21 Days in the Word - Tool 15 - The Bigger Story
Another key tool for understanding God’s word is learning to draw out what is being communicated by the different kinds of literature represented in the Bible. The Bible is not only sermons it is poetry, prophecy, proverbs, and history. Being able to understand the form and format God is using to speak to us through is key to getting all we can from the word.
Today I want to point out a few keys to reading the Bible as history.
The Bible covers history from a very particular point of view. It is important to realize that in God’s Sovereign leadership of the world, history is “His Story.” One of the most powerful things the Bible reveals is what we might call the “upper story” and the “lower story.” The lower story is filled with the chaos, pain, and hurt caused by people’s choices. We see at a lower level God allows man free will. This means so much of happens that is not His intended will. Sinful choices have horrible consequences in lives and nations. In order for His ultimate purpose to be accomplished free will must be allowed. God’s plan was not to create robots to carry out functions but sons and daughters to fall in love with Him and be co rulers with Him in bringing His beauty and divine order to the universe forever. The price of this was that sin and evil would have to be an optional choice that people could choose. The consequences are what we see not only in the Bible but all around us today.
The Story or “His Story” of History as revealed in the Bible is the story of redemption. It is the story of two gardens at its book ends. A garden where there is a fall and all is lost and the story of an amazing plan carried out through first a people who are part of a lineage of a chosen man Abraham, but then ultimately through one of his descendants, the God/Man Jesus Christ who redeems and brings back to earth and the universe the possibility and presence of all that God had originally planned.
The powerful thing to see through the history that is laid out in the history of the Bible is two amazing things.
First, is the fact that wherever there is a lower story that is sad and outside of God’s intended will, there is also an upper story. The upper story is how our sovereign God is able to work in the mess to still produce His mission. He is able to take what the terrible choices of man and the influence of the devil meant for evil and turn it around for good. The classic example of this is the story of Joseph. The lower story is one of injustice and betrayal as Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. The ultimate result is seen when by a miracle Joseph goes from the pit to the palace to be the key deliverer in the unfolding of a plan to bring Abraham’s descendants to an incubator of the promise in Egypt; a place where they would develop from a family to a nation over 400 years of history. When Joseph’s brothers come to beg for mercy, Joseph in Genesis 50:20 reveals so beautifully how the upper and lower story work together. He tells them, “Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Another significant thing to see in the history of the Bible is where it is all leading to. The key to discovering our purpose in life is not trying to figure out how to fit God into our plan but figuring out how we are to fit into God’s bigger plan. Sort of a finale verse in the Bible is found in Revelation 7:9-10. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.”
The point of every one of our stories is to contribute to the ultimate story; the great task of giving Jesus, God’s Lamb, the fruit of His sacrifice. The gift of people from all people groups united as His family forever. Every one of our stories finds its ultimate meaning in that story.
As you read the history of the Bible look for the upper story in the lower story. Look for the ways God weaves the shredded threads of the consequences of people’s heart breaking choices into an ultimate design of redemption for His glory. Look for the redemptive story through the whole progression of the stories laid out in the Bible. Look for the lessons for our lives of how to live in agreement with God’s upper story as we go through the trials of our lower story.
Passionately, ask God to help you live your story in a way that most allows you to participate in God’s amazing eternal story.