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The Bible's Story

'Tales of the Unexpected'

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The Bible's Story

Read : Luke 4 : 1 - 21 (NIV) 

I don't know whether you'll be relieved, or disappointed, to discover this isn't going to give you a précis of the entire Bible in the next few minutes ! . . .while that might make an interesting Edinburgh festival show, the Bible is not really a book to rush through, but something to be read slowly, savoured, pondered, reflected on. 

Although we refer to the Bible as 'a book', it's really a library of books - 66 in all. It is thought to have been written by at least 40 different people, over thousands of years, in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek,. The Bible's books, are unlike any others, because these are books inspired by God. Written by people who encountered God. Shaped by communities of faithful believers. And recognised by the church universal, as an authoritative account, of God's activities in the world.  

Did you know that Bible is the most translated book in all of history ? Or, that if the different translations and versions were all counted as the same book, it would be the number one best-seller every year, the best-seller of all time ? In all of history, no book has ever had a greater impact on so many people, and it continues to do so today. 

Did you know that some or all of the Bible, has been translated into about 2,300 different languages ? The majority of the world's population now have the Bible available in their language. But there are still about 4,500 languages, into which not one single book of the Bible has yet been translated. This is one reason why the translation work of the Bible Societies, is vitally important, as they continually work to close this gap, not just with printed versions, but also alternative formats, such as Braille, audio and electronic. 

So what is the Bible's Story ?

Well, the Bible contains God's word to us. It contains things God wants us to know. It tells us how we should respond to God. But at its core, the Bible is about God - you might perhaps, call it God's biography. It tells us something about who God is, and what God is like.  

The Bible's story starts in the book of Genesis, before the beginning of time, before creation, when there was only God, and it finishes in the book of Revelation, beyond the end of time, in eternity. Eternity which God wants us to spend with him.  

Central to the Bible's story, are God's promises to his people and the world. Concerned with the proliferation of evil, sin, and its dire consequences to his good creation, God decided, that the best way to reclaim and repair his broken creation, was to reveal himself to one person, then another, then another, as he gradually redeemed the entire world. Each book of the Bible tells a part of that story. Each chapter fits into this grand scheme. Each verse contributes some fact, some detail, to the overall drama.  

But the Bible's story is far more than a just a record of God's actions in history. It also speaks of the future, when all things will be made new. That vision of the future, is what drives the church, directing its mission, because it reminds us that nothing is the way God originally created it to be. The Bible gives us glimpses of the future, when God reigns supreme over his fully restored creation, when evil, suffering, sin, and death, will be things of the past. 

The Bible's story invites us to begin, or to deepen, our connections with God; to repair our relationships with each other; to take our rightful place, as stewards of God's creation. It helps us discover who we were created be. Through the Bible's stories, we can hear God speaking to us.  

The Bible's story demands that we continually read and re-read it, to discover the truth about God, about ourselves, about the world. God could easily have given us a few dozen verses to memorise, or a set of rules to follow. But instead, God discloses himself through the messiness of people's lives, through the intrigues of political power, through miraculous deeds, and through his inescapable still, small voice. The Bible is full of stories of ordinary people. These stories, with their timeless insights, can help us in our own struggles, but each story also tells us something about God. 

All of the Bible's stories, should be read as acts, in the larger drama of God's love and redemption. Even the smallest books, contain a generous portion of the story, as it drives toward its fulfilment. To read only part of the Bible, is to only know part of the story, and to miss out on the grand sweep of sacred history. 

In Bible times, names were very important

They told you who someone was, or what they were like. So we can discover something of what God is like, simply from the many names the Bible ascribes to God.  

But God's most important name, or characteristic, is Love. The Bible's story shows us that God loves us more than we can comprehend. God loves us unconditionally. God's love for us never ends ! When we know and believe we are loved that much - perhaps, all that remains, is for us to decide how we should respond ? 

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Have you ever wondered how many authors read their own writings after they are published ?

Did you know God himself has read, studied, and memorised, passages of the Bible ? But that may not be the most unexpected thing - because so too has the Devil !  

Did you notice in the reading - when the Devil tempted Jesus, he was quoting the Bible? He clearly knew the Bible well, even though he twisted what it said, to suit his own ends !  

Did you notice how Jesus also quoted the Bible, to resist the Devil's temptations? Jesus' knowledge of the Bible, gained through reading and studying it, enabled him to recognise and resist, the Devil's lies and temptations.  

I think there is both warning and encouragement here. When we read the Bible, we must be careful how we understand and apply it. We need to be careful, not to take verses or passages out of context, forcing them to fit our own views or arguments. But, when we truly know the Bible, it can inform our thinking, helping us to make right decisions that align with God's will.  

Our reading didn't end in the wilderness though. We also heard how, when Jesus was in the synagogue, he read part of a prophecy from the Book of Isaiah. That prophecy was about God's anointed Messiah, the one who would deliver people from their sins.  

So, the Bible tells us about God. It contains God's word to us. It was studied and known by Jesus - who was God incarnate. It contains a record of Jesus reading a prophecy, that had been written centuries earlier. A prophecy about Jesus, written in a book that we can still read today ! Be warned, it may take a while to get your head around all of that !  

One final thought in closing

In the First World War, when each of our soldiers were issued with their standard equipment, they were given a copy of John's Gospel - like this one - specially designed to fit into their uniform jacket pocket. Their equipment wasn't only for their material needs, but their spiritual needs too. The gospel was standard issue, believed to be as much a part of their essential equipment, as their uniform.  

The Bible is still essential equipment for life today. It is essential to help us navigate our way through life, with God at our side. Essential for learning about God. Essential to help us discover our place in the world, and in God's plans.  

The Bible's story then, is God's message of love to his broken, hurting and sinful people - that's each one of us. Reading it, will help you discover how much God loves you, and wants to help you day by day, whatever you face. 

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Lord God, grant us Your Holy Spirit, so that we may listen to your Word, not to confirm us in our own prejudices, nor to save us from pain, but to know the truth, without which we are never free.  

Engage our imaginations as we attempt to create a fresh vocabulary and clarity of expression in our attempts to live by the insights of the past, and strengthen our willingness to struggle with the deepest truth of the Gospel message, as it affects our lives today.  

Startle us with the hope in its pages - reminding us again of our intended destiny as children of covenant and promise. Imprint the stories of grace and love from its pages on our hearts and minds, touching our being at its core, as we seek in our lives to communicate the good news, in the way of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, guided by the Holy Spirit  

Amen! Amen! 


Note - The video based on this soul space, can be found here : http://youtu.be/Ow5qeuCiPsQ

Ruth Gillett, 2014


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