Lessons from HIStory

I love words and word plays. And I like to think that God — with divine tongue planted firmly in divine cheek — enjoys them too, and uses them to playfully hide truths in plain sight for us to discover and enjoy.

On Easter I explored the double entendre of Son Rise. Today I want to take a step back in historyor HIStory.

Don’t Know Much about HIStory

Growing up I knew the Old Testament as a collection of fairy tales intended to teach me something about God. Adam and Eve were the first prince and princess, who faced a Gepettodiabolical snake, rather than the typical, fire-breathing dragon. Noah and his ark were gas station giveaways that my grandfather collected for me. And Jonah’s story bore an eery resemblance to Gepetto’s in my mind.

It wasn’t until I became a mom that I began to learn other stories of the Bible, true confessions here: from “Veggie Tales.”

For me, Bob the Tomato ranksBob the Tomato_zpsf4taxwt1 right up there with Billy Graham among the great, modern-day evangelists. Even now when I read the book of Esther I picture her as a wispy asparagus; and Daniel will always be a cucumber in my mind, which makes it less shocking that the lions didn’t devour him.

When I joined Bible Study Fellowship my second study was of the Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). It unpacked both the historical context and the consistent character of God throughout Scripture. Still I struggled to reconcile the God of the Israelites with the one Jesus taught us to call Father.

ONE Story

More recently I’ve gained a perspective of the 66 books of the Bible as One story, written on human hearts by One author, who is consistent in His character, His glory and His love for us. It is a story told in a four-part narrative arc:

  1. Creation
  2. The Fall
  3. Redemption
  4. Restoration

Check out Ed Stetzer’s, “The Big Story of Creation” for a scholarly interpretation, but here is my perspective; consider it “The Bible for Dummies,” with a credit to my buddy, Bob  Bob the Tomato_zpsf4taxwt1 , of course:

  • Creation — Adam was our first attempt to live in relationship with God; Jesus is the “new Adam” who taught us that the one true God is much better at being God than we are. The wages of Adam’s sin were death, in the form of animals sacrificed to atone for and cover his sin (Genesis 3:21), as well as his own death. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice who gave Himself so that we all might stand clean and blameless before a holy God and enjoy eternal life.
  • The Fall — The first one happened in the garden, but most of the Old Testament chronicles an endless cycle of failure and redemption between God and the people He created to know and love Him. In Kings and Chronicles God answers the Israelites’ request for a human king whom they can see and touch. The kings’ names change, but the stories all end the same; while some were more corrupt than others, they all fall short, because “the human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • Redemption — The prophets foretell the coming of a righteous king. But through the lens of the injustice, oppression and political corruption that people are suffering at the time, they expect a different kind of king, and many continue looking for love in all the wrong places.

“A curse will come upon the sinful man who promises to give a male from his flock, but gives an animal that is not perfect to the Lord. For I am a great King,” says the Lord of All. “And My name is feared among the nations.”

Malachi 1:14

These are the final words God speaks in the Old Testament through the prophet Malachi. The problem of reconciling man’s sin with God’s holiness has found no remedy throughout 39 books of covenants, commandments, sacrifices and warnings, an effort that can be summed up as “the law and the prophets.”

Like the prophet, Hosea, and his harlot wife, Gomer, humans’ response to God’s perfect love is deceit, betrayal, abandonment and heartbreak, and so far, nothing has succeeded in creating a lasting unity.

HIStory in the Making

The New Testament begins by catching us up (in the event we snuck out for popcorn during the 400-year intermission). Matthew connects the dots from Abraham down through a line of liars (Jacob), murderers (David), prostitutes (Tamar) and a sundry collection of other sinners who comprise the genealogy of the promised Christ, the Messiah Jesus.

Following his birth Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, returns to Egypt, where Joseph, the Prince of Egypt, foreshadowed the messiah king. The similarities between Jesus and Joseph are striking; both were loved by their fathers, rejected by their “brethern,” sold for silver, and both suffered to save the lives of many.  (Explore the comparisons further.)

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done,

the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:20

Discovering parallels like this between the Old and New Testaments is exciting and infinite. In fact, back in the 1950s a statistician applied the model of probability to demonstrate the likelihood of one man, Jesus, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. When applied to just eight of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, the likelihood was:

1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

Read “The Odds of Eight Messianic Prophecies Coming True” for more on this.

On the road to Emmaus following his resurrection Jesus walked with two disciples, and in two hours unpacked the one HIStory told throughout Scripture:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in ALL the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24: 27

Narrators to “The End”

I used to think that if I had been an apostle it would have been easier to have faith. I wished I was like Peter, who had the opportunity to be with Jesus in the flesh, and who had the knowledge to proclaim:

You are the Messiah,

the son of the Living God.

Matthew 16:16

What I have learned is that we actually enjoy a greater unfolding of truth than the apostles were privy to; they had the Old Testament, but they were part of the New Testament in the making.

Our lives today are fulfillment of the promise of redemption, enriched by the wisdom, knowledge and comfort of God’s spirit. Humans haven’t changed one bit; we’re still a sinful, selfish lot, fueled by pride, bent on self-destruction, prone to wander from the truth we’ve been given. But now we carry the good news that:

This is not the end.

God is making all things new; He has made a way for all of us to be part of His restoration of creation, a much better story than what history suggests we are capable of creating for ourselves:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

We began as the damsel in distress, the future bride of the hero, desperately in need of rescue despite our virulent resistance to it. Now following His triumph, we have a new role too, that of narrator. God asks us to share HIStory so that all may hear it, and to retell it with loving urgency to those who may have heard it, but haven’t yet accepted it as their own:

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

The end of HIStory is a glorious, magnificent, unimaginably happy one. No spoiler alert needed; this is how the Bible concludes in Revelation 22:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

No longer will there be any curse.

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.

And they will reign for ever and ever.

 

 

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