In my previous post I talked about our need to study the whole Bible, not just shrink it into important bullet points of behavior and move on. The first reason had to do with the factual history of the words and how we need such a detailed landscape of time and geography to teach us of God’s complex character.
This post is the second reason. This one hit like a ton of bricks the other day. I was looking at how God talks of himself. No less than ten times, he calls himself “The Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” He doesn’t identify himself as “spirit, infinite and eternal”. He very often identifies himself in concrete terms by what he has done–the God Who Heals, the God who Provides, etc. “Why trust me?” he asks. “Trust me because of what I did for you.”
I love this. I love the practicality of God. He tells the people to make monuments and altars throughout the Old Testament not to remember who he is, but to remember what he did. He links his character to his actions. Does God really need to prove himself to us? Of course not. But he chooses to do just that. “Taste and see…” Remember leaving Egypt. Remember leaving Babylon. Remember what I did, because who I am and what I did are two sides of the same coin.
So, what about faith? Funny, but I wonder sometimes if faith isn’t so much about the past but the future. It’s not just believing the history, but it’s trusting that the God who did such amazing things before will continue to do such amazing things in the future. The future can look a little scary. Obeying God in an increasingly hostile culture can look more than a little scary. Yes, it takes a little faith to trust the history of the Bible is real. But it takes even more to step out there and trust that God is going to intervene again for me. So he says “Remember. Don’t forget what I did, because then you’ll trust me to keep on intervening. Remember, remember, remember. And from that, you will trust.”
So the actual facts of history have a place and a purpose–God uses them to define himself. And, I think we can apply this in two ways beyond learning the history of the Bible ourselves. One, we need to tell each other stories–how God is working in our lives now. Christians should never get together without trading stories. No, we may not have a story about a man swallowed by a fish or manna feeding our children, but the facts of our lives will point to God’s intervention just as fully as those in the Bible do.
And, we are welcome to identify ourselves through our actions. If we aren’t practicing what we preach, we’re not following the model of both God the Father and the Son. If identity and activity are two sides of the same coin to God, they can be to us, too.
So teach people about God by how you act, and recall God to each other through stories of his intervention, and don’t ever think the stories of the Bible are undignified tales for children. I read the Bible on a yearly basis, and every year the Spirit weaves together the events to give me a deeper understanding of God’s character and to increase my trust in him for my future. And since I tend to worry over my future, I can use all the forward motion in this area I can get, so I will keep reading it until I fully know the peace he promises, a peace which grows the better I know he who promised it to me.
Truly learning the Bible, and learning from the Bible, takes time. There are no shortcuts, so give yourself the time and bask in the whole wide tale of it, falling in love with its hero and finding something your spirit needs while you do.