We have said before that history is His Story. That is especially true for the narrative of Scripture. The Bible is, in the main, a collection of stories. There are some letters, poems, and prophetic literatures, but the majority of it is history.
The key to understanding this history—and therefore all of Scripture, is to see it as one continuing story. The individual stories ought not to be viewed as isolated accounts stripped of their larger context. Neither should they be viewed as moralistic tales that help little Johnny and Suzzie to be good little boys and girls.
One of the great enemies of Christ over the years has been the many children’s Sunday School classes that have gutted the Scripture’s stories of their real value. Children grow up learning about Noah, Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel, but they never learn the significance of Noah, Joseph, Jonah, and Daniel. Even many pulpits have done a great disservice to Christ because the OT narratives have not been read in light of the purpose they serve in the larger narrative of God’s unfolding redemption.
What’s more, the average evangelical—who holds tenaciously to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, has often done (unintentional) damage to his understanding of Biblical truth by his own faithful reading of Scripture. As he opens the Scripture to read, he picks a passage here or there. One day he reads from a gospel. The next day a Psalm. Then he highlights a few charming verses of Isaiah (after skipping a bunch of tedious sections dealing with foreign nations he knows nothing about).
Such a reading plan will never grasp the continuity of Scripture. Couple this with his reading for the purpose of a personal pep or boost of “inspiration,” and you will find that the Scriptures have been mutilated more than studied. The Bible simply becomes a heap of kindling for giving you the occasional warm fuzzy, and the God of the Bible becomes something of a “genie in the book” as the reader hopes to find personal fulfillment by its pages.
In contrast to this segmented and disorderly (not to mention blasphemous) approach to Scripture stands the drama of God’s pursuit of his people in and through his Son. The Bible should be seen as a coherent whole; a cohesion of stories that tell of redemption and faith.
SG DeGraaf might have hit it most poignantly when he titled his 4 volume devotional Bible overview “Promise and Deliverance.” From Genesis to Revelation a single line of thought is drawn out and unfolded. The thread of God’s promise to save pulls each story together to express the single tale of a great deliverance of sinners.
We only need to look at the beginning and end of the Bible to see the overarching reality of this super- narrative. The Bible begins in a garden, but it ends in a city. It begins with a heave of sorrow as man is plunged into sin. But it ends with exultation as a host that no one can number cannot ever shed a tear again. It begins with two people being cast out from the face of God, but it ends with their descendants returning to their paradisiacal home to never be separated from Him again.
What we see in those bookends is knit together by everything in between. Capturing this flow is essential to biblical interpretation and, most of all, personal edification. When this line of thought is carried through the Scripture and the individual parts begin to congeal with the larger narrative, God begins to speak. No longer is it the “genie in the book” but it is the eternal God who is seeking and saving man.
Admittedly, this is no small task. There will certainly be some stories that remain mysterious. But the overall message will nevertheless be heard.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.