In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.“
Sometimes great stories introduce the protagonist in the very first paragraph. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, for example, we are immediately introduced to Pip, the central figure of the novel, and we learn why he has such an odd name. Yet other stories wait for some time before the protagonist appears. In Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean does not show up until around page 50 (out of 1200). If you were not familiar with Hugo’s classic story, you might think while reading the first chapters that the Bishop of Digne is the main character. As it turns out, he plays a pivotal but relatively small role in the story of Les Misérables, in which Valjean is the main character.
The Bible takes a Dickensian approach to its protagonist. The leading figure appears in the very first verse: “In the beginning . . . God.” In tomorrow’s devotion we’ll examine how God’s name, rather like Pip’s, raises some interesting questions. But, today, I want to underline the centrality of God in the biblical story. God is the protagonist. God is the main actor. God is the one who ties together all the pieces of the story. God is the one who orchestrates the events. Indeed, God is also the author of the biblical story. To be sure, the Bible tells a human story as well, with people playing an essential role from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. The Bible also narrates the affairs of the nations, especially Israel. The Bible can be useful for philosophy, psychology, and a wide array of other disciplines. It provides the sure foundation for right theology. But, at its core, the Bible is a story, a story of God, the story of God.
Reading the Bible as God’s story can open our eyes to new insights. I discovered this truth in the last year as I worked on a commentary on Ephesians. My volume, to be published by Zondervan in 2016, is part of a series called The Story of God Bible Commentary. My assignment was to work through every verse of Ephesians from the perspective of God’s story. Again and again I asked, “How does the story of God inform our understanding of this verse? How does this verse help to shape the story of God?” I learned a great deal about a biblical book I thought I already knew well by seeing it in light of God’s story.
I also learned a great deal about how we might live this story in our own lives, both individually and together. It’s natural for us to see our lives as our own story, one in which God plays an important co-starring role. But, when we realize that we are not the central character in the story of the cosmos and that we are actually significant characters in God’s story, we begin to view ourselves and our lives differently. We find new meaning, new purpose, new challenge, new hope. Our lives take on new significance, whether we’re at work or at home, in church or on the soccer field. The story of God, the story of God, changes everything.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you think of the Bible as the story of God? Why or why not? Do you see your life as part of God’s story? If so, what has helped you to think in this way? If not, how might your life be different if you came to see yourself as a character in God’s own story?
Gracious God, today I acknowledge that the Bible is your story. It is so many other things as well, but it is truly and fully your story. You are the protagonist, the central figure, the one apart from whom the story falls apart and makes no sense. As I read through the Bible, help me to grasp your story so that I might know you truly and follow you faithfully. By your grace, may I see my life not as my own story but rather as a chapter in your story, lived for your purposes and glory. Amen.