Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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Book Review: The Mysteries of the Kingdom


The Mysteries of the Kingdom: An Exposition of Jesus' Parables (revised edition)
by Herman Hanko
Reformed Free Publishing Association, Michigan, USA, 2004
Hardback, xvi + 416pp.
ISBN 0-916206-82-3
(Click here to order from the CPRC Bookstore)

There seem to be very few expositions of Scripture that combine deep theological insight, sound doctrinal teaching and yet such great clarity that a child can listen and understand. The Mysteries of the Kingdom is an excellent book which, although clearly aimed at a more mature age group, I have found can be profitably read aloud to children, even of elementary age. This book deals with almost thirty parables and also contains two very helpful introductory chapters entitled "The Interpretation of Parables" and "Why Parables?" A Scripture passage in the Authorised Version opens each chapter. This is followed by the exposition of the parable arranged under sub-headings, each of which is about one to three pages in length. These are ideal for personal devotions or reading with your children.

To give a flavour of the book, chapter ten, "The Certainty of Prayer’s Answer," expounds Luke 11:5-10, concerning the man who goes to his friend at midnight seeking food for an unexpected guest. Following the introduction, Prof. Hanko looks at "Why We Must Pray." The author emphasises the absolute sovereignty of God, making it clear that our prayers do not change the will of God. Rather "we learn to trust [God] alone and to commit our way with contentment to the higher knowledge and wisdom of our heavenly Father." Next he discusses "For What We Must Pray" from both a negative (we are not to pray for earthly things) and positive (we are to pray for the blessings which only the Holy Spirit can give) point of view. In "The Need for Encouragement," he stresses, "We must persevere in prayer. We must ask and seek and knock." If we ask our petitions of the Lord and seemingly are not heard we are then instructed to seek. "This is a stronger word than ‘ask’ and implies more. By seeking, we put forth effort to be heard. We look for the reason in ourselves, first of all, why we have not been heard." Here we are reminded of the apostle Paul praying three times for the thorn to be removed from his flesh (II Cor. 12:7-9), of Jacob continually wrestling with the Angel until he blessed him (Gen. 32:26, 28), and of the Syro-Phoenician woman pleading with our Lord to heal her daughter (Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). In the last section in this chapter, "The Certainty of Being Heard," we read: "we do not and cannot pray of ourselves or in our own strength. God brings us to himself in prayer. Only when he inspires prayer within us can we also bow our heads to seek from him the needs of our life. Our prayers are the fruit of his grace." As the title of the chapter implies, the child of God is encouraged by the absolute certainty that all his prayers are heard and answered.

Another chapter which we found particularly helpful explains the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-12). This is probably one of the most difficult parables to understand and therefore can all too often be overlooked. This intriguing chapter throws great light upon the subject.

The author, Professor Herman Hanko, taught New Testament and Church History for thirty-three years, having previously been a pastor. His book gives us abundant insights into the parables of our Lord, allowing Scripture alone to interpret Scripture. The book is rich in vocabulary, yet can still be understood by children. It certainly provides beneficial and God-honouring reading for the whole family.

What more can I say, except what others have said to us: "I was not aware that this treasure existed" and "… food for thought and a lovely addition to my bookshelf to lift down and re-read ..."

Mrs. Lois Steele, Londonderry