Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Hero of the Story

Posted by: Katie Robinson
I need some reminding as much as anyone of the fact that if the Bible really is the word of God, then it's way bigger than anyone gives it credit for. 

Here's how the story goes. We all know it.

God creates man, man commits cosmic treason and brings death into the world, causing separation between man and God. Boom, the world as we know it now comes to existence, and we are completely screwed.

Everyone knows there is something wrong with the world, so people throughout history have tried to explain the conflict between that fact and the fact that we also have an innate knowledge of our own value. So humankind has created stories to explain it. The thing about stories is that the authors almost always write themselves into the main character - maybe not even in any obvious way, but in some way or another, they are the hero of the story.

Take Pandora's box: the "gods" (really only idealizations of humanity - human in nature, flawed like the rest of us, but with the power any man would fantasize about) created a box to contain all the evil in the world, but Pandora got curious and opened the box, and evil became a permanent fixture in the universe. But curiosity is forgivable - barely even a minor character flaw. This is a story that people would write to explain why the world is bad without having to explain why people are bad.

God's story is different. He is the hero, not us. Sin wasn't a mistake, it was treason. He creates the universe, we destroy it. True, we are uniquely valuable as human beings, but only because he has put his own image inside us. This is his story, not ours.

It could have ended there - he could have completely written us out of his story. But he didn't. Because God is not an idealized picture of a flawed human created by the human mind - he is something else entirely. We did not create God to explain the human condition - God created us with his own character written into us, and then was gracious enough to enlighten us on not only the history of it, but also the plan to get us out of it.

The great part is, he knew how he was going to fix things from the beginning. The world had just collapsed - God had made a perfect world and humans had destroyed it all in a moment. And right at that moment, God stepped in with his plan. He gave his fearful, naked, and wretched man and woman the bad news first: Death, pain, conflict. But then he gave the good news: All of that death and pain and conflict would one day be defeated by a Savior. God had no good news for the serpent. The particular passage is called the Proto Evangelion, or something like "the first gospel". 

"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers - he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Genesis 3:15

And there's the thesis statement of the entire Bible. 

I know it sounds cryptic at first, but what's happening here is that God is setting the stage for the rest of the future of mankind. He is saying to Satan: from here on out, it's going to be me and my people vs. you and your people, but in the end, I am going to win out - my savior will come from the offspring of my beloved you just defeated, and while he will feel death's sting, it will only be as a man crushing the head of a snake after being nipped in the ankle. 

Every single line following is an outworking of this. Looking at the Bible with the big picture in mind makes it read in an entirely different way. From here on out, it's God foretelling the coming of his Savior, and God's people, meanwhile, going head-to-head with their enemies. Cain vs. Abel, Isaac vs. Ishmael, Jacob vs. Esau. Once the descendants of these guys grow into entire nations, familial conflict becomes all-out war. But all of the stories, while they have a particular moral lesson much of the time, are much more than that. 

The book of Ruth is one of my favorites. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that it presents two strong female leads that God uses in really unconventional and unexpected ways. It is also a spectacular story of God's love and provision. But is it the only time God acted to provide for people who loved him at the time Ruth was written? Of course not. So, why zero in on Ruth's story? Here's why:

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife, and he went in to her. And the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son... So they named him Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David." Ruth 4:13,17

Yeah, like THE David - King David. A fact repeated almost verbatim in the Gospels: "Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king" (Matthew 1:5-6). This story is here in large part because it's one more step in God bringing about his grand design of providing a Savior, his Messiah. One of Jesus' most frequent titles for himself was "the Son of David" to reiterate this fact, to remind people that he was the fulfillment of their history. 

I get really excited about genealogies - probably a lot more than the average person. Usually the genealogies in the Bible are something that people feel pretty okay about skipping over when they read, but if you check out the genealogies in Matthew 1 or Luke 3, you notice that most of the names listed in the first chapters of the New Testament are the same people you just got done reading about in the Old Testament. I get pumped about genealogies because the thing is, you can't manufacture history. Maybe you can kind of manipulate what your kid does with his life. Maybe even extend your influence to a grandkid or two. But after a few generations, you can't make this stuff up - you can't just make a decision about what your descendants are going to be doing four thousand years from now, it just doesn't work that way.

But God not only wrote the Bible to record history, he is sovereign over history itself. That is why the Bible is living and active - because he continues today to work out his plan from the beginning. He has fulfilled the Gospel, pt. 1. The climax was Jesus at the cross, holding his foot over Satan's head as the snake nipped at his heel. At the resurrection, his heel came down and Satan's power was destroyed, a process which will finally be completed at the final resurrection of humanity. 

The Bible is by far the single most influential, miraculous compilation ever to be recorded. Most people see the Old and New Testaments as two completely different things. I've known several people who have expressed belief that God created the old sacrificial system as a means to manage the morality of his people, but then when it wasn't working, he actually changed his mind and decided to try something different by going the Jesus route. This couldn't be more untrue.

The Old Testament isn't just a bunch of random stories put together to piece together the history of an obscure people. It is all about Jesus. The New Testament isn't just compiled works of instruction put together to morally and structurally guide a fledgling religion and its people. It is all about Jesus. It's another chapter in his story, his cosmic plan for the redemption of mankind. And Jesus is the hero.

Here is the video Derek tried to show at Bible Study last week:

Bible Did You Know from Robert Murphy on Vimeo.
Here is the video from last week. Hopefully it's not blocked on your computer too. 
I swear it's appropriate. -Derek

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