I just finished reading John Hever’s book, The Hidden Delight of God. It’s an extended study of the biblical Exodus account, with some cultural analysis and adaptation. And I should probably admit that I received an advance copy of the book directly from the author, because I know him personally. He also wanted to pass on the thought of gifting the book as a Christmas present to friends or family. But he also wanted me to pass along a caveat. “I don’t think it’s the perfect gift for everyone, as I did not write it with spiritual seekers in mind… But for those who are on the journey of following Jesus, I believe this book imparts something we greatly need these days: Hope!” Just getting all of those disclaimers and public relations statements out of the way. Now I want to offer my sincere reflections on reading this book.
I’ve finished reading it for myself since starting a sort of Winter Break. (Sorry it wasn’t sooner, if my reading timeline didn’t match up well with your Christmas shopping!). As much as it speaks to themes that are directly applicable to ministry (i.e. my job), it really comes across mostly as a personal devotional aid. So, I’m glad that I got the chance to read it over a stretch of downtime.
The author blends a slow, deliberate exegesis of the biblical Exodus account with anecdotes and illustrations. And in all of this, Hever plays to his strengths as a preacher and pastor. His personal stories have a particularly magnetic quality. But he’s also faithful to the story of Moses and the People of God.
At its core, The Hidden Delight of God is a book about identity. It describes the way that the individual of Moses and the nation of Israel can function as models for us. Particularly in our own process of redefining our relationship with God and the world around us. Moses had to go through a process, himself, where he purged all of the false narratives that he had built for himself. And in their place, he leaned into God’s story for his life. It didn’t take immediately. He had to relearn a lot of old patterns and rediscover his truest and best sense of self.
But even as he was completing this process for himself, Moses started to lead the People of God through this process on a collective level. The story of the Exodus plays this all out in dramatic detail. And I really appreciated the way that Hever’s exposition brought this to life. After all of the Bible study, Hever turns the corner to show how we’re next. Similar to Moses and the nation of Israel, we must give up the false narratives that run our lives. We have to embrace our identity as children of God. And then we get to live as examples of God’s ongoing process of redemption and renewal that can perpetuate this process in successive generations of faith.
It’s foundational stuff. And as such, I feel like I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a helpful resource for believers. But just to make sure that this doesn’t become a puff piece for my friend’s publishing project: it’s not a perfect book. I don’t love the term that the author coined for divine coincidence (“God-incidence”). Similarly, I worry that the phrase “living ‘2.0” is not going to age well. And in general, this book conforms to the Christian publishing standards that dictate two-hundred pages for of a concept that could be better in fifty or a hundred pages — or perhaps a sermon series, instead. But I really don’t want these points of critique to overpower the good things that this book represents.
I’m glad that I got the chance to read The Hidden Delight of God. I’m glad that John Hever is stepping into the world of writing and publication. The world is better for these developments. And I look forward to seeing what comes next from these developments.