Friday, 15 October 2010
Hungry Chapter 9: Cook
Have you ever been so lost in a book that you didn’t realize the kids had taken over the kitchen?
We all love a good story. At Bible study we talked about books and movies we’ve loved and how you feel like you’re a part of the story for a few days afterward.
The power of a good story is more than the sum of its parts. All the elements of the story come together into a whole that has the power to move us, delight us, draw us in, and then send us out with that story somehow inside of us.
It’s like cooking a meal. All of those ingredients we chopped become more than the sum of their parts. They become a meal that smells, looks, and hopefully, tastes really good. And yes, they do then become part of you.
How does this happen in Bible study? How do the ingredients we prepped in chapter 8 come together to make a meal? It helps to have a picture of the dish you’re cooking in front of you.
It helps to have a grasp of the whole story of the Bible.
The Whole Story of the Bible
How I read the Bible is colored by what I expect to find there. If I think it’s a how-to guide for my life, I will read it for a list of self-help rules and suggestions. If I think it’s a religious book to guide my quest for meaning, I will read it for inspiration or answers to my “why” questions.
Instead, the Bible is the story of “a pursuing God and how far he will go to bring us back to himself” (Hungry, p. 178). I read it in order to know that God and to hear the story of his pursuit of people like me.
God is the hero of the story. He is the instigator of the action. He is the initiator of the conversation. He is the King. We read to find out what he has done, is doing, or will do.
The people–starting with Adam and Eve–were created to be his royal sons and subjects. They were made to rule the earth wisely and respond to God with love and obedience.
The relationship between God and his people is different from how we relate in our culture. We love to keep it informal–nicknames, emoticons, quick familiarity, low commitment. We like to come and go as we please in our relationships. But God doesn’t relate to his creation informally, because he is holy. There is no informal, common ground between us unless he creates it.
So God created that common ground by making a covenant. That covenant he made with Adam was conditional. The single condition was not eat of the tree in the center of the garden. Adam would have a relationship with God (live), as long as he kept his part of the covenant. If he broke it he would die.
That kind of covenant–which depends on us to keep it–is also known as a covenant of law. When Adam broke the one rule, it should have been the end of the human race.
But it wasn’t. Instead of destroying Adam, Eve, the Garden, and the timeline of human history, God gave a promise:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).
Now, I’ll admit this reads like a cryptic clue from the DaVinci Code, but it becomes clearer as the timeline advances and we realize we are waiting for a hero to rescue us from evil forever.
This promise introduces a new kind of covenant, a covenant of grace. Its fulfillment doesn’t depend on us at all. Fulfilling it is God’s responsibility. That means we can’t mess it up.
So grace allows history to continue. The Old Testament waits on tiptoe for the coming of the One.
Where Does this Passage Fit in the Story?
Whether you saw Star Wars in 1977 when it came out or sometime later, I’ll wager you’ve seen it. That iconic film and the two that followed formed the “Star Wars Trilogy.” It’s the heart of the story.
Later the filmmakers decided to do a trilogy of prequels, which weren’t nearly as successful. They told the back story. Finally a sequel trilogy was planned to wrap it all up. We’re still waiting for the last 2 parts.
What is the heart of the Biblical story? The Gospels, where the promised One came to mend the broken covenant by keeping its rules perfectly and then dying as if he had broken it. Jesus in his perfect obedience and atoning death paid the price for Adam’s sin (and ours) and vindicated God’s mercy, both in the Garden and everywhere else along the timeline.
The whole Old Testament is a kind of “prequel,” setting the stage for the main drama of the Gospels. They give the back story, but they only make sense once the Hero arrives.
What is the sequel, then? The rest of the New Testament, which explains what Jesus did and applies it to us, the church. And of course the grand finale is Revelation. No more sequels after that!
How I understand any passage of the Bible depends on where it falls on the timeline–prequel, main stage, or sequel.
Where Do I Fit in the Story?
The first question we tend to ask when we sit down with our Bibles is really the last one we can answer. That’s because we typically want a quick fix for our lives when we read.
Where do I fit in the story? I tend to think of myself as the hero of every story, including this one. Yep. Ego-centric is the word you’re looking for. Or if I’m not acting like the hero I want to be, then I want a little help to get better. So my inner messiah can emerge.
That’s why the quick fix I want from the Bible is usually:
- a rule to obey–legalism
- a hero to emulate–moralism
But God knows that’s not what I need. So instead of a law to obey he gives me Jesus, the Law Keeper. And instead of a hero to emulate he gives me Jesus, the Hero I need to save me.
That’s the whole story of the Bible in a nutshell.