I read my fair share of books about the Bible. Commentaries, systematic theologies, Christian living, devotionals, and more. All of them are interesting, but honestly, very few are exciting. But occasionally, a special book comes along that makes the Bible dramatically come alive. Frank A. Spina's "The Faith of the Outsider: Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story" is one of those gems.
"The Faith of the Outsider" examines the stories of Esau (Genesis 25-33), Tamar (Genesis 38), Rahab and Achan (Joshua 2, 7), Naaman and Gehazi (2 Kings 5), Jonah, Ruth, and the woman at the well (John 4). In these seven stories, Spina skillfully shows how "outsiders" move into God's family of faith and how "insiders" end up like outsiders through their bad behavior.
The basis for this insider-outsider motif is rooted in the Old Testament and God's exclusive choice of Israel as the lone nation that represents Himself in the world. While this idea is scandalous in today's culture of inclusivity, Spina explains that, "Israel was not chosen to keep everyone else out of God's fold; Israel was chosen to make it possible for everyone else eventually to be included."
What makes this book a joy to read is Spina's masterful exposition of the stories. He pays careful attention to the text and highlights each episode's literary features-- such as word plays, metaphors, plot, point of view, narration, and character. You experience the drama, irony, and movement of each story-- and through it, you see the heart of God.
If you're hungering to read a book that makes the Bible come alive, this is a flat-out great book. You'll come away appreciating the richness of how each story is told. And you'll be brought face-to-face with a holy, yet merciful God who desires to bring all people into His fold.