I have a confession to make. In church this morning, I was excited to learn that we are going to spend 2009 essentially doing a survey of the overall story of the Bible, beginning to end. Pretty geeky, I know.
There was a time when I would have responded to that news with more cringing than anticipation. Truthfully, I have a pretty good grasp of the chronology of the Bible, as well as of the larger themes. During my college years I took so many courses studying the Bible that I ended up with a second degree in Biblical Literature. It is indeed a complex book, self-described as living and active, which allows it to always have more for the reader willing to dig deeper. But my first response was a bit of I know this story. Wonder if it's time for me to take a year off from church while the rest of the congregation catches up on the material I learned ten years ago.
(Yes, not only am I a geek but I suffer from a touch of elitism as well. God is still working on me, thankfully.)
But after the pastor explained that we will still have shorter series within the larger story, I began to see that this might shape up to be more of a topical overview instead of a chronological overview. And as a big picture thinker (almost painfully so), my brain was able to latch on to the idea of spending a year immersing myself in the narrative. Our church small groups are going to echo the teaching we get from the pastor, allowing us a chance to interact about what God is teaching us. Again, geeky cool. I hope it is even half as cool as I think it might be.
So this morning, we started the year off with the rather ambitious goal of getting a BIG picture view of the story in 20 minutes. I can't speak for anyone there who may have been hearing the big picture for the first time, but I personally felt a little like I had whiplash by the end.
We learned that the word "testament" means "covenant." Guess I knew that a long time ago, but I had forgotten. We then heard about the critical covenants God made, that are recorded in the Bible. The first was God's covenant with Noah, that He would never again destroy the earth by flood. It was sealed with the promise of the rainbow.
The second was God's covenant with Abraham, that his descendants would fill the earth, and the whole of humanity would be blessed through him. This was promised on the blood of of three animals and two birds. It was later fulfilled through the coming of Jesus.
The third was God's covenant with David, that the throne of Israel would be forever ruled by a member of his family. This was called a "covenant of salt" (see 2 Chronicles 13:5), symbolic of the length of the covenant. Again, this was fulfilled through the coming of Jesus, and still points ahead to His forever kingdom that will be implemented on this earth when He returns.
Then, when Jesus had come to earth and accomplished His earthly ministry, on the last night with His followers, He proclaimed that there was now a New Covenant. The New Covenant would be sealed by the sacrificial blood of the Son of God Himself, and would be done once for all time.
Revelation ties up the sum of these covenants. Just as promised, Jesus will fulfill all of the covenants. God waits now, in this time between Jesus ascending to heaven, and His return to earth. God asks us to follow Him and direct our lives according to His plan, because He will bless all who believe through the waiting time. He will fulfill all of His promises, all we are to do is make our hearts ready.
I left this morning's service with a renewed appreciation that God's story is all about covenant, and that my response can be nothing other than trying to live every moment of my life in view of that covenant.
In the picture at the top of this post, my little boy is on his bike, and he is ready to launch into the next exciting moment. That's a little bit how I feel. All I have to do is get on the ride, and get myself ready for the thrill of the adventure of grabbing hold of the story of the Bible in exactly a year of Sundays.
The second photo shows a gate, with a lovely flowering tree just beyond it. Oh, how I want to get to that tree! The gate is not even locked, it just requires walking up to it and opening it. I have a sense that my Lord is inviting me to approach the gate and come through to experience what He has to offer me. I hold the key, the living word of God, in my hands. It is ready to speak to me. How exciting!
And the third photo, of course, shows the path I am about to walk. Who knows where it will lead? What is certain is that if I do not move forward, I will never find out. Believe me, I am thrilled that the whole body of my local church is moving in this direction at the same time. A little momentum will be very helpful to me in this effort.
Guess I am about to join many of my peers here in blog-land, by committing to immerse myself in God's word this year. May He do amazing things in, around, and through me as I seek to fulfill this commitment.