Most people see the Bible as a collection of sayings. It’s a book of pithy sayings, rules, and moral fables that have no relationship with each other. It’s a toolkit when you have a problem and you pick the right tool and fix your flat tire or hammer the nail. If you have trouble with careless spending, read Proverbs. If you have marital issues, read Song of Solomon. If you're depressed, read the Psalms. If you need some excitement, read Revelation. It’s not that the Bible can’t be read that way – it certainly can. But it’s so much more than a collection of wisdom, prophecy, and rules.
The Bible is a story of God’s creative and redemptive work in humanity. It is a love story. And everything in the book is connected to everything else. The beauty of a great story is its ability to make connections – to make connections within itself and to make connections with the audience.
I read the Hunger Games trilogy awhile go and really enjoyed it. Suzanne Collins knows how to tell a story and each book in the trilogy is connected to the others. The third book is called Mockingjay. The bird is a hybrid of a mockingbird and a genetically engineered bluejay. And she begins seeding that image in the first book. Katniss receives the mockingjay pin and it later becomes a defining symbol of rebellion in the final book.
A good storyteller makes connections. God is an incredible storyteller and the Bible is full of connections. The scriptures are connected in so many ways - Old Testament with New Testament, Jews to Gentiles, different people to Jesus, and most of all, how God connects with us.
The question you wrestle with when you approach the Bible isn’t whether the section you’re reading is related to everything else. It is connected. The question is how? And as you get to know the text, you realize how closely connected everything is and there’s these myriad themes tied together that pull everything together.
In Breaking Bad season 2, they seed the beginning of latter episodes with a slow pan over the main character’s backyard. You see all kinds of carnage, figures in white radioactive suits, and then the camera zooms onto a teddy bear with its eye missing. And the camera just lingers there. And at least five episodes begin with this shot and each time they show you a little more but you have no idea what you’re looking at. Until you get to the end of the season. That's how the Bible unfolds.
Genesis 1-2 describes how God created the heavens and earth. He places man and woman in a garden with the tree of life and a river runs through it. The garden is God's perfection. God is seeding something here.
Later in Genesis 4, Cain builds a city in rebellion against God. In Genesis 11, mankind builds the city of Babel to reach the heavens. Cities are evil. Cities are man's creation. And yet God places his temple in the city of Jerusalem. He sends Jonah to reach Ninevah. He blesses the city.
Finally in Revelation 21, a new heaven and earth arrive. The New Jerusalem descends out of heaven. And in the middle of this Holy City, a river flows down the main drag. And the tree of life straddles the waters. The garden was perfect but the city is better.
Between Genesis and Revelation, everything is connected. God seeded something in Genesis and the result at the end is a hybrid of the journey between God and man. The Bible is the story of how it all unfolds.
So when you approach the text with questions like what is being seeded here? What themes are being pulled forward and expanded on in this section? How does this connect with everything else?