Let me just go ahead and get this out in the open:
I am an English teacher.
Which means that, yes, I am crazy about all the books and writings you had to slog through in high school. I love it all—from Shakespeare and Chaucer right on up to Hemingway and Fitzgerald and beyond.
It also means that I approach the Bible like an English teacher, viewing the Bible as one complete story with so much wisdom, beauty, poetry, history, numerology, and other wonders to be revealed in its pages.
And so much is revealed:
• deep things of God,
• prayers of an ancient people,
• heroic deeds and misadventures of cultural icons,
• wooing words to a beloved,
• visions from another realm,
• practical instructions for institutional administration.
I’ve put this English-teacher approach into practice by teaching Sunday School for high school upperclassmen, starting in Genesis and proceeding through the Bible.
I can’t attest to how the juniors and seniors feel about it, but I for one have been very excited about this opportunity to begin at the beginning and see afresh the living Word of God unfold through dozens and dozens of stories:
• Of a man and a woman and a fresh start.
• Of a stiff-necked people and a forgiving God.
• Of a lonely wanderer under a sky full of stars.
• Of the rightful heir coming to reclaim the throne.
• Of women taking a chance.
• Of men taking a stand.
• Of militias and miracles and monarchs and martyrs.
• Of hurt and healing and hearts and hope.
So many stories, but they all tell the same story:
The story of love and redemption, of freedom and justice, of grace and restoration. Of a God who created a people He loved so much that He sacrificed His only Son to redeem those people from sin, set them free from death, and give them a place in His presence for all eternity.
We may have a hard time thinking that one single story has any real bearing on the Bible as a whole, with its many books and chapters that span hundreds of years and hundreds of people.
But a comparison to something more modern—something the high-schoolers I teach can relate to (and maybe you can too)—may help us understand how one small story can have a big impact.
In this day and age and culture, streaming a television show has become not only possible but extremely popular. In decades past, television shows were viewed once a week at set time on a set day with an entire week between episodes and an entire season stretching over a year. Today, though, many shows can be viewed in their entirety in matter of days, accessible whenever viewers have the time and desire to kick back and tune in.
When viewers do tune in and select a specific show to watch, the display screen shows the series name, the number of seasons, and the list of episodes. The episodes themselves are broken down into scenes, and each scene is made up of a sequence of framed shots.
Compare the Bible to a streaming TV show like this:
The entire show series is like the entire Bible.
Each of the show’s seasons is like a book of the Bible.
Each episode in a season is like a chapter in a book of the Bible.
Each scene in an episode is a like a passage in a Bible chapter (passages are usually denoted with headings).
Each frame in a scene is like an individual Bible verse.
Frame by frame, scene by scene, slowly the complete story comes into view, with each episode of a television series furthering the plot of that entire series and revealing more details about characters, more thickenings of plots, more significant objects that will be important later. Each small piece contributes its share to the grand, overarching storyline so that the narrative of the entire series is complete. Every part matters.
So too with the Bible.
Each chapter has significance. Each story offers a fresh insight into the character of God, unveiling meaning in names, numbers, and events and imparting truth through lessons, warnings, and examples. Verse by verse, the full story of God’s love and man’s redemption is brought to light.
It is a long story and a true one. An old one that never gets old. Where every word counts and each story matters.