As we have progressed in these articles, showing a little bit of the easily discerned facts about God’s creation and how He has worked out His purposes for it, we have seen that there has been a single goal in mind as that purpose is unfolded from generation to generation. It is only possible to discern these purposes when one follows the story being told in the pages of the Bible.
The reason so many people who study the Bible fail to see the “plot” of the story is because they have been taught to read the Bible in a disjointed fashion. We have picked out the pieces that seem relevant to us in the present age and have failed to realize that we can’t really understand where we are and where we are going if we do not understand where we have been and how and why we got to where we are. To us, the parts we have discarded are irrelevant so we have no need to really study and understand them.
God is moving creation toward the end He always had in mind for it. But the people who were living through history failed, for essentially the same reasons as we do, to grasp the idea of life being a journey from one “place” to another. Simplified to the most basic form, the Bible is the story of man’s journey with God from one garden to another – the garden of Eden to the garden-become-city, the New Jerusalem.
Why don’t we see this? Perhaps we have become so enamored with this world and its affairs that we have lost sight of that flow of history that leads from the past to the future. That, or we have been taught such a corrupted version of the present and the future that we fail to see any value in the present or the real goal of the future.
To illustrate, think about the nation of Israel, who, after being delivered by God’s power from Egypt, came to such a place that they could only think of their hardship of momentary hunger and thirst that they blamed God and turned to the worship of idols. In spite of thinking about how God had taken care of them by providing for them time and again, they failed to focus their faith in Him and worshiped idols instead. After being delivered, the only consistent vision they had had was of the only world they had known – that of Egyptian civilization. Even though they were made slaves, they had had plenty to eat of such variety and taste that they longed to return to that prison-world from which they had been delivered. They were continually on the look-out for a god who could lead them to their longed-for utopian existence.
It seems to be characteristic of human beings that we are not content with what we have. We long for something more – something better. Given the fact that we are not where we were made to be by God, it is not surprising that we have this longing within our hearts. Neither are we content with ourselves as we are. In Western civilization we are continually moving from one weigh-loss diet to another, one fitness program to another, one self-help guru to another. Fads and fancies mark the succeeding decades of our history only to be recycled time after time. We continue to listen to the charming words of charismatic leaders – political and religious – hoping they will lead us to Neverland or Nirvana.
That is exactly where we are at the present. It is a confused, bewildering state of affairs that becomes more complex every moment. Political parties and religious parties, each screaming at the other that “this way is the right way, the only hope of the world” and if you don’t listen to us, we will kill you – or we will have our “god” do it for us. People have to learn what we learn and believe what we believe – including the most insignificant minutiae – or we can’t have anything to do with them.
We have become like the Israelites in the day of he prophets and that of Jesus. We major in the minors of religion and leave undone the “weightier matters” of the law of God. Jesus accused the people of his day of this…
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23).
Because we dwell on the minor issues, identifying ourselves by our stand on this or that “issue,” we can’t get together to face the disastrous consequences of our selfish, idolatrous worship of the gods of money, sex and power. These gods create, not the peace and happiness we so avidly seek, but envy and strife which lead to the dissolution of our cities, our nations and our civilizations.
The only answer to this dilemma is for us to get into the story of the Bible and learn it. This so called “study” of the Bible as a fragmented document meant to be pieced together like piecing together the Dead Sea Scrolls to find the parts that apply to us must be abandoned.
Will everyone do this? Of course not. We are too wedded to our own idols – our mental images of how the world is supposed to be and our commitment to how we are supposed to get there.
More to come.
Co-authored with Bill Van Dyke, Ph.D, Give Me Liberty: Restoring the Spirit of Jubilee examines the mission of Christ as viewed from the fulfillment of Jubilee and how legalism robs the church community of the joy Jubilee brings.
A Better Way is an exploration and critique of the traditional method of determining Bible authority and suggestions for a better approach to understanding the Bible.