The story of the Bible is the story of God, his people, and his world. God spoke. The world sprang into life. Everything there is—the huge and the tiny, mountains and oceans, little ants and bugs so small you can only see them with a microscope—God made it all.
The Story of the Bible Begins in a Garden
Then he made us. He made the very first people and gave us a job: “You be in charge here, for me. You are to take care of everything. I have made you to be like me; show the world what I am like.” He gave our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, a garden to live in, with flowing rivers and flourishing trees. “Start here,” he said. “I will meet with you here.”
The story of the Bible is the story of God, his people, and his world.
When Adam first saw his wife Eve, he said, “Eyaa! This is the one!” Adam and Eve had everything—God, each other, and good work to do.
But There Was an Enemy
But there was an enemy. He was jealous. He wanted to wreck what he could not have. He was also clever. He asked Eve, “Why cannot you be the boss? Why not run things your own way? Why not do what you feel like doing? Why let God keep you back?”
Soon, our ancestors disobeyed. They did exactly what God said they should not do and set the pattern that lasts to this day. Everything began to fall apart. The world is still full of wonderful things, of beauty that makes you tremble. We are still smart and still able to do amazing things. But our thinking and our feelings are twisted and often broken. When we are all trying to be the boss, we cut ourselves off from God. We hurt one another. And the whole world feels the effect. In fact, the brokenness is inside us and we hurt ourselves, too. Our brokenness even damages creation.
When we are all trying to be the boss, we cut ourselves off from God. We hurt one another. And the whole world feels the effect.
The Story of the Bible is not God Turning Away
God saw the messed-up world and the messed-up people he had put in charge of it. God could have gone away. Many of the old African stories say that is what he did. The stories say that we made God angry, and he went a long way off. But that is not the story of the Bible. Yes, God can seem far away. Yes, we can choose to build a wall between us and God. But God is not going to be defeated. He is going to get rid of the bad. He is going to take broken people and make them over again. And he is going to take the broken world and make it over again. He is going to do this through his own Son, who came to live in this broken world.
God Starts with Abraham
He started small, with Abraham. “Leave your family. Leave your people. Follow me. I will be family for you. And I will make you into a nation with your very own land to rule. Through you, my blessing will reach the whole world.”
Abraham followed God. Abraham stumbled, but he still trusted God, and God kept his promise. Abraham and Sarah were given a son, Isaac. From Isaac came a son named Jacob, also given the name Israel. From that son came a nation, also called Israel.
In time, there were thousands of Israelites, but they were not that impressive. They lived as forced labourers in Egypt and the government was trying to destroy them. God called Moses to lead them and told the people, “I will rescue you. Come to me. Meet with me in the desert. Walk with me. Be my people. Live my way. I will give you your own rich land, your own garden. And through you, my blessing will reach the whole world.”
God rescued them by opening up the sea. The towering cloud and fire of his presence marched with them. But the people still had Adam’s sinful nature. Before long, they forgot the blessings. They complained. They disobeyed. They said, “Let’s go back to Egypt.” They said, “Let us make our own gods and worship them our own way.”
So God punished them, but he did not leave them. In spite of what they did wrong, he took them through the desert and gave them their own land. They marched in, led by Joshua. They watched city walls fall down and conquered the communities. They renewed their promises: “We will live as God’s people. We will show what he is like to the world.”
But it did not last long. “Let us be like everybody else” was the easier way to live. But they belonged to God, and he did not leave them. They were his. He punished them, and he sent leaders to rescue them. Then they would turn from God and things would get worse again. This pattern repeated for many years.
Next Come David and the Kings
God gave King David to the people of Israel. David made no room for false gods. Enemies all around were defeated. The people lived in peace. In the time of David’s son Solomon, Jerusalem, the capital, was made God’s city. God’s presence was focused in his Temple—a beautiful building that Solomon built to worship and sacrifice to God. The people gathered there to worship God in glorious praise. Wisdom for godly living flowed out from there, touching other peoples in other lands with blessing.
But David and Solomon and Israel were like Adam. They all failed. The hints and tastes of goodness faded. Other kings came and went, some better, most worse, none good enough.
God sent his prophets, his messengers, to tell the nation, “You are God’s chosen people, sworn to him with marriage vows! Turn to him from disobedience. Turn to him from the false prophets, the idols, the substitutes, the liars, and the cheats. Care for the needy among you. Find blessing. Watch him rescue you. Watch God’s blessing reach the end of the earth. Or do not, and lose what you have, even the land you have been given.”
In the end, they lost the land. They were hauled off to Babylon. But God did not leave them. His messengers promised that they would come back. And beyond that came richer promises. The people and the world would be made new with God’s blessing and with Adam’s mess undone.
Some did return to Jerusalem. A small Temple was built again in God’s city. Prophets encouraged the people. But failure and compromise were everywhere.
From Adam to Israel, the ones who belong to God mess up. Rescuers come, rescuers go. The gap between promise and reality is huge. What is God doing?
Questions remained unanswered: “Has God failed? His people have failed again and again! The glory of his blessing for the whole world has not gone anywhere. From Adam to Israel, the ones who belong to God mess up. Rescuers come, rescuers go. The gap between promise and reality is huge. What is God doing? Will there ever be an Adam who does what Adam should have done? Will there ever be an Israel that lives according to God’s good law? Will there ever be a David who rules in true peace? Will God’s Temple presence ever come close to stay?”
Was this the end of the story of the Bible? For four hundred years, things went very quiet.
But then a surprise. God did exactly what he said he would do. And he did it in a way that no one expected.
There was a harsh colonial government and a baby was born in a poor family. He was called Jesus, which means Joshua—Saviour. Born in David’s village from David’s family, he would be called God’s Christ, Messiah, Lord, Immanuel (which means God with us), King. He would call himself Son of Man, son of Adam, Son of God. He would talk to God as his Father. He would command wind and waves, rebuke disease, and banish cringing demons. He would forgive sins, putting people right with God. He would give wisdom greater than Solomon’s. He would command more than Moses. He was God with his people when the Temple could not be. He would be the one faithful Israelite when all Israel had failed. He would bless the nations.
He marched to Jerusalem and then rode into the city as King of peace, surrounded by followers praising God. But the rulers did not see it that way. The government did not see it that way. The enemy from back in Eden did not see it that way. Jesus was a threat. His Kingdom would break the kingdoms of the earth. The rulers determined to break him. Arrested and falsely accused, Jesus was executed on a cross in cruelty and shame, then sealed in a rock tomb.
Jesus did not run or hide. At that moment, and every moment, he gave himself over to God’s will and purpose. He knew God had a plan. He did the opposite of Adam.
Little did they know. Jesus did not run or hide. At that moment, and every moment, he gave himself over to God’s will and purpose. He knew God had a plan. He did the opposite of Adam. Having nothing and losing his life, he gave himself to God, to stand in the place of all those who followed Adam. He stood in our place, took on our failure, our brokenness, our rebellion. He said to God, “Father, I am utterly alone. Yet I give myself to you. You will put things right. You will bring victory from total defeat.”
And God did.
On the third day, God reversed death. He launched the age of new creation. He started to make all the brokenness fresh and new. He raised Jesus from that tomb. He declared him for ever innocent, for ever right. He confirmed every title—Saviour, Messiah, King, Lord. And he lifted Jesus to glory.
He also did something else. He gave Jesus a people, a Kingdom. The faithful people of God were few. Now God said, “Repent. Trust Jesus. Give yourself to him. Abandon your old self. In Jesus, you share in his blessings. You, too, will be right with God. In him, your wrecked life will be remade. God’s very own Spirit will be present within you. You were nobodies, but now, you are his dear family.”
He Is Alive!
Jesus’ followers spread out. They could not stop telling people what they had seen: “He is alive!” The first time they said this, people from many nations heard them. And three thousand believed. Soon his followers were beaten, they were imprisoned, they were killed. But they declared, “He has won!” They were despised and they were mocked, but they declared, “Every honour belongs to him, for he is God!”
Those who believed the good news, those who turned to Jesus, lived as his family, his people, his Kingdom, showing and telling what he is like to the world. Eagerly they waited for the completion of God’s victory in Jesus. They wanted everyone to know him.
The good things started were a long way from complete. God’s people in Jesus failed. They did not understand who they really were. And they did not live like who they really were. Lots of times, they would get confused.
Jesus’ people belong to him so tightly; they are his body. They are hands and feet for him in this world.
But Jesus had sent his apostles, empowered by his Spirit, to declare his message and teach his people. Jesus’ people belong to him so tightly; they are his body. They are hands and feet for him in this world. Just like Adam, they are here to show his world what he is like, show every people what he is like. They are also here to suffer as Jesus suffered. Time and again, they would be attacked and hurt, just because they were his.
The apostles said, “Look back. Look at Jesus and all he has done for you. Look ahead. Look to Jesus and all he will do. You are his people, being formed from every language, tribe, and nation. That same enemy from the beginning, those same rulers and powers who raged at Jesus, they want to hurt us all that they can. But their time is short. Jesus will defeat them once and for all. Soon, in God’s time, they will be stripped of all strength and doomed to the punishment they deserve. Even the evil that still lurks inside us will be rooted out. Jesus is coming back with all God’s power and authority in full view.”
The story of the Bible began in a garden. It ends in a beautiful city. A city full of people but still rich in flowing water and flourishing trees. A city of beauty, praise, and joy.
The Story of the Bible Ends in a Beautiful City
The story of the Bible began in a garden. It ends in a beautiful city. A city full of people but still rich in flowing water and flourishing trees. A city of beauty, praise, and joy. A city without tears or hurt or wrong. A city with God and Jesus right there, for ever, with us.
The story of the Bible is the story of God, his people, and his world. It is the story of Jesus, who is God, of his new people, of his Kingdom, and his new world.
And it is our story. We are still living it.