Today is day three of the CSFF Blog Tour, reviewing my second novel, MERLIN’S SHADOW!
Yesterday we covered how God works in the world, including a powerful example from my own life. Todays I’d like to share a Biblical example.
Three things coincided to bring the story of Joseph to mind:
- My wife and I talked through God’s involvement in Merlin’s Blade, and she came up with the story of Joseph as a similar example.
- I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and the very morning after my wife and I had this discussion about Joseph (and just before I went to the International Christian Retail Show for an interview), I came to, as a matter of course, the very story of Joseph and his enslavement in Egypt. There was no planning here, it was up next in my daily Bible reading.
- That night at ICRS we sat and listened to Max Lucado speak about his new book YOU’LL GET THROUGH THIS, and found that the *entire* book is based on the story of Joseph.
Max hit the nail on the head for us…no wait, let me rephrase that…Max hit my wife and I on the head! We sat there almost dumbstruck as Mr. Lucado laid out for us what I call “The Biblical Encouragement” of how God works in the world to turn the bad things in our life into good.
Here was Joseph, a young man for whom everything had gone wrong. Sold into slavery by his brothers and taken forcibly to a strange land, he was accused falsely and thrown into a dungeon even though he had done no wrong. And even there he was forgotten by those who should have remembered him.
So how did God work? It was through events that, when put together, add up to amazing things. But no kapow. No flash of light. No angel visitation.
Does God do things like that? Yes! Just look at Paul and Silas chained up in Acts 16:25-26. An earthquake came and opened all the doors and unfastened all their bonds! Wow!
But for Joseph? Nothing like that.
On page 58 of YOU’LL GET THROUGH THIS (advanced reader copy), Max details the struggles of some people who have written to him with difficult problems in their lives…people who feel imprisoned, like Joseph, by their circumstances. Afterward, Max says this:
Each of these individuals wonders, “Where is heaven in this story? Why would God permit such imprisonment? Does this struggle serve any purpose?” Joseph surely posed those questions.
And these are the same kind of questions you might asked about Merlin’s Blade. Where is God in this story? Well…he is involved in the same way that he was in Joseph’s story…walking with Joseph through slavery, jail, and loneliness.
Like Joseph, Merlin was miraculously elevated to serve a king. Like Joseph, Merlin was used providentially to save the entire land.
Novelist and singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson puts it this way in his song titled “The Last Frontier (A Lament)”, found on his beyond-excellent “Counting Stars” album:
… And my heart is black as coal
It’s been mined and their ain’t no gold
It’s so dark in there, that I don’t care
I will lay down in this empty hole
Where my heart is black as coal
And, oh…there is nowhere left to go…from here,
and I have fallen past the last frontier,
and at the bottom of this well I hear you…breathing:
Oh love…has found me
Love…has found me…here!
And so it is. When we’re at the end of our rope…there God is, waiting to turn our suffering into gold, to pull us up, by grace, and set us on our feet again. Sometimes we will only see this happen in heaven. Sometimes in this life. But, like Joseph, God can turn what appears to be intended for evil into good … both for us as well as others.
This is how it was for Joseph. After God miraculously raised him up to the one of the most powerful rulers in the land, and through him God saved the lives of all the Egyptians, as well as his own family. In the end, Joseph declared the following to his brothers:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
And these words are echoed in the New Testament by Paul:
… for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
And don’t take that verse out of context…it is followed shortly by these words:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)
Max Lucado wonderfully summarizes YOU’LL GET THROUGH THIS with these powerful words:
Consider the Old Testament story of Joseph … tossed in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongfully imprisoned. But God weaved what was meant for evil for good. God is in the business of redeeming the broken. He was then. He is still. Do you crave some hope for these tough times? Then this is the message you need.
You’ll get through this.
It won’t be painless.
It won’t be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
Don’t be foolish or naive.
But don’t despair either.
With God’s help, you’ll get through this.
And this message is not only for us, but it is also the message that God has for Merlin in MERLIN’S BLADE as well MERLIN’S SHADOW and MERLIN’S NIGHTMARE.
A FINAL POINT
And for one final point, let me bring up one other issue that has been raised…the “gloomy” appearance of the angels to Merlin. Let me just say that the angels themselves are not gloomy, but rather the vision that the angels break into are gloomy.
Why are these visions gloomy? It is because they are showing Merlin “spiritually” what is happening in the physical world…that Merlin is in a spiritual battle the likes of which he has never imagined. And the spiritual forces levied against him are represented by different Celtic deities.
Each vision parallels the physical reality with a spiritual reality. But the angels? They appear, not as part of the visions, but as God breaking in and giving Merlin a message:
And each time, this is the warning that Merlin must heed.
In closing, here’s a quote from Jojo Sutis’s video review of Merlin’s Blade. These thoughts were especially encouraging to me!
“Which leads to the second thing that’s so wonderful about this book, and that’s the faith factor. That’s one thing that’s missing from the BBC Merlin is a faith factor.
Sure you can watch the show and there are some really great messages and some valuable things you can take away from that, but it’s not the same as what Robert Treskillard has done so wonderfully in this book. And that is incorporating themes of faith.
As I’m reading a book I love to know it is changing me, that it is strengthening my faith, giving me hope. It’s changing the way I see my own circumstances, and that’s what I want when I read a book, and that’s totally what I got from Merlin’s Blade.”
So this concludes my three day, probably over-explained, answer to the question of “Where is God in The Merlin Spiral.” It is my hope that you would be encouraged that despite the suffering that Merlin goes through, that God is with him through it all. And though this is fiction … it is true of your life as well.
I want to end by thanking all of the tour participants for taking the time to read the novel and thoughtfully write up reviews. As a new author, this is encouraging far more than you can know.