I learned to read at a fairly early age. Between Sesame Street and my mom, I began recognizing letters and words before I entered Kindergarten. We didn’t have any of the normal children’s books around the house; I cut my teeth on the pages of Scripture. While most kids were making their way through Dr. Seuss and The Little Engine That Could, my parents had me read stories in the Bible like Abraham offering Isaac up to God as a sacrifice and David killing Goliath. Between many “thees” and “thous”, and a horifically long time in Leviticus, they were my first reading lessons, my bedtime stories and the lessons I heard week in and week out in Sunday School.
Although I understood that the Bible was one book composed of 66 books and countless stories, I wasn’t quite told how all the stories seemed to fit together. I viewed it as a collection of stories (true stories!) with morals. They were stories that ultimately showed us how to live rightly and serve God better.
- God asks Abraham to offer his only son, the son God had promised him in his old age, as a sacrifice to show Abraham’s commitment to God. Abraham is willing and obeys, but God prevents Abraham from slaying Isaac by providing a ram to take Isaac’s place. Moral of the story: be willing to sacrifice anything for God like Abraham.
- The Philistine giant Goliath taunts the Israelite army, and no one is brave enough to fight him. Shepherd boy David finds out what the fuss is about and goes out to battle Goliath, not with sword and shield, but with his staff, sling and five smooth stones. Young David kills Goliath, the Israelites oust the Philistines and David eventually becomes king. Moral of the story: be courageous like David and you can slay the giants in your life.
I learned all the morals of the stories of the Bible and thus tried to model my life off the specific stories that were in them, and that is how I was taught to view them. What I did was turn the Bible into a sort of Aesop’s Fables. The Bible was primarily a book on how to live life. I became a really good moralist, trying to model my life after the examples in Scripture of what to and not to do, trying to thus ensure my acceptance by God and His love.
And I missed the big picture, the greater Story that God is telling us through His revealed Word.
God created everything, and it was good: the heavens, the earth, the entire cosmos. He created man and woman to rule over creation and to live in relationship with Him, but they rebelled against His one rule, and it fractured everything. Sin, death and a broken relationship with God were the consequences of this rebellion and became our inheritance. Everything was broken and the Bible is the story of how God has been relentlessly pursuing sinful people and restoring relationship with them (us) and repairing everything that was broken. God did this by sending His Son Jesus to earth, and in His life, death and resurrection, everything broken is being made right; this is the big picture, the greater Story that God is telling us through His revealed Word. And every story points to this Story.
- The story of Abraham and Isaac isn’t just about one man’s willingness to sacrifice the most precious thing in his life. It points to a Father who was willing to sacrifice His one and only Son and let Him die. There was no ram; Jesus actually died. It is a story that shows how deep the Father’s love for us is.
- The story of David and Goliath isn’t mainly about a young boy that courageously slays a giant. It points to a desperately weak people who need an overwhelmingly great savior to overcome an overwhelmingly great enemy. It is the story of how God sent a Deliverer at the right time to rescue His people from this enemy of sin and death.
When we see the Bible this way, as one Grand Story, we see the heart of a loving, redeeming God who is after us, after our heart, not begrudging obedience. We see that there is a cohesiveness to Scripture that points to a Grand Storyteller.
And we see that we’re not the center of this Story. Jesus is.