A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture, by Scott Hahn. 1998. Cincinnati: Servant Books (Saint Anthony Messenger Press)
Reviewed by Christina M. Weber
For a majority of Catholics, even devout ones, the Old Testament is the ugly step-sister that garners little attention and even less true understanding.
My husband and I recently hosted at our home a parish book group of Scott Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture. With each week, the study illuminated my own embarrassingly weak comprehension of the Old Testament content and overall themes.
Scott Hahn rescues me and the other Old Testament-ignorant Catholics with his story-like presentation of salvation history and of God’s persistent love affair with us, His people.
Starting with the story on creation, Hahn’s book resonated with God’s mission to create order out of chaos, a process we as humans strive to achieve. Hahn paints the rest of salvation history as a roller coaster ride vacillating from faithfulness to God to abandoning Him. That storyline would eclipse the best that Hollywood has to offer. Internalizing the messages God is trying to teach us in the Old Testament helps each of us grow in our faith today.
Those messages spawn a strong tie from our Jewish roots to our modern day Catholic faith. Hahn in this book educates us on our shared covenants, the key vehicles God uses in this journey toward fidelity and wholeness. Unlike contracts, covenants are blood-like, unifying bonds among persons. Almost painfully, the story of how humanity repeatedly violates our covenant with God continuously unfolds.
Hahn unpacks the nuances of key covenants with Old Testament heroes Abraham, Noah, Moses, and David by breaking down details that slip by most Catholic Old Testament readers. Ironically, these particulars are what give greater poignancy to the story and to the point the biblical author tries to convey.
The detailed walk-through of those covenant leaders God called and their failures point to the necessity of the one, true, perfect covenant leader Christ and our new covenant in the New Testament. Having a glimpse of the patterns of repeated stumbles of our predecessors in faith fuels gratitude for the Eucharistic and other sacraments we New Testament people can avail ourselves of. Hahn effectively connects Old Testament practices to current traditions in the Catholic Church, leaving the reader to a deeper conviction that we do have the one true faith.
This book is well written. I enjoyed reading it with a study group. With my impoverished Old Testament knowledge, it helped me absorb the richness of Hahn’s perspectives and to be aware of key points I otherwise would have missed.
Christina M. Weber is an author, marriage and family therapist, wife and mother to three children. In 2011 she founded Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships to aid women in their relationships with God, themselves, and the people in their lives by fully integrating the teachings of the Catholic Church. Her book The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships: 12 Supernatural Keys to Make Good Relationships Great and Improve Difficult Ones is available her website, catholicwomens guide.com, where she blogs.
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