When Francine Rivers was asked what inspired her to write this Trilogy, her answer was this:
Almost every story I’ve written since becoming Christian has come from a question relating to a struggle in my own faith walk. With “A Voice in the Wind,” that question was “How do you live out your faith among family members and friends who are not at all interested in the gospel?” I became fascinated by the early martyrs and how they had the courage to die for their faith. So I decided to begin the story in AD 69-70 with the chaos and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Through the character of Hadassah, the answer came: it’s not what you say; it’s how you live that has the impact. Also, you don’t need courage ahead of time. God prepares you and supplies you with the courage you need to face difficulties when you need it.
God Always Leaves a Remnant
How Rivers introduced this Character, Hadassah, to us in the first book, is significant. And it is one of the many things that have stuck with me from this series. The story starts with cruel action – Jerusalem’s fall. Hadassah loses her entire family, and is sold into slavery. Hers was a family of devout Christians, her father, Hananiah, having constantly risked his life to preach the gospel, and her mother and siblings just as zealous in their faith. She, looked up to them. She saw so much more that she needed to learn. Much room for her faith to grow. And so, when she lost them all…when out of them all she lived, she did not understand.
Of all of the members of her family, her faith was weakest, her spirit the most doubting and the least bold. Of all of them, she was least worthy. “Why me, Lord?” she asked, weeping softly. “Why me?”
She had heard before that “God always leaves a remnant,” but she felt inadequate. Why was she the remnant that God chose to leave? We see though, from Book One, how God uses “the base things of this world to confound the wise.”
Providence and Saving Grace
What happens in this Trilogy is a show of God’s providence and how He weaves lives into lives for the sole purposes of salvation. In A Voice in the Wind, we are introduced to Artretes – a German warrior taken captive and trained as a gladiator, then to the Valerian family, where Hadassah finally ends up as a personal house slave to a rather spoilt young woman – Julia Valerian.
Nothing but a slave, Hadassah simply diligently goes about her assigned duties as a slave. What is interesting to note is that she does not necessarily hide the fact that she is Christian. She just never talked about it. She was aware what could happen to her if she did. But one realizes too that she was never asked. However, what we see is that although there was no talking about it point blank that “I am Christian,” her actions made her different – peculiar. She spent time every day in silent prayer. She lived by the gospel of Christ. She loved her enemies and prayed for those who persecuted her. So pure was her love that it left a mark. She would sometimes say just a few words and the impact was great. In all of this, Hadassah was mostly oblivious to the effect she had. She was as humble as ever, and faithful to her God. In this first book, we see the foundation being laid. We see how the people she came in direct contact with have not fully realized yet but have begun to see that she was different. They couldn’t understand how come she was a mere slave but a large part of them, if they admitted, envied something she had – peace. It baffled them.
In A Voice in the Wind, they are aware that she serves a God that one could not see – the most High God. They thought she was Jewish. What they didn’t know yet, till the very end, was that she not only served God, she had a personal relationship with Him. She carried Him with her in her spirit, through Jesus Christ. She was Christian. Long before that revelation though, were actions that finally lay as proof of something amazing and true.
Fighting Temptation. Keeping the Faith.
Then there was Marcus. Marcus Valerian. We see how he initially finds Hadassah nothing to pay attention to, but soon enough cannot help wondering who the young woman is and why she has so much influence on him. He is attracted to her. But here too, we see that Hadassah is faced with a new temptation –
“Your name,” he said, “I’ve forgotten it.”
“Hadassah,” he said, testing it.
Hadassah trembled. It sounded strange and foreign the way he said it. And beautiful, somehow. “Hadassah,” he said again and, like a caress, the sound of his deep voice aroused emotions in her she had never felt before.
She was attracted too. At several points in the book we see how she constantly fights this temptation by praying and as best as she could, not fueling Marcus’ lust. She acknowledges her feelings for him and prays to God about them. She is barely holding on, but she does anyway, trusting God to preserve her. And He does. What is interesting here is the fact that Marcus could have gone ahead to have his way with her. After all, she was a slave and it was not against the law if he did. But he did not. On one event when he almost let his raw emotions take over him, he quickly regrets it. Was it that something deep inside Marcus made him unable to violate her? Or was it Hadassah’s influence; the mystery that hung around her; some force surrounding her making her almost untouchable? There is much to learn in the developing story from Marcus’ angle.
Being surrounded by so much evil – a key representation of it being Calabah and her influence, and free men and women who were slaves to every base desire, this slave girl’s freedom was palpable.
A Voice in the Wind
Eventually, it is revealed that Hadassah is Christian. And she does not deny it. She had lived her life all the while being Christian. It had become a secret they hadn’t yet realized was open. Julia, her mistress, calls for her to be fed to the lions. This book ends with Hadassah in the arena, at the mercy of hungry lions.
He stared as Hadassah led the group out, walking calmly.
“What have you done, Julia?”
“I heard what she said to you! I heard her throw your love back in your face. She preferred her god over you, and you said her god could have her. Well, now he shall.”
…The sound of the screaming mob rose as Hadassah walked calmly toward the center of the arena. The lioness crouched. Hadassah lifted her hands slowly, spreading her hands as though to welcome the beast as it charged.
“No!” Marcus cried out again, his face convulsing as the Lion hit her. He turned his face away as she went down – and something inside of him died.
“There,” Julia said triumphantly. “It’s finished.”
All her actions, after then, transformed into a voice in the wind, beckoning at whoever cared to recollect and ponder – pointing them to the God for whom she had the courage to die. Marcus is the first to hear this voice; clearly.
And in that instant, God answered Hadassah’s prayer. Marcus looked back, and his eyes were suddenly opened as he stared down at Hadassah, lying crumpled on the sand, her tunic shredded and bloodstained. Two lionesses were fighting over her body, ripping at one another. One bit into Hadassah’s leg and tried to drag her away. The other attacked again.
In the second book, we get to see where this voice that Marcus heard led him, and what happened to him, and to others he came in contact with. We get to see too who, after Marcus, heard the voice too and what happened to each one of them.
This is a book that remains on top of the list of my greatest reads. I have read it four times already and every time felt like it was my first. It really is no mere novel. The influence of Hadassah comes out of the pages and affects the real life. The reading becomes spiritually revealing. It made me consider my own faith. What my life professes as against what my lips do. Temptations and what I do in the face of them. Hadassah challenges the Christian reader to consider relationships with the people around them. Consider what he/she understand by Christ’s call to love our enemies. You want to learn from her. You see how you must.
It was after my third read that my attention was drawn to something the Author said, and what I’d like to end this with. Something that not just made me understand why the story had such a powerful effect, but also inspired me, personally, as a Christian who happens to be a writer too. Here’s what she said;
My main desire when I started writing Christian fiction was to find answers to personal questions, and to share those answers in story form with others. Now, I want so much more. I yearn for the Lord to use my stories in making thirst for His Word, the Bible. I hope that reading Hadassah’s story will make you hunger for the real Word, Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. I pray that you will finish my book and pick up the Bible with a new excitement and anticipation of real encounter with the Lord Himself. May you search Scripture for the sheer joy of being in God’s presence.
God sure answered her prayer, and we say “AMEN” all over again.
Join us IN this exciting read over the next two months, as we look forward to reviewing books two and three as well.
God bless us all.