Home David Mays Updated: October 10, 2007
"What's the Bible All About?" - Sunday morning message to Eagle Church, July 22, 2007
"What is the Bible All About?"
An Old Professor asked his class, "What is the Bible All About?" Or is it all about anything? The Bible was written by about 40 people in more than 60 different documents over a span of about 1500 years. Is it reasonable to think that it is about any one thing?
Well, the Bible is one continuous story. And this morning, rather than give a message, I'm going to tell the story of the Bible. It's a story you all know. At least you know parts of it. Many people know pieces of the story, but they don't know how it fits together. The story is not about you. It's bigger than you. But you are part of it. It is a mystery story. It is the grand story, the over arching story.
The Bible is a story with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
Stories begin with "Once upon a time…" This is a true story and it starts with "In the beginning…." Four major things happen in the Introduction. The first thing is that God starts with nothing and creates something.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:1
He created the cosmos and the human race and announced it was good. He put humans in charge of his creation. And right off the bat we come to one of two pivot points in the story. The man and woman disobey God. Recognizing their guilt, they tried to hide from God. This has been the story of the human race since that time. Having rebelled, man tries to hide from God and blame others.
Very early in the story we have the first dilemma. A great barrier has been created. God created man to have fellowship with him and by man's disobedience the fellowship is broken. Holiness cannot become contaminated by sin and sin cannot exist in the presence of Holiness. There is a great chasm. How will the holy, just God respond to the rebellious man? He could have said, "Well, that experiment failed. I'll destroy it and begin another." But he didn't and here, in the 3rd chapter of the Bible, the story takes a turn. God goes looking for the man.
The Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" Gen 3:9
I don't think God was asking for information. God initiated reconciliation. This is the first step, taken by God the initiator, who comes seeking sinful man. Here is the beginning of the mystery. How will God work out a means to bring back, to restore fellowship, - to redeem - sinful man?
The story goes on with Adam and Eve having children, those children getting into trouble until the earth is so evil God decides to destroy it with a great flood. But he saves righteous Noah and his family to give mankind another start. Noah's family has children and they have children and eventually those children, ignoring God, build a great tower to dedicate to themselves. God comes down and confuses their language, creating many different languages and scattering them over the earth. (We have had communication problems ever since.)
Now God has created a dilemma for Himself. He wants to provide a way to draw mankind back to himself - to reestablish fellowship with man, to give him life - but He has created many different cultures and scattered them over the earth. The mystery continues. How will God reach out to all these different groups of people? This is the end of the introduction of the story. Four great events:
The body of the story begins while we are still in the first book. In Genesis chapter 12, God begins to reveal the "seed" of his plan to bring mankind back to himself, to restore fellowship with the human race. The plan gradually unfolds throughout the Bible until it is completely revealed in the New Testament. But here's how it begins.
God calls a man named Abram and asks him to go to a country he's never seen. He makes him a promise.
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. …and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Gen 12:2,3
Here's the first clue. God is going to give Abraham descendants so numerous that they become a nation and, somehow, out of this process blessing will come to all the peoples of the earth. This is not an isolated notion. God repeats this promise to Abraham, to his son Isaac, and to his son Jacob. So as we walk through the story, we want to watch for how this works out.
As you recall, Abraham's family grew very large and prosperous. Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. (These are the fathers of the nations that are warring in the Middle East yet today.) Isaac had two sons Esau and Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons, including Joseph who was sold into slavery because his brothers were jealous of him. When famine struck the land, the sons of Jacob went to Egypt to buy grain. The son Joseph, whom they had sold to slave traders, had become number 2 in command and he invited the tribe to come live in Egypt. They were in Egypt for 400 years and grew into a large nation of slaves to the Egyptians. God's promise to bless all nations through them looks like a lost cause.
But God raised up Moses to deliver them from Pharoah. Moses' interactions with Pharoah reveal some new hints of how the story is going to work out. Moses asks Pharoah to let the Israelites go into the wilderness to worship their God. But Pharoah doesn't want to give up his slave labor. Pharoah counters,
"Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?" Exodus 4:2
God tells Moses,
"Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it. Exodus 7:4-5
After more plagues, God tells Pharoah (through Moses),
"…this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth." Exodus 9:14
The last plague kills off the firstborn son of all the Egyptians. However, the sons of the Hebrews were spared when they killed a lamb and sprinkled the blood above their door. Note that the killing of an innocent lamb to deliver the Hebrew sons is a hint toward how God will allow an innocent to be killed to deliver the human race
At that point Pharoah gives up and lets them go. But after they have gone, he changes his mind and sends his chariots after them. God said,
"But I will gain glory for myself through Pharoah and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." Exodus 14:4
This is a sampling of several similar scripture verses along this line. We see several things in minature here.
We see here that God wants to be known among the nations and to receive proper credit from them. A people cannot be in the path of restored fellowship with God unless they know who God is, and who God is not.
After the Israelite nation had been out of Egypt three months, just before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, he revealed to Moses their role among the nations.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19: 5-6
A priest is an intermediary, one who comes before God to represent the people and one who tells the people what God says. So a nation of priests is a nation that lives in relation to God in such a way that the nations see how good and powerful God is and also hear what God says. God desires for Israel to be a great influence for God among the nations.
In the book of Deuteronomy, this is repeated in slightly different form:
The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. Deuteronomy 28:9-10
At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, after 40 years of living in the desert, Moses leads the nation up to the Jordan River and hands the leadership over to Joshua. Joshua sends spies across the river into Jericho where Rahab hides them. Why would she risk it?
I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed, becaue of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Joshua 2:8-11
The priests led the nation to walk down into the Jordan River and it dried up and they walked across into the land on dry ground. Joshua told them
For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over…. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. Joshua 4:23-24
Unfortunately Israel didn't do very well. Most of the Old Testament is the story of a series of cycles of disaster. It goes somewhat like this.
This cycle of obedience and blessing followed by sin and judgment followed by repentance and deliverance is much of the story of the Old Testament.
God designed Israel's government so they would follow God as their king. However, they wanted a king like the other nations had. So God have them a king named Saul and they became a kingdom. They were frequently in battle with nearby nations.
You will recall the story of David and Goliath. While Saul and the army were out fighting a 9-foot Philistine giant roared out a proposal of one against one, winner take all. The Israelite warriors are all afraid of him. David is a young shepherd boy who brings some goodies to his older brothers in the war against the Philistines. He finds this 9-foot giant taunting the Israelites. David may be a youngster but he's had his fights with bears and lions defending the sheep and he is confident in God. Further, he is senstive to God's power and purposes. He takes on Goliath with his slingshot:
"…I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty…. This day the LORD will hand you over to me…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 1 Samuel 17:45-46
When the Kingdom continued to disobey God, He divided them into two kingdoms. Each one had a series of kings, most of them bad, and both kingdoms failed to follow God. God raised up a number of prophets who warn the people of coming judgment but also foresee a time of deliverance and restoration of Israel and the human race.
One of the prophets, Isaiah, advances on the theme of a deliverer from Abraham in Genesis predicting
… I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." Isaiah 49:6
Jeremiah predicts a time when all nations will honor God. Other prophets make similar statements.
At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. Jeremiah 3:17
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14
The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. Zechariah 14:9
My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty. Malachi 1:11
We are beginning to see a picture developing of a time when God will be known and honored among the whole human race. Fellowship will be restored.
God finally allows both kingdoms to be conquered by their enemies. First the northern Kingdom is conquered by the brutal Assyrians, deported, dispersed and disappeared. Later the kingdom of Judah was conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and all but the poorest deported to Babylonia.
Now God is in a mess again. He promised to make a great nation from Abraham and through him to bless all nations. But that great nation has been divided, conquered, dispersed and deported. So what happens to the plan?
It's quite fascinating. God is not bound by circumstances. Further, He is very creative. One of the most promising young men deported was Daniel, "to whom God gave knoweldge and understanding…." King Nebudchadnzzar brings Daniel and his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) into his service.
In a little while King Nebuchadnezzar decrees that everyone will worship his statue. Daniel's three friend refuse and are thrown into a furnace. The furnace is so hot that those who did the throwing were burnt to a crisp. However, God miraculously protects the three Hebrews. Then this pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, trembles with fear at what God can do. He issues a statement and sends it throughout his provinces:
Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego…. I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way. Daniel 3:28-29
This isn't the end. A little later he sends out another decree to the known world:
To the peoples, nations, and men of every language who live in all the world: …How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4:1-3
Nebuchadnezzar sends out more similar decrees, and the two kings after him, Belteshazzar and Darius (after the lions den incident) send out similar announcements to all people! What we see here is God being powerful and highly creative! When his people fail him, he is not handcuffed. He moves the hearts of pagan kings of entire empires to proclaim his greatness!
After 70 years of captivity, God orchestrates the regathering of his people in Jerusalem.
"In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia…the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia… Ezra 1:1
…to send his people, whomever wanted to go, back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Nehemiah and others were allowed to go back to rebuild the city and its walls. The remnant of God's people once again assemble in the land they were promised.
400 years pass. God has been silent the whole time. The land of the Hebrews is now ruled by Rome. But God is on the advance again. John the Baptist is born and Jesus is born. The angels announce:
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10
An old man, Simeon, had received a vision that he would see the Christ, the annointed one of God, the deliverer. When he saw Jesus, he took him in his arms and said,
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:30-32
This all seems like common knowledge now, but as the story unfolds it is quite a mystery. How will this person fit into God's plan to bless or redeem all mankind?
As he taught and healed, many of the Hebrew Race recognized him as the deliverer of the Hebrews promised to Abraham. Except for a very few they were unaware that he was the deliverer for the whole human race.
Those who followed him seemed to think he was destined for a military victory! They thought they were following the next king of a great renewed Kingdom. But after three years of teaching the disciples and the people, Jesus, the one who is to be the savior of mankind, didn't enter Jerusalem on a great white horse but on a donkey. What conquering hero rides a donkey? And then he was shockingly executed by the most humiliating and excruciating death possible. He was crucified. Once again, the story seemed to end with a crash.
However, God was way ahead of the opposition. The apostle John explained it this way:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
Here is the second great pivot point of the story. In the first pivot point, sin entered the world and the human race was separated from God. In the second pivot point, the death of an innocent lamb is the lynch pin of God's promise from the beginning.
What appeared to be the great failure turned out to be the great victory! God raised Jesus back to life! It was Jesus, the son of God, the perfect sacrifice, who died for the sins of mankind so that God's holiness could be maintained, God's wrath could be justified, and at the same time his creatures could be brought back into a right relationship with Him. What glory belongs to the One who could do this! The mystery is being revealed! What a magnificent story!
Jesus has made restoration of fellowship with the human race possible. And he gave his disciples - and all his disciples that came after them - the rather overwhelming assignment of making restoration available - by taking this good news to the whole human race.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
Mankind can be restored to real life, eternal life, fellowship with God, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The remainder of the New Testament is the story of the disciples of Jesus obeying that command and the spread of the Gospel message.
The apostle Paul called it a mystery, something that is known to God and cannot be figured out by man. But God gradually revealed it to us down through the ages through the pages of the Bible. Paul described it in these ways:
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles (nations) by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." Galatians 3:8
He made known to us the mystery of his will…to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. Ephesians 1:9-10
We today are Christ's disciples and we still live under the assignment and have the great opportunity to be Christ's ambassadors to bless the nations by living and teaching the good news of Jesus to people from our neighbors to the ends of the earth.
But there is a conclusion to the story. We have read the back of the book. The apostle John was given a vision of the end of the story which he wrote in the last book of the Bible called The Revelation. It is a picture of the outcome.
And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Revelation 5:9-10
It declares the judgment of evil and describes a new city
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. Revelation 21:3
This is where we are headed. The story is much bigger than you but you have a part in it. The story is about God and his plan to restore fellowship with mankind. We are about seeing people rescued from the kingdom of Darkness and restored to the Kingdom of Light.
And your life counts - either for or against. Your commitment to Christ, your choices, your behaviors, your lifestle, your character, and your conversations are part of the cosmic conflict. You matter. We are active players in a cosmic conflict. And what we do in life is significant. Make your life count for God's Kingdom purpose.
Further reading: Piecing Together the Puzzle of the Old Testament, Bill Jones