After years of watching his children and grandchildren wander from their faith, Iddo’s prayers are answered: King Cyrus is allowing God’s chosen people to return to Jerusalem. Jubilant, he joyfully prepares for their departure, only to learn that his family, grown comfortable in the pagan culture of Babylon, wants to remain.
Zechariah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the comfort and success his father enjoys in Babylon. But he soon begins to hear the voice of God, encouraging him to return to the land given to his forefathers.
Bringing to life the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, “Return to Me” tells the compelling story of Iddo and Zechariah, the women who love them, and the faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.
Lynn Austin is an author who understands the profound ministerial ability of a novel. Return to Me (Bethany House) challenges readers to look at biblical events and personalities as relevant to contemporary situations, instead of mere stories of ancient peoples Through a work of fiction, Austin succeeds at relating truths that are unchangeable and inherent to God’s Word. She steers clear of sensationalizing the experiences of the characters and allows the story to stand on its own feet historically and biblically, which is certainly compelling and powerful enough.
Iddo, a priest from the tribe of Levi, is among the exiled Israelites living in Babylon after the destruction of The Temple. He is unsettled in his spirit by the wicked practices he has seen his people adopt while exiled in Babylon. He sees their apathy as acceptance of the pagan ways and is determined to see their return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of The Temple. Facing dissension within his own family he eventually convinces his wife and grandson Zechariah to return to the Promised Land with him along with a small contingency to reclaim it from the Samaritans. Their way is fraught with danger and opposition.
God does not pick perfect people to accomplish greatness in His name, as is perfectly evidenced by Iddo and Zechariah. Their faith is tried, it wavers on the precipice of doubt and rejection, but they are never abandoned even in their moments of unbelief. Through their failings, the greatness of God can be given all the glory for no man could take the credit for their improbable victories over the enemies laying siege against their mission.
Babylon is of both literal and symbolic significance as deftly revealed by Austin. The Jews are captive to Babylon politically and spiritually, many enticed by the luscious and indulgent lifestyles of their captors. The Israelites’ tenuous hold on their relationship with God is disintegrating due to their inability to put away the wickedness of Babylon that has become so ingrained in their lives that it is new ideal, not righteousness. Here Austin warns readers of the emptiness of existence that permeates a materialistic lifestyle and selfish ambition. his is reminiscent of the Christian edification to be in the world, not of the world.
Because the Bible is just as applicable to today’s society, Lynn Austin’s conceptualization of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are likewise congruent to today’s life. She does not take unnecessary liberties with history to further her plot or detract from the message of reconciliation. It is evident in the exemplary detail that her research was intensive and comprehensive. All of the information she disseminates is never dry, but resplendent with her signature prose and imagery.
When a biblical fiction novel makes readers yearn for and turn to the Bible, it has succeeded in its purpose to speak to the heart and its yearnings to draw closer to God’s encompassing embrace. Return to Me is a cerebral and emotional read that must be considered and consumed with diligence, lest the magnanimity not be justly appreciated. A sweeping saga of the restoration of a people to the Father and the personal longing of the heart for God’s own that is humbling in its beauty and mastery of writing, Book 1 of the Restoration Chronicles is another diamond in Lynn Austin’s literary crown.