Most of us who read or skim this website, don’t invest much time or effort into reading the Apocrypha. We likely don’t read much historical fiction or many romance novels either. But Lauren Jacobs’ book, Yehudit: Chosen by God is an invitation to do so. It is also an invitation to affirm the significance of women in God’s story and be reminded of God’s faithful love in every circumstance.
Lauren Jacobs’ story is a retelling of the book of Judith. The book of Judith is included in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant. Lauren claims (in her introduction) that the reason a number of these Apocryphal books which highlight God’s commitment to Israel were rejected from the Protestant Canon at the time of the Reformation was because of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism bias. She thus challenges evangelicals in particular, to reconsider, re-engage, or for the first time pay attention to what God might be saying to His people through these deuterocanonical texts.
In this book thus, we journey with a daughter of Israel, Yehudit who,
has always loved and trusted in Yahweh, the God of her people. But personal tragedy and the threat of a mighty enemy pose challenges to her faith. God is with her and will use her in her weakness to deliver an entire nation from evil. Accompany Yehudit on her journey from being a young girl defeated by tragedy to becoming a mighty warrior. Along the way, you will discover how the same God who strengthened her can heal your own wounds and shape your destiny.
While some might find the author’s poetic, romantic style at times a little ‘over-the-top’, Lauren Jacobs cleverly invites readers to identify their own faith journeys in the struggles, joys, and steps of faith of the characters she writes about. Such an approach helps every reader not only come to understand and reflect on their own relationship with God through grief and loss, fear and conviction, but also imagine how might they come alongside others who are unsure about what it might mean to receive the grace and love of the God of the universe who is at work in, around and through them.
Lauren is also passionate about encouraging and calling out women to embrace their “ordained citizenship as co-heirs and co-rulers of the earth” (9). She longs for all females to discover, trust, and use their gifts for the sake of the Kingdom and uses her story to demonstrate how this is not only possible but powerful and necessary! As an article in the Bolander News put it,
Ms. Jacobs-Beukman is presently focusing on biblical and historical fiction about lesser known women whose stories show that women have fought wars, led armies, led nations and were change-makers and peacemakers.
That’s not all Bolander News reports about Lauren. The article celebrates the recent award that she received. At age 32, she is the youngest person to ever to win the Desmond Tutu-Gerrit Brand Prize for the best Christian debut novel.
What insights does this text offer us?
- Lauren pushes us to wrestle with all that goes wrong in our lives and in the world through the lens of faith in a God who is with us even so. As she weaves the story of Yehudit, we are reminded that God can be trusted in every circumstance no matter how tragic or desperate. In light of the current ‘politics’ in places such as Charlottesville and North Korea, this is an important message.
- It illustrates how God can and does use women to overcome the powers-at-hand and lead us out of hopelessness into God’s redemptive and restorative purposes for all His people.
- She (re-)introduces us to the lesser-known texts of the Apocrypha reminding us that God can and does speak to us in numerous ways.
- Other timeless themes which are then highlighted in a study-discussion guide at the end of the story include parental love, marital relationships, pain and grief, the call of God, attentiveness to the Spirit, justice for all and women caring for each other.
- Finally, it offers us an opportunity to hear a different voice; that of a South African woman who is an “author, journalist, speaker and gender equality activist in the area of abuse within faith communities” and much more.
While many of us might not appreciate its romanticism, nor agree with the violent way with which the enemy is dealt with in this story—a discussion that embraces numerous Old Testament texts (and goes beyond the scope of this review) — Yehudit: Chosen by God, will be a particularly valuable read for women who feel unsure of their value, have experienced loss or trauma and/or are seeking the encouragement and support to step into more leadership.
Check out Laura’s story and ministry at https://laurenjacobs.co.za/aboutme/