Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Story of God

How would you tell the story of scripture in 20 segments? In Bible College I had to tell the story of scripture in 1200 words which was a beautiful challenge which helped lay the foundation for this in depth seminary study. I hope you're encouraged. If you have the time, watching the Bible Projects' explanation for each of the Bible books listed in my "Key Scriptures," would be fruitful. 

Title 1: Everything We See (and beyond!)

Key Scriptures: Genesis 1 & 2.

Main Characters: God. Adam & Eve.

Themes: Creation. Life. Relationships. Purpose.

Overview: God, the main character of Scripture is introduced who creates more and more complex creatures for the purpose of relationship. He creates humans in the masculine and feminine image of God as sub-creators tasked with subduing and cultivating the wild world outside the garden. We learn that loneliness is the first ‘not-good’ thing to exist as humanity was created for both vertical and horizontal relationships. Creation climaxes in Sabbath, God’s ultimate intention for his image bearers.

Why it Matters: We may not know the ‘when’ question of when creation happened exactly, but we know the ‘why’. Creation exists to glorify God. Humanity is given its mission and purpose. We learn that matter matters to God as he declares that all he has made is good.

Title 2: Broken Relationships

Key Scriptures: Genesis 3.

Main Characters: God. Adam, Eve & a crafty serpent.

Themes: Rejection. Autonomy. Death. Future Hope.

Overview: A crafty serpent appears and presents Creator God as withholding good things from his image bearers. Eve buys into this lie with willful commission. Adam is culpable with complacent omission. Sin brought shame, blame, broken relationships, spiritual death and loss of freedom. Things look bleak, but help is on the way.

Why it Matters: Humanity buys into the distortion that they would be like God, when they already were. Humans will now continually try to earn an identity which is already given to them in Christ. Broken relationship with the source of all life leads to death. Atonement through the sacrificial system is foreshadowed with the death of an animal to cover their nakedness and sin. The proto-eunangelion introduced of a future ‘offspring’ that will redeem humanity by crushing the crafty serpent’s head. The divine rescue mission is launched. 

Title 3: Flushed Away

Key Scriptures: Genesis 6-8.

Main Characters: God. Wicked ‘Man’. Noah & his Family.

Themes: God Sees. God Saves. God Judges.

Overview: Wicked humanity heads further and further east from the Garden. Humanity’s numbers increase, filling the earth; but they desire to do life on their own terms. Humanity becomes increasingly violent. Gods heart breaks. He selects a remnant to start over with. Noah is trusted to build an ark which he faithfully does despite opposition. God draws his good creation into the boat and sends a cleansing rain. 

Why it Matters: We see the seriousness of sin and God’s response to human choices. We see God’s heart break in response to his creation pursuing created things over himself as creator. Despite humanity’s increasingly broken relationship with their Creator, his heart still pursues and desires to redeem them. He rebuilds with a remnant. 

Title 4: A New Family

Key Scriptures: Genesis 12:1-4; 15:1-6; 17:1-14; 21:1-7; 22; 27:18-30. 

Main Characters: God. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Themes: Patriarchs. Nations. Divine Mission. Covenant. Faith. Family. Dysfunction.

Overview: God calls Abraham west, out of the land of his father and back towards Eden. God promises him a great family and from it comes some painful dysfunction. The story moves forward through his son and shady grandson.  

Why it Matters: God again focuses on a singular family to bless the nations. We see the faithful trust in YHWH in every element of Abraham’s life. The sacrificial system of substitutionary atonement is foreshadowed through Isaac, which would be ultimately fulfilled by the ‘crusher of the serpents head’ in Jesus. We see that human brokenness and failure revealed in Jacob’s life won’t thwart God’s rescue plans.

Title 5: Off to Egypt

Key Scriptures: Genesis 37, 39, 41, 46:1-7, 47:1-6, 50:19-21.

Main Characters: God. Jacob, Joseph and his brothers. Potiphar, Prisoners and Pharaoh. 

Themes: Dreams. Pride. Prison. Famine. Salvation. Impending Slavery. 

Overview: Smooth Jacob favors one son across his four marriages. Gifted and prideful Joseph is rejected by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt where he rises to power after an unfortunate series of events. What his brothers intended for evil, God used for good to spare Joseph’s family and beyond.

Why it Matters: We begin to see God’s covenant to Abraham (blessed to be a blessing) fulfilled as Joseph saves the surrounding nations from starvation at the cost of all their money and land. We see how God’s covenant family arrived to Egypt and the reasons leading up to their enslavement.

Title 6: Time to Leave

Key Scriptures: Exodus 1:1-8; 2; 3; 4; 12.

Main Characters: God. Pharaoh. Israel. Moses. Aaron.

Themes: Fruitful Israel. Slavery. God Remembers. God will be Known. Passover. Salvation through a Mediator.

Overview: God’s promises of descendants to Abraham leads to the fear-filled enslavement of Israel by a ruler who didn’t remember Joseph. God remembers his people and spares a child from death at the hand of an Egyptian princess. This child receives the best education and upbringing before discovering who he is and fleeing to the desert. He gets married, starts a family and spends 40 years in the desert before God gives him the call and equipping of a lifetime. He will lead Israel back to Sinai for the purpose of worship at the Eden like mountain, but Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. The plurality of gods Pharaoh serves come under judgement of the one living God. It takes the death of his son and future heir to throne to let God’s people go.

Why it Matters: Despite slavery, God is still blessing his people. In opposition to Pharaoh, he remembers his people and promise, guiding them to freedom. He is the supreme leader of the universe and will be feared as such. God, through his actions in concrete time and space will be known. Pharaoh, the most wicked character in the Bible to this point, was raised up to be publicly crushed.  The Levitical system and “Kingdom of Priests,” is foreshadowed by the Passover event where members of each family become a ‘priest for a day’. The Passover lamb points to a greater Lamb that would make atonement once and for all.

Title 7: The God Who Split the Sea

Key Scriptures: Exodus 14.

Main Characters: God. Moses. Israel. Pharaoh. 

Themes: Fear. Power. Deliverance. Belief.

Overview: After experiencing the deliverance of the Lord from Egypt, the Israelites stand terrifyingly trapped next to the Red Sea. Israel longs to head back to the familiar captivity of Egypt. Moses assures the people that they will never see the approaching army again. Israel is spared and Pharaoh’s destruction is complete. Israel experienced the great power of God and put their trust in Him, and his mediator, Moses.

Why it Matters: The event witnessed by all Israel is a catalyzing and faith-building moment. God delivers a divine crushing of the chaos sea monster symbolized by Pharaoh. Passing through the waters of death to new life foreshadows the rite of baptism as the believer passes from death to life.

Title 8: The God Who Desires to Be Known

Key Scriptures: Exodus 19 & 20.

Main Characters: God. Moses.

Themes: Law. Divine Community. Relational Expectations.

Overview: The God who rescued and redeemed Israel provides a clear way for his chosen people to respond. God gives Moses the 10 Words. Moses is the Mediator of God’s Law. The first three laws are about Israel’s vertical relationship with God. The next seven are about Israel’s horizontal relationship with each other. Following these 10 Commandments will lead to blessing and life. The people will need to choose life. 

Why it Matters: Before God gave Israel the Law through Moses, he rescued them. Their response to this rescuing should be one of profound thankfulness expressed through the keeping of these relational expectations. It’s not our works that save us, but God’s saving requires a response. The people learn how to correctly approach God in the way he desires. 

Title 9: Land Ho!

Key Scriptures: Numbers 13; 14:20-25. Joshua 3.

Main Characters: God. Moses. Joshua. Israel.

Themes: Land. Gift Rejected. Fear. Rebellion. Judgement. Vindication.

Overview: 12 spies are sent to scope out the Promised Land, but succumb to circumstance-based fear. The nation rebels and is forced to die outside the Promised Land. After 40 years, Joshua leads the people into the land their forefathers rejected by fear. 

Why it Matters: God promised land to Abraham for his descendants to be able to freely worship him. They were blessed to be a blessing and were to be a visible example of what it meant to live under YHWH.

Title 10: Who’s in Charge Around Here?

Key Scriptures: Judges 1 & 2; 21:25.

Main Characters: God. “The People of Israel.” Joshua (in retrospect). The Judges. 

Themes: Judges. Failure. Faithlessness. Momentary Respite. Disobedience. Death.

Overview: The Israelites failed to take all the land God had promised to them and they suffered the consequences. Joshua, for all his faithful love of God, failed to train his replacement as Moses had done for him and left Israel without a clear shepherd. God would raise up a Judge, Israel would briefly follow God, the Judge would die, and Israel would fall away in repeated cycles.

Why it Matters: Without clear leadership, people will do whatever seems right to them. These moments set the stage for the age of kings in Israel.

Title 11: Thus, Sayeth the Lord: Rise of the Prophets

Key Scriptures: 1st Samuel 3; 8; 16.

Main Characters: God. Eli. Samuel. Saul. David.

Themes: Last Judge, first Prophet. King Maker. Kings. 

Overview: The Lord calls Samuel while under the tutelage of Eli who no longer heard the voice of the Lord. Little did the priest know that he was preparing a prophet. Prophets rose in direct response to the demand from the people of Israel to have a king like their neighbors. The prophet was tasked with reminding the King (as well as Israel) of her history and need for covenant loyalty, as well as speaking direct words from the Lord. Saul was chosen as the first king, but was subsequently rejected in favor of the faithful shepherd David.

Why it Matters: Prophets would play a tremendous role in the shaping of Israel’s conscious response to God. They would call kings out for both hidden and overt sin while reminding Israel of God’s relational expectations in the covenants and coming judgement if they failed to do so. 

Title 12: The Impact of the Kings

Key Scriptures: 2nd Samuel 7. 1st Kings 3; 1st Kings 16:25-33; 1st Kings 19. Psalm 2. Proverbs 3

Main Characters: God. David, Nathan, Solomon, Omri, Ahab, Jezebel, Elijah and Elisha.

Themes: Covenant. Kings. Faithfulness. Wisdom. Apostasy. God’s Response.  

Overview: King David desires to build a house for the Lord, but God wants to build him an eternal house. David’s son asks the Lord for wisdom to rule to the benefit of God’s people and construction of God’s Temple. Because of Solomon’s marriage alliances, idolatry of all kinds is introduced into Israel and the kingdom splits in two. In contrast to David and Solomon, Omri and Ahab fully embrace rampant idolatry to the expense of the covenant. God raises the most powerful prophets in Israel: Elijah and Elisha. In a symbolic way, these two represented the Temple-like presence of God to the Northern Kingdom, who were physically separated from the Temple at this point. 

Why it Matters: God has covenanted with David to have a king seated on his throne forever. A good king ensured the health and vitality of Israel. Jesus is that good king who rules with a greater wisdom than Solomon ever possessed on David’s throne. Despite Israel’s gross unfaithfulness, God is faithful to himself and his promises.

Title 13: The Point of No Return

Key Scriptures: 2nd Kings 17; 25.

Main Characters: Hoshea. Shalmaneser. Zedekiah. Nebuchadnezzar.

Themes: Prophets Ignored. Rampant Idolatry. Northern Exile. Southern Exile.

Overview: The long-threatened removal of Israel from God’s land by the prophets comes to pass. We see the Old Testament ABC’s in succession with Assyria (721 BC), Babylon (586 BC) and Cyrus (538 BC). Israel’s king, Hoshea, did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord. Israel rejected the covenants and statutes of YHWH by consistently pursuing perverse idolatry. Judah fared slightly better but was exiled shortly after the northern kingdom as well. The book ends on a hopeful note with Jewish King Jehoiachin being freed from prison and given a seat at Evil-Merodach’s table. 

Why it Matters: With the destruction of the Temple, had God abandoned his covenant promises to Abraham, Moses and David? Had he left Israel forever, never to return? 586 BC is the single most devastating year in Israel’s existence. 

Title 14: Out of Exile

Key Scriptures: Ezra 1; 3. Nehemiah 6.

Main Characters: Cyrus. Ezra. Zerubbabel. Jeshua. Nehemiah. Sanballat. Geshem.

Themes: Return from Exile. Rebuilding. Covenant Renewed. 

Overview: Cyrus frees the exiles in 538 BC to return to their homes and provides for them financially to rebuild their temple. The Temple was completed in 516 (70 years after its destruction to allow the land to rest) and sacrifices recommenced under Ezra’s leadership. The young rejoice at the completion of the temple, but the elders mourn, remembering the former glory of the dwelling place. God was no longer there. Despite adversity, Nehemiah completes the wall around Jerusalem in approximately 444 BC. 

Why it Matters: God hadn’t abandoned his people or covenant, but things had changed in second Temple Judaism. His presence and glory no longer occupied the Temple anticipating a coming restoration. What would become of Israel? The silence of God’s revelation foreshadowed a coming day when Messiah would enter Israel’s story…

Title 15: Return of the King

Key Scriptures: Matthew 1-2. 

Main Characters: God. God the Son, Mary, Joseph, Wise Men and Herod. 

Themes: Lineage. Gentile Inclusion. Royal Birth.

Overview: Matthew presents Jesus as the long promised eternal King in the line of David (2nd Samuel 7) and son of Abraham. Like David, the true anointed King was born in Bethlehem while the opposing king reigned from Jerusalem (Saul and Herod). The Gentiles in the line of Jesus showed that this savior was one for all nations, fulfilling the promises made to Abraham in Genesis. The treasures taken from the temple were being symbolically (perhaps literally?) returned to baby Jesus by wise foreign kings. Like King David, the ruling king of Jesus’ day, Herod, attempted to crush his opposition by violence, but was soon dead. 

Why it Matters: Israel’s long-awaited King and Savior is Born. God’s glory had entered once more into Jerusalem. The culmination of the promises made to God’s people across all time was now living and breathing in Palestine. 

Title 16: The King’s Life: Jesus the Greater Everything

Key Scriptures: Luke 2:52; 4; 5:1-11. 

Main Characters: God. God the Son. The satan. Simon and the Disciples. 

Themes: Growth. Wilderness. Fulfillment. Authority. Mission and Ministry. 

Overview: As Jesus grew, so did his favor both vertically and horizontally. He was the greater Israelite, Moses, prophet, priest and beyond who resisted temptation in the wilderness. Jesus is the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10) who proclaims the Lord’s favor. Jesus came to proclaim good news, set the captives free from disease and spiritual alienation. Jesus is the long anticipated, but rejected, messiah fulfilling the words of Isaiah. He lived and moved with total authority calling a new Israel to himself by gathering disciples.  

Why it Matters: Jesus fulfills and restores Israel to her original mission in continuity with all of God’s promises to his people. He did what Israel could not do on her own. He is the greater priest, prophet and King.

Title 17: The Kings Death: A Glorious New Beginning

Key Scriptures: Mark 15. John 20. Luke 24.

Main Characters: God. Pilate. God the Son. Mary Magdalene and Mary Jesus’ mother. Joseph of Arimathea.  ‘The Disciples’ and Thomas.

Themes: Crucifixion. Death. Burial. Resurrection. Mission. Commission. Ascension.

Overview: The innocent Jesus is handed over to Pilate out of envy by the religious leaders of his day. The sinless savior dies and is laid in a tomb for three days. He raises on the first day of the week where he is mistaken as a gardener. He appears to his students on the road to Emmaus and unpacks all the scriptures, showing how Israel’s savior had to suffer and rise again as he did. The divine gardener is cultivating the creation he spoke into being and commissions his students to follow him to ends of the earth. He did more signs and wonders than any book could contain, and they were recorded so that we would choose life. His earthly ministry being completed, he returns back to God the Father.

Why it Matters: If Easter didn’t occur, Christmas wouldn’t matter. Jesus fulfills all the promises made to a wayward people as the climax of God’s redemptive rescue plan inaugurated in Genesis 3. The kingdom is now, but not yet. A second week of creation has been started so to speak, where Jesus’ students are commissioned to be a blessing to the nations by proclaiming that the crucified and risen Christ is the true King of the Universe. They’re to live as their teacher did.

Title 18: Birth of the Church

Key Scriptures: Acts 2

Main Characters: God the Father. God the Son. God the Holy Spirit. Peter and the 11 Disciples. Israel.

Themes: Empowered for Mission. New Community. 

Overview: God the Holy Spirit comes and fills his people, connecting them to the ascended Christ to fulfill the mission of God the Father. Peter boldly preaches and 3,000 people are saved. The fledgling group of Jesus followers can’t get enough of this message. Having their deepest spiritual needs met, they freely share their physical possessions.

Why it Matters: The Holy Spirit enables God’s people to live out God’s mission in community with one another. 

Title 19: Persecutor to Promoter

Key Scriptures: Acts 9. Romans 1:1-16

Main Characters: Saul/Paul. Ananias.

Themes: Persecution. Spiritual Blindness. Transformation.

Overview: Saul has a radical encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. After being healed by a fearful Ananias, he’s integrated into the New Israel as an Apostle. He unashamedly professes Christ to the ends of the earth.

Why it Matters: Saul/Paul shapes the fledgling Church through persecution and terror. After his conversion he becomes the missionary par excellence and a prolific writer, encouraging, instructing and rebuking individuals and groups. 

Title 20: The Death of Death: All things Made New

Key Scriptures: Revelation 19:6-9; 21.

Main Characters: God. John. The Bride. The Lamb.

Themes: Divine Wedding. Divine Feast. Eschatological Shalom. Eternal 7th day Sabbath.

Overview: Heaven merges with earth and all mourning, crying and pain is eliminated. There’s no more need for a sun or temple, as God will be its light and salvation. God’s dwelling will be among humanity, comforting his people. 

Why it Matters: In the beginning humanity shared a snack with the crafty serpent. Now, the serpent and its followers are judged and the faithful share a feast with King Jesus. The righteous are vindicated and everything is healed, whole and made complete. The telos of creation has reached its climax and is restored.

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