As a kid (and even beyond), I
was am a sucker for puzzles. Crosswords. Word jumbles. Word searches. Sudoku. I couldn’t even resist the humble “Connect the Dots.” Seriously, what is more satisfying that to watch a scene unfold from a smattering of random dots strewn across a piece of paper?
Growing up, the Bible was a lot like a smattering of dots for me. I learned it a dot at a time. The story of Adam and Eve. A story about Jonah and a big fish. A story about feeding a crowd with no time to hit the grocery. A tale of Joseph and his fancy coat. An account of how a boy named David took down giant named Goliath and another about Daniel escaping the lion’s den. A yarn about Noah, a flood, a dove, and a rainbow. Stories strewn across the pages of my youth like random dots – unnumbered and out of order.
They were great stories, but sadly I often couldn’t have told you the order in which they actually occurred. Even more sadly, I never saw a connection between the dots. The individual pictures painted by each story never merged into a full scene.
Over time, I began to piece together that the Bible stories of my youth had some order. I could begin to assign the individual tales a “number.” Fast forward a few decades and I find myself in a class entitled “The Story of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.” Slowly, my professor’s lectures were like pencil on paper. As he unpacked the stories “in order,” lines were being drawn across my mind from Dot 1 to Dot 2 to Dot 3 and so.
There were themes. There were connections.
Suddenly, the smattering of dots began to form a scene. While each individual story stands on its own, those stories are merely chapters within a bigger Story – the Story of Scripture or the Bible Story.
The dots were not so random after all.
It almost feels silly to admit that I am 50’ish years old and this beautiful picture is just now coming to light for me. This piece of my journey has reminded me of three things: Things are not always as they seem. Don’t ever assume that God is not working behind the scenes. Hope isn’t just for people in another time.
Things are Not Always as They Seem:
Growing up, God almost seemed like he had two distinct and different personalities. There was the angry, wrathful God of the Old Testament who stood in stark contrast to the patient, loving God of the New Testament. It really was like God just flipped a switch. He changed a quickly as the pages turn from the Old Testament to the New.
God didn’t flip a switch. God is immutable. That’s an over-priced word that means God is who he says he is – past, present, future, eternally, forever, and always. God is always loving. Always just. Always merciful. Always. Always. Always.
God doesn’t flip a switch. He doesn’t change with the turn of a page. Even when He appears wrathful and vengeful to me – God’s love cannot fail. His mercy cannot be thwarted. His justice is always perfect.
Perhaps, somewhere I came to believe that I had connected the smattering of dots of the Old Testament with the picture of a vengeful God. Truth is that I wasn’t ready to put pencil to paper. My connections were all wrong. I had gone on a tangent and missed the thread of hope and love that starts in the very first sentence of the Story and connects every dot through to the last sentence of Revelation.
Don’t Ever Assume that God isn’t Working Behind the Scenes:
If we look at the smattering of dots that make up our individual stories, I’d bet that there are a lot of time when you wonder “where is God?” There was about 430 years that passed from the time that the writings of the Old Testament ceased, and the Gospels pick up in the New Testament. That’s a long time to wonder “where is God?”
There may not have been any Biblical writers on the subject, but God was anything but silent in that time period. Like a cosmic game of Risk, God was using the rebellion of His people to move them in place for the next Act of his grand play. Kingdoms rose. Kingdoms were toppled. People were exiled. People returned. God’s plan of redemption ever unfolding.
Seeing the flurry of activity that took place during this “quiet period” should give us great hope when it feels like nothing is happening in our own lives – or even worse, when it feels like nothing is going our way. We can trust that our unfailing God is working behind the scenes to make a path through the messes that we create.
Hope isn’t just for People in Another Time:
Noah got his rainbow. Where’s mine?
You spit Jonah out of the belly of a whale. Why am I swimming in muck?
Daniel didn’t have a scratch on him. How is it that the jaws of life are clamped hard around my heart?
When all we can see is a smattering of dots, hope can be impossible to find. If the Story of the Bible (as opposed to any individual story) is nothing else – it is a story of unrelenting love. The instant that Adam and Eve bit into the apple, God put a plan into action to help man out of the mess he’d created. Before Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden, God had created a path home. A path back to a full relationship with Him. A path to an eternal Garden.
There’s no need to lament that the path isn’t meant for us. It is. We don’t have to wait for some future date to step onto that path. We can step boldly onto that path right now – today. That hope is ours – now!
No matter how many dots are scattered across the pages of your life – each and every one of those “dots” connects to the hope of eternal life.
Dear Father, thank you for Your Story. Thank you for gathering us into Your Story. Thank you for being bigger than the mistakes that dot our paths. Help us to see how our own “dots” come together like the stories within the Bible Story to connect with the “dots” of family, friends, neighbors, strangers, and even enemies to create a bigger picture. Thank you for connecting all of the “dots” to reveal a picture of a glorious eternity. We pray through your Son, Jesus Christ – Amen!
The following three video clips make up the final exam that was submitted for the class mentioned above. When viewed together, they represent my first attempt at telling the Story of Scripture: Genesis to Revelation.