Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Bible in 1200 words

I just finished teaching the first of what looks to be many bible survey classes here at Tanalian Leadership Center and I can tell you it is one of the most life changing experiences piecing the story of the Bible together and stepping back to admire the complete picture. Because the process impacted me so deeply, I thought I would share my attempt at painting the picture for you in a few paragraphs. Of course it won’t come anywhere near the picture we have painted here over the last three months on several hundred feet of butcher paper, but it is the same story after all.

There were two trees that had names in the garden, The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and The Tree of Life. Man, being the brilliant creature that he is, chose the Tree of Knowledge and was off from the Tree of Life and found himself face to face with death. Yet even as God is dealing out the consequences, he is also hinting at a plan for restoration. The offspring of Eve will crush Satan’s head.[1]
As the reader walks down the rest of the Old Testament road, he finds that this is only the first of many road signs all pointing to something ahead; something that brings hope.[2]
In Noah and Babel, we see God’s forbearance and mercy toward people who seem to be hopelessly sinful[3] and a promise not to wipe them out again.[4] In Abraham we see a man who was considered righteous because of his faith[5] and a promise to make him a blessing to all nations.[6] In Joseph we see forgiveness[7], in the Passover we see redemption by the blood of a lamb[8], in Moses we see communion with God,[9] in the Law we see the holiness of God[10] and a promise of blessing for obedience, cursing for disobedience,[11] and restoration for repentance.[12] In David we see glimpses of a godly king,[13] yet he too is taken by sin and dies,[14] but not before the promise of a king to rule in his house forever[15].
Then the prophets paint for us ugly pictures of sin and judgment contrasted with beautiful pictures of restoration and a promise that the coming king from David’s house will be the deliverer. Through suffering,[16] he will give us new hearts, hearts of flesh in place of stone[17], hearts with the law written on them.[18]
Yet at the end of the Old Testament, we see persistent sin,[19] Chaos, partial restoration, but a devastated people still looking and waiting for this promised messiah.[20]

Then silence for 400 years…

And the story picks up again with some very strange circumstances. In Luke, it’s the announcement of the birth of a herald. A specially anointed man who would prepare the way for the Messiah. Then the Messiah himself is announced.[21] Yet instead of a mighty warrior riding in and taking over, he comes in the least expected way, a child born in a stable to common folk. Raised in a humble town in a simple family.[22] Then we begin to see why when he quotes Isaiah and claims the words as his own.

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18, Is 61:1-2)

Consistent with this, he lives a life of humility and compassion and when he does finally ride into Jerusalem to set her free, it’s on a donkey and it’s with tears over the impending rejection of her king.[23] Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the words of the prophets were fulfilled.[24]

"Surely he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his stripes we are healed."
(Is 53:4-5)

In this we see that his death was not in vain, but it was actually in our place. Looking back at the history into which his life and death speaks, we see that he was the substitute ram,[25] he was the lamb who’s blood was shed,[26] he was the forgiver of sins,[27] he was the righteousness of God,[28] he was the coming king.[29] History begins to make sense at the foot of the cross. And suddenly we have a choice to make. We are all thieves nailed to our doom by the blood on our hands,[30] yet the promise from Deuteronomy still stands, whispering in our ear, restoration for repentance.[31] Yet some still scoff.

he was” is a depressing term though. What is a dead king to a hurting nation? That’s why he didn’t stay dead. The women come to the tomb only to be met with a pile of empty grave clothes and a question, “why do you look for the living among the dead?[32]
A few days later two disciples are walking lonely road to Emmaus, trying to make sense of everything that has happened, not sure what to believe. A man appears and in a seven-mile long conversation he hands them the keys to unlock history and prophesy.[33]
It was not long before the disciples found themselves hearing Jesus say,

 "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth."[34]

And they watched him ascend to heaven leaving the promise to send a helper.[35]
Then at the harvest feast, the helper comes and the Church is born with Spirit and fire. Thus God has returned to dwell among us, but these hands and feet aren’t pierced by nails, rather they bear a striking resemblance to our own.[36] The Spirit dwells in us and suddenly we find ourselves caught up in the story, no longer as casual observers but as active participants. A crucial component of God’s plan to bring light to the nations.[37]

Through the painful rejection of their messiah, Israel slammed the door in the face of God and the door to the gentiles is opened.[38] Now the gospel goes out unchecked by even the worst of persecutions.[39] In the hands of the formerly poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed, the good news goes out to the same.[40] And we work with an urgency, knowing only that he is coming soon,[41] and when he comes, he brings judgment for the wicked[42] but for those who’s names are in the book of life, the story ends back where it started, with the Tree of Life. But then, instead of standing alone in the garden with only two souls to nourish, it will stand in the midst of a huge city bringing healing to all the nations who will have been restored to it’s life by the blood of the lamb who was slain and is worthy to receive all the glory. [43]

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come.” [44]

[1] Genesis 2-3
[2] Luke 24:27
[3] Gen 8-11
[4] Gen 8:21-22
[5] Gen 15:6
[6] Gen 17:5, 26:4
[7] Gen 45
[8] Exodus 12
[9] Exod 33:11
[10] Leviticus 11:44
[11] Deuteronomy 28
[12] Deut 30
[13] I Samuel 13:14
[14] II Samuel 11
[15] II Samuel 7
[16] Isaiah 52:13-53:12
[17] Ezekiel 36:26
[18] Jeremiah 31:33
[19] Ezra 9-10
[20] Luke 2:22-38
[21] Luke 1-2
[22] Luke 2:1-21
[23] Luke 19:28-44
[24] Luke 22:37
[25] Gen 22
[26] Exodus 12
[27] Deut 30
[28] Hebrews 4:15
[29] Luke 23:3
[30] Luke 23:39-43
[31] Deut 30
[32] Luke 24:5
[33] Luke 24:13-35
[34] Acts 1:8
[35] Acts 1:6-10
[36] Acts 2
[37] Acts 26:23, Isa 42:6, Isa 49:6, Luke 2:32, Gen 26:4
[38] Acts 28:23-28
[39] Acts 8:4
[40] Luke 4:18, Is 61:1-2, II Cor 4:1-6
[41] Revelation 3:11, 22:7, 12, 20
[42] Revelation 20:15
[43] Revelation 22:1-5
[44] Revelation 4:8