Six overarching themes that flow throughout Scripture—Jesus, Covenant, Presence, Kingdom, Salvation, Worship—demystify the Bible and make it fun to read.
Let's face it—folks don't spend as much time reading their Bibles these days. It's complex and can be hard to understand. Pastors and youth leaders are concerned about low biblical literacy levels in their churches and groups. Reading this book is like having a chat with your best friend ... who also happens to be a Bible scholar. In this case, Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft.
With a thorough discussion of each of the six themes, as well as a summary of the Bible and a discussion of how it came to be in its present form, readers of all ages will read the Bible with new eyes!
|Publisher:||David C Cook|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)|
Read an Excerpt
YOUR MAP TO UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE
By ANDY CROFT, MICHAEL PILAVACHI
David C. CookCopyright © 2008 Andrew Croft and Michael Pilavachi
All rights reserved.
The Jesus Storyline
Years ago, when I was in my teens and Mike was having his first midlife crisis, a series of very popular picture books came out. Perhaps you remember them: They were called Where's Waldo? The basic idea was you would look at a big picture that would tell a story; there'd be loads of characters in it and tons of stuff going on. Waldo (a little bloke in a red-and-white shirt) was hiding somewhere in the picture. Sometimes he'd be up a tree, sometimes under water, sometimes he'd be in a massive crowd, often he'd be peering out from behind a corner, and almost always he'd be hidden from plain view. The challenge was to find him hidden in the story the picture told.
Two thousand years ago Jesus said to a bunch of Pharisees, "Where's Waldo?" But he said it like this, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life" (John 5:39–40). Jesus wasn't talking about the New Testament, because his biography hadn't been written yet, so he must have been talking about the Old Testament. But how could he have been? Everyone knows the Old Testament was about Israel and Moses, David, Abraham, Joshua, and others. Did Jesus get this one wrong? Had he eaten a rotten fig for breakfast? Or ... have we all been missing something? Could it be possible that, like Waldo in the picture books, Jesus appears hidden all over the Old Testament?
You probably already know that Jesus is all over the Bible; in the Old Testament he's concealed, in the New Testament he's revealed. Finding Jesus in the Old Testament is not just a game, like finding Waldo. It's more like a treasure hunt, and it brings the story of God to life in a whole new way. Throughout the Old Testament we see strong hints, images, and prophecies about Jesus. In the New Testament those hints, images, and prophecies are unveiled; the curtain is ripped apart, from top to bottom, to reveal the star of the whole show. Let's go on a journey together to find Jesus in the crowd of Old Testament heroes.
The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Gen. 6:5–8)
The human race was so messed up there was no way to straighten it out. God decided to bring a flood and wipe out every creature. There was just one problem. Noah.
Noah and God were friends, and Noah was a righteous man. To destroy every living creature would have meant the unjust of killing his friend. God longed to save Noah, and so he commanded him to build a massive ark. We've been to the Middle East, and in case you hadn't realized, it's a desert! Despite how stupid he looked, Noah obeyed God to the point of humiliation. But it meant that, when the rains hit, Noah was saved. What's more, his whole family came with him. Why was Noah's family saved? Were they righteous? No. Noah was the only righteous one around, but because they were attached to him, his family got to come along!
The first hero of the Old Testament is our first signpost to Jesus. The flood didn't solve the problem of humanity's wickedness. God's righteous judgment is still that humanity deserves to die in its wickedness and be cut off from him forever. However, God has found one totally righteous man, even more righteous than Noah. This righteous man obeyed God to the point of utter humiliation, dying on a cross. What's more, all the unrighteous people who attach themselves to him are saved. After the flood a rainbow was the sign of God's promises; today it is the cross. All who shelter in Jesus, the ark of salvation, are not wiped out but given eternal life. Sometimes when we read about the cross, it can seem mysterious—something that's difficult to get our heads around. Discovering things like this throughout the Old Testament on one level helps us to understand it better—the patterns of salvation often reoccur. But on another level it speaks of the wonder and increases the mystery. Thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, God was carefully laying out the foundations for his master plan ...
Abraham and Isaac
Several chapters later in Genesis, we come across a strange scene. In Genesis 22 we find an old man holding a knife over the chest of a young boy he's about to sacrifice. Years ago God had promised the old man that he would have a son, and after an age of waiting, Isaac was born. The baby became a boy, and Abraham loved him dearly. It was at that point God said to Abraham, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about" (Gen. 22:2).
How could God command someone to sacrifice his own son? And yet—"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son ..." (John 3:16). The words of John, describing God's giving of his beloved Son, deliberately echo those of Genesis 22:2. God asked no more of Abraham than God himself was willing to give. God gave up his only Son, whom he loved, completely out of choice and love for us.
The old man obeyed God: "Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey" (Gen. 22:3). Father, son, and donkey headed to the region of Moriah. When Mike and I visited Israel, we were amazed to discover that the region of Moriah is where, hundreds of years after Abraham, Jerusalem was built! And so when we read about Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey, we're reading about another father, another son, and another donkey riding into exactly the same area Abraham had been told to head to. In little, subtle ways—ways that we wouldn't notice unless we looked for them—God is laying down hints in the Old Testament of the plans he has for his Son in the New Testament.
When Abraham and Isaac arrived, we read that the father placed the wood for the sacrifice on the back of his son: "Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife" (Gen. 22:6). Isaac then carried the wood for his own sacrifice up a hill in the region of Moriah. Isn't this amazing? Centuries later, the Father placed the cross, the wood for the sacrifice, on the back of his Son. Jesus then carried the wood for his own sacrifice up a hill in the region of Moriah.
Upon reaching the top of the hill, Isaac said to Abraham, "The fire and wood are here ... but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Gen. 22: 7). "Abraham answered, 'God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son'" (Gen. 22:8). Abraham then tied his son to the wood and was about to kill him when the Lord cried for him to stop. God told Abraham to sacrifice a ram he saw caught in a hedge. Rejoicing, Abraham took it and sacrificed it in the place of his son. "So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided'"(Gen. 22:14). Two thousand years later on a mountain in the region of Moriah, the Lord did provide. He provided not a ram but a lamb for the offering ... the Lamb of God. He is "my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). This provision of Jesus for us was something God had planned and intended from the beginning, before any of us were born. The storyline of Jesus running through the life of Abraham and Isaac shows us that even before most of the people in the Old Testament had been born, God knew what was going to happen, and he knew what it was going to cost him. He knew what you were going to cost—and then he went ahead anyway.
So we move on to Joseph. Jesus is everywhere in his story. God's plan from the beginning, revealed to Joseph in his dreams (Gen. 37), was that he would achieve a high status and bring blessing and salvation to many others through that ruling status. Jesus was born to rule. He was born to be King, and because of his kingship many would find salvation.
Joseph's brothers became jealous and did what many of us want to do with our siblings: They sold him into slavery. Joseph was sold to merchants for twenty pieces of silver. Years later Jesus was sold to the Jewish leaders for thirty pieces of silver. Just think—if only it had been the same price, it would have been a perfect parallel ... what a shame ... But wait! The Bible tells us that Joseph was sold for the going price of a slave in 1900 BC and Jesus for the going price of a slave in AD 30. The price had gone up, but God had accounted for inflation!
Joseph was eventually sold to Potiphar, a high official in Egypt, and soon became his right-hand man. Mrs. Potiphar tried to seduce Joseph. She was very subtle—"Come to bed with me!" she begged. "No way, José!" Joseph replied, and when Mrs. Potiphar came in one door, he ran out the other. Jesus was tempted in the desert by the Devil. The Devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. In response to the Devil's seduction, Jesus said, "Get lost!" (or words to that effect). By not sleeping with Potiphar's wife, Joseph resisted abusing the power his master had given him; by not "getting into bed" with the Devil, Jesus refused to abuse the power God had given him.
Mrs. Potiphar accused Joseph of a crime he did not commit. He was unjustly sentenced and thrown into the deepest dungeon. Jesus, years later, was accused of crimes he did not commit and was unjustly sentenced. While Joseph was serving his sentence, two criminals came to join him. Years later, while Jesus was serving his sentence on the cross, two criminals joined him. You can read in Genesis 40 about how Joseph, through the interpretation of a dream, spoke words of life to one of those criminals. Joseph promised he would be saved, and the criminal was later released. You can also read in Luke 23 about how, as he was dying between two criminals, Jesus spoke words of life to one. Jesus promised he would be saved, and we can be sure that criminal is now with Jesus in paradise.
Joseph was eventually released from prison. From the lowest pits of jail, he became Pharaoh's prime minister, the highest position in Egypt. He named his second son Ephraim (meaning "fruitful") and said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering" (Gen. 41:52). Egypt was an alien land that was not his home. When God became man, he was born into an alien land that was not his home, and yet it was in this land of suffering that God made Jesus fruitful. He was raised up from the lowest point—death—and is now seated at the right hand of God.
Famine struck the whole area, and Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to buy food. They were reunited with Joseph, the brother they'd sold into a life of slavery. Instead of having them killed, Joseph forgave them, assuring them, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Gen. 50:20). He went on to save the lives of all his brothers, of those who had sinned against him. He brought them from a place of famine and death to one of abundant life.
The Jewish religious leaders, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers—as our representatives—accomplished what they intended in harming Jesus to the point of death on the cross. Jesus, as he was dying, cried out, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34). We, the human race, meant the death of Jesus for harm, but God meant it for good. He intended it to accomplish what is now being fulfilled, a passage from certain death to abundant life, the saving of many lives.
Isn't this incredible? Joseph was born to be a ruler, he was sold into slavery, he was severely tempted, he went through great suffering, he predicted the salvation of one he suffered with, he was raised up again by God, he forgave those who'd sinned against him, and he declared it had happened that many might be saved.
Jesus' storyline is central to the story of the Bible, and it runs like a bullet through the story of Joseph. This is more than just an amazing biblical parallel—it carries with it a message for us today. Ever felt insecure about God's love? Ever been a little unsure as to whether or not he'll bring about what he's promised? Ever messed it up and thought, "It's been one too many; God's probably going to quit on me this time"? We can draw deep confidence from the fact that God planned his death on the cross. The way that Joseph's life prophesies Jesus' shows in an incredible way that God always thought we were going to be worth it—his decision to come to earth wasn't a last-minute afterthought. John's gospel tells us that Jesus is from "the beginning," and Joseph's story backs that up—he is from the beginning, and he was always going to bring about the ending. This picture is yet another guarantee to our hearts of the love God has—and has always had—for us.
Hundreds of years later the descendants of Joseph and his brothers had undergone a population explosion. They were now the people of Israel and were being used and abused as slaves by the Egyptians.
God heard the cry of those he loved, now slaves to Pharaoh, and through Moses he set out to do something about it. We read that, at the start of Exodus (chapter 3), the Lord revealed himself to Moses and commanded him to go and save the Israelites. Before he went anywhere, Moses wanted to know who this burning bush of a God was: "Who shall I say has sent me?" he asked. God replied, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you'" (Ex. 3:14). God's name was "I AM."
Also, Moses was understandably a bit nervous about taking on Egypt single-handedly, and he asked God, "Who am I, that I should go?" This time God ignored his question. He didn't say "You're Moses, kung fu champion!" He just replied, "I will be with you" (Ex. 3:12). The only thing Moses needed to know on this account was that God had his back.
So God's rescue operation for a people who were suffering as slaves involved one man. The reason this one man was going to save anyone was because God was with him. Who was this God that was with him? I AM.
Hundreds of years later God again heard the cry of those he loved who were slaves to sin, and through Jesus he set out to do something about it. Moses had asked the God of the burning bush who he was. The Pharisees asked Jesus, "Who do you think you are?" (John 8:53). Amazingly Jesus said in response, "'Before Abraham was born, I am!' At this, they picked up stones to stone him ..." (8:58–59). Some of the Jews responded with outrage; they wanted to kill Jesus. Why? Because he was claiming to be God. When they asked him who he was, he told them he was I AM. The God I AM went with Moses to save a people; the God I AM came in person to save a world. One of Jesus' titles is Emmanuel. It means "God with us."
Moses confronted the evil powers of Egypt, defeated them—and Pharaoh released Israel. They started the hike out of Egypt, but before long Pharaoh changed his mind; he sent everything he had after them. If we pick up the trail in Exodus 14, we find Israel trapped. In front of them lay the Red Sea, and behind them the Egyptian army was closing in. They had no options. Then God told Moses to raise his staff out over the waves of the Red Sea. Moses obeyed, and the waters parted. Through Moses' actions a way to freedom and life opened up—Israel now had one option! They passed through the waters and passed from death to life.
In front of all of us lies death; in and around all of us is the evil of this age. Do we have any options? Miraculously God provided an option for all who are trapped. Jesus defeated the evil power of this age (Satan); he conquered sin and death. Through Jesus' actions a way to freedom and life has opened up. We now have one option! In following Jesus we can be saved. Like the Israelites following Moses, on our journey we, too, pass through water in our crossing from death to life: "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:5). Ours is the water of baptism.
Moses' and Israel's hike through the wilderness went on for years and years. Mike and I recently went hiking down the Grand Canyon. It lasted for hours rather than years. Still, when we walked through the Grand Canyon, it was baking hot and hard work. After an hour or so, Mike started to moan ... "I'm thirsty, I want some water!" He's Greek, so he tends to exaggerate, and he started to whine, "This is the end, I'm going to die!" Throughout the hike down, Mike complained, moaned, and whined at me. First he wanted water. Then he wanted food. After he'd eaten five PowerBars, he wanted a different sort of food ... and so it went ...
Excerpted from STORYLINES by ANDY CROFT, MICHAEL PILAVACHI. Copyright © 2008 Andrew Croft and Michael Pilavachi. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 The Jesus Storyline 13
2 The Covenant Storyline 45
3 The Presence Storyline 63
4 The Kingdom Storyline 93
5 The Salvation Storyline 119
6 The Worship Storyline 143
7 The Storylines Continue 167
Appendix A The Bible in 20 Pages 171
Appendix B The What, Why, and How of the Bible 191