Forty Days on the Mountain: Meditations on Knowing God by Stephen Smallman
What does a seasoned pastor, an urban missionary, and a faithful teacher of God’s Word have to say to our generation? In his new book, Forty Days on the Mountain, Pastor Stephen Smallman brings us face to face with Moses, Jesus, and the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. With a rare combination of solid interpretation of the Bible and the unique ability to get to the heart of the matter in short chapters, Smallman does a remarkable job in these meditations on knowing God. You will be nourished spiritually in these pages but don’t think for a second that you won’t be challenged in your well-traveled faith.
On Day 3 Stephen looks at Moses’ meeting with God at the Burning Bush (Ex. 3.1-15). He notes that it was God’s initiative that in placing the burning bush before Moses and subsequently calling Moses toward God’s presence. Smallman writes, “This initiative on the part of God is the pattern throughout Scripture, from his seeking out Adam and Eve after the fall, to the call that God graciously extends to place our faith in Christ …it all goes back to God’s coming to him (30).” Though the interaction between divine initiative and human volition is mysterious (30), we have to forsake the notion that we as humans are the instigators towards the divine. The beauty in this is that we serve a God who desires to make himself known and is in pursuit of us at every angle in every age.
One very important distinction is found on Day 17 where Stephen looks at Colossians 1:9-14. In this Pauline passage, the phrase “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.” Of this section, Stephen writes, “I’m afraid that for many Christians that order is reversed - …Or perhaps it would be better to say we are so preoccupied with the doing of Christianity that we pay scant attention to the matter of knowing (80).” The deep knowledge that the Colossians have of God’s will compels them to act in a manner worthy of their calling as holy believers in Christ. For Smallman, the knowing encourages the doing of the Christian faith and these twin aspects of faith are not at odds, but rather work in concert together.
With a vision for the necessities of the Christian faith, for growth in grace, and a challenge for comfortable Christians, Stephen Smallman is to be commended for writing such an excellent book.
Thanks to P&R Publishing for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.