction that Unveiling Mercy took you, in a certain sense, three decades to write. Can you briefly describe what those years looked like for you?
I fell in love with the Old Testament while at seminary, sitting at the feet of Dr. Dean Wenthe, who first taught me about the Christ-soaked scrolls of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings. That, in turn, ignited my interest in Hebrew, which I studied through the rest of seminary and, years later, in graduate school at Hebrew Union College, where Jewish scholars deepened my understanding of Hebrew. Now, every morning, I ponder its riches as I pray through psalms in Hebrew or study it in preparation for our podcast, “40 Minutes in the Old Testament.” After thirty years of study, every day I still learn new and exciting things from this sacred language.
3. What might you say to the person who is intimidated to pick up this book because of their lack of knowledge about Hebrew?
I actually wrote this book with you in mind. It is for the English speaker not the Hebrew scholar. You don’t need to know a single fact about Hebrew to read and profit from these devotions. I explain everything about each day’s Hebrew word in clear and understandable ways. Think of me, the author, as a guide who will lead you through the mansion of the Old Testament, filled with Hebrew treasures, to point out and explain their value to you. Yes, by the end, you will know much more about Hebrew, but, more importantly, you will know far more about Jesus, which is the true purpose of the devotional.
4. What is lost on modern-day Christians that tend to view the Old Testament as irrelevant or less important than the New Testament?
To read the New Testament without knowing the Old Testament is like trying to watch the final scene in “The Lord of the Rings” without knowing anything about what led up to it. That would be quite silly. The New Testament is the inspired commentary on the Old Testament, the final act of God’s saving drama, that began in Genesis 1. Far from irrelevant or less important, it was the Bible that Jesus read; the Bible that Paul used to preach justification by faith; the Bible that John used to describe the vivid scenes in Revelation. The Old Testament is a whole library of books about Jesus. As such, its value for Christian teaching and preaching cannot be overestimated.
5. You teach a 1517 Academy course called, “Christ in the Old Testament.” Will the reader find these traces of Christ throughout this devotion?
Yes, the course is designed to teach how creation, the exodus, the psalms, and many other parts of the Old Testament show us who the Son of God is, and how he was both active and foreshadowed in Israel’s history and Scriptures. Unveiling Mercy does the same. January 1 begins with Genesis 1 and December 31 ends with Malachi 4. Along the way, each devotion will present the reader with a little Hebrew gift to show them how all the parts of the Old Testament usher us to the Messiah.
6. Can you tell us a little bit about the structure of each devotion and why you chose to organize them accordingly?
Each devotion begins with a title and the word of the day written in Hebrew script. This is followed by a biblical verse in which the Hebrew word appears. So, for instance, when I talk about the Hebrew word for “house” (bayit), I quote 2 Samuel 7:11-13, which is God’s promise to build a “house” for David. Following this is the devotion itself, which will unveil the meaning of the word and trace its trajectory into the life of the Messiah. Each devotion then concludes with a brief prayer. When possible, the prayer is a direct quote from a psalm which uses the same word for that day. I chose this structure because it keeps our feet firmly planted in the word of God, from the beginning to the end of each day’s reflection.
7. Is there any advice or thoughts you want to share with potential readers?
Paul says to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col 3:16). Not poorly. Not meagerly. Not just enough. But richly. My prayer is that Unveiling Mercy will do just that. I hope that, every day, as you use this book to reflect upon Christ, that you will be enriched by his grace and fed by his word.