Week of January 9, 2013

Dr. Todd B. Jones

My Dear Friends,

I have tried each January for the last five or six years to offer to you a Top Ten List of Bible passages for the year, and have enjoyed this exercise. I have appreciated your positive feedback. The Bible is, of course, hardly a simple book. It offers many genres of literature written over centuries of time, and yet at the same time it serves the Church as sacred text, which is why we often call it The Holy Bible. The Bible is filled with poetry, with proverbial sayings, theophanies and miracles, with law and gospel. The Bible tells a sacred story, for the believer nothing less than God’s story.

There are many ways to read the Bible, and one of my favorite is what the great German Biblical theologian Gerhard von Rad called “Heilsgeschichte,” which is a German word for “saving history,” or “salvation history.” This way of reading the Bible with a focus on God’s saving activity in human history sees the Bible as one large story, with God as the principle actor. Saint Augustine hinted at this view of the Bible when he said, “In the Old Testament, we find Jesus Christ concealed; in the New Testament we find Jesus Christ revealed.” The point of Augustine’s statement was a conviction that the Bible finds its coherence and center in Jesus Christ. This was a profoundly theological statement that Augustine was making, and it tends to encourage one to read the Bible as one large, varied expansive story. “The Old Testament can only be read as a book of ever increasing anticipation,” said von Rad, “The Old Testament can only be read as a book in which expectation keeps mounting up to vast proportions.” In many important ways, this can be said as well of the New Testament. The Bible offers a way of viewing the world, and it functions as a meta-narrative, that is to say, an all encompassing story. So instead of offering you ten passages from the Bible this year, I would like to challenge you to visit again the great narratives that both Old and New Testament offer to us. Here is a list that will immerse you in this grandest and most life giving of all stories that the human family has to tell:
1. Creation and Fall: (Genesis 1-3) “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
2. God’s Promise to Abraham: (Genesis 12:1-3) “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
3. God Visits Sarah and Abraham: (Genesis 18:1-15) “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
4. God Tests Abraham: (Genesis 22:1-14) “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
5. Jacob Wrestles with God and Reconciles with Esau: (Genesis 32-33) “For truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God — since you have received me with such favor.”
6. Joseph Buries Jacob in Canaan: (Genesis 50) “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people.”
7. Yahweh Calls Moses to Liberate Israel: (Exodus 3) “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
8. Yahweh Delivers Israel: (Exodus 14 and 15) “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
9. Moses Dies on Mount Nebo: (Deuteronomy 34) “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”
10. Ruth Gives Birth to a Son: (Ruth 1-4) “They named him Obed; he became the father to Jesse, the father of David.”
11. Samuel is Born to Hannah: (I Samuel 1:1-3) “She named him Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’”
12. David Laments the death of Saul and Jonathan: (2 Samuel 1) “How the mighty have fallen, and weapons of war perished!”
13. David Brings the Ark into Jerusalem: (2 Samuel 6) “David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.”
14. Solomon Becomes King: (I Kings 1-3) “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
15. The Temple of Solomon is Dedicated: (I Kings 8) “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!”

The Bible is a story that is always leaning forward, always directing us toward the future, which belongs completely to God. This is why it is inherently a book of hope. Even as the New Testament comes to an end, and the New Jerusalem is pictured, that place where “God will wipe every tear from their eyes” and “death will be no more,” still the Bible ends on an unfinished note, and looks forward to God’s fulfillment and redemption of the whole created order. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” May we find hope in this story as we face a New Year!

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones


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