Have you ever started watching a TV series and discovered you’ve actually missed several preceding episodes. So frustrating!!! Whilst you’re trying to follow the plot you keep finding yourself unsure of what is actually happening.
What actually is the plot? What has happened to make what you are watching now important? Who is this character that now seems to have appeared and is really significant? At this point you either give up or you find the box set and start watching again from the beginning. By doing the latter you can make sense of the whole thing and understand where the storyline is heading. Now the resolution that is needed becomes clear and the importance of certain characters is revealed.
What I have come to realise is that for much of my Christian life this was my frustration with the Bible. As a teacher I had taught many of my pupils and children in church that the Bible is a library of many books. I even remember making little bookcases and covering matchboxes to create books so they could learn the names and order. However, I now realise that that idea formed a wrong paradigm in my mind for encountering God’s Word. I saw the Bible as a manual, a guide book which provided spiritual principles, moral guidelines and theological truths to help shape my life. The problem with that paradigm is that we can select each book at random without placing it into the storyline of God.
The Bible is not a library full of guidelines but a story, a narrative, into which we are invited. God does not enter into our storyline, He invites us into His. The gospel of the Kingdom is contained in the storyline that is revealed from Genesis to Revelation. So many of us fail to make sense, or fully understand many passages of Scripture because we do not understand their significance in the storyline of God. And when we come to salvation, and step into this storyline, we have little revelation of our place in that storyline. We have been invited as participants into the grand saga of God’s story. Therefore we do not approach the Bible as a moral encyclopaedia to be imitated, but we approach Him within the story to become participants in the greatest story that spans all eternity past and present.
This story began with God placing mankind into a glorious creation to tend it, to care for it, to minister to God in it and to take dominion over all of it. This place was a place of intimate encounter with God himself.
However, like every good story, the perfection at the beginning is disrupted or destroyed and the rest of the story tells the narrative of how things are restored. The storyline of the Bible shows us how God has invited man into His storyline to restore us to a place of partnership with Him in a place of encounter with Him.
This makes sense of why He called out Abraham to a land to build altars, called Moses to bring a people out to take possession of that land and erect a tabernacle, called out David to establish a city and a place of encounter which became the temple. God wants His people back in His presence to worship Him and to partner with Him. He has made covenants and promises which He will fulfil. When Jesus came He fulfilled some of those prophecies and secured those that are still to be fulfilled at His second coming.
As we enter into the story of this gospel of the Kingdom we need to understand what has gone before so we can make sense of who we are and the storyline in which we are now participants and what our future looks like. To understand the end we must encounter the story from the beginning.
This is why God has given us His Word – so that we would enter into His story and with Him long for the resolution of the storyline when we will once again rule and reign with Him on earth. To give our lives, as we wait for His return, to intimate encounter with Him and to partner with Him in prayer and mission to see His Kingdom come and His will be done.