Jane flipped open her Bible. Not being sure what to read, she closed her eyes, fumbled through the pages, and finally opened her eyes to see what verse her pointer finger touched. She winced. It was the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac, a story that had never set well in the pit of her stomach. Jane didn’t understand why God would do that. Wasn’t the God of the Bible supposed to be loving?
She flipped to the New Testament and read a story about Jesus refusing to stone a woman caught in adultery. Jane sighed. That felt better. But how could she know what story to read next, and how could she reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the New?
Jane’s not alone. Most of us have thumbed through the pages of our Bible looking for the right thing to hit the spot, not knowing exactly what that is. To make it more complicated, many people have said that the Old Testament is the polar opposite of the New Testament. They say the image of the Old Testament is the tale of a terrifying God raining down punishment on man. Some see the God of the New Testament as a friend of sinners and one to not cast a stone.
When books or verses of the Bible are read independently, it can be easy to look at them as separate stories when they’re in fact, one cohesive story, the story of God. When you read a Bible verse without knowing what surrounds it, you could certainly come to those conclusions. Without knowing the context the story was set in or all the details that surrounded it, it may be all too easy to sum God up in over-simplified caricatures … instead of looking at the whole story. In order to see the Biblically accurate God, it’s helpful to see the bigger picture.
When we look at it in context, we can see that the Bible is actually one giant story–God’s story–or more specifically, the story of God making and saving the world.
The Old Testament tells the story of God creating man, man’s fall, and God choosing a people that He would bless who he would use to, in turn, bless the whole world. After Adam and Eve fell into sin, pain and death entered the world.
But being a good and loving God, He decided to rescue us. Centuries later, He would set apart a man named Abraham. God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3:
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
While God did indeed bless the Israelites (the children of Abraham), what Abraham didn’t know was that an even bigger blessing was in store. The savior of the world would come through his lineage.
The rest of the Old Testament reveals God’s plan for the Israelites, how He chose them unconditionally, and rescued them time and time again. Even when they were unfaithful, God was faithful. Israel struggled, of course, often due to turning away from the Lord, but He constantly helped them. What’s more, he promised a coming redeemer.
The prophet Isaiah foretold the coming Christ in several passages. One of the most famous (that you may even recognize from Christmas songs) is Isaiah 9:6-7:
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
God’s people the Israelites knew, just as their father Abraham knew, that God would bless the world through them, and that’s what we see come to fruition in the New Testament.
The beginning of the New Testament tells the story of Jesus because that’s what the Jews would have been waiting for—their promised Messiah—the one who would rescue them. And Jesus did come to rescue His people, but not quite the way many of them imagined.
Many expected to see a warrior king who would destroy Israel’s oppressors. They wanted to see Him sit on the throne of David and give them victory on earth over anyone who would try to conquer them.
Spoiler alert: Jesus is coming back one day as a warrior king, but His people were impatient and wanted it right away, not at the end of the world.
Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies about him in the Old Testament. If I listed all of it here, we’d need an entire book, not just one article. But for starters, He came from the line of David, He was born in Bethlehem, and He was born of a virgin. But when Jesus came not as a warrior but as someone healing the lame, eating with sinners, and claiming that He could forgive sins, it upset a lot of people. They wanted immediate physical salvation from their oppressors, but God knew that they needed to be saved from their sins even more than from the Romans.
When Jesus died on the cross, he cured our sin problem, the can of worms that Adam and Eve opened up all the way back in Genesis. Jesus was the sacrificial lamb, like the ram that saved Isaac, so he didn’t have to be sacrificed, like the sheep that the Israelites had sacrificed for hundreds of years. Jesus became our sin offering, and mankind’s way back to God.
When He rose from the dead, Jesus proved His power over death, assuring that we can also have new life in Him, and one day, life forever in Heaven.
The rest of the New Testament is an extension of that story, sharing the history of the early church—much of it a collection of letters they sent to encourage each other. It shows how the gospel of Jesus Christ—the story of God—spread throughout the world.
Reading the Bible in its entirety, and in context, is crucial—so that we can see the big picture—and know the whole story. It’s clear through the entirety of scripture that the biblically accurate God is a God of both justice and love. We know we can agree confidently with what the writer of Psalm 91:2, who said:
“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”
When we read the Bible today, we have so many tools at our disposal. There are plenty of ways to read God’s story. Perhaps you like to hold the Bible in your hand and highlight it as you go, or maybe you prefer to read it on an app, take screenshots, and share it with friends. But did you know that you can watch videos of the story as well?
At the Video Bible, you can watch animated Bible stories play out and get a different visual perspective. It’s easily accessible in the app store for both Android and Apple. There is also a wealth of resources and tips in our blog to help you unpack some of your questions about God and His story.
Folks at VideoBible.com provided me with this post to share, but I love the idea of the Bible being brought to visual life for people. Video Bible aims to make the Bible more accessible to those who struggle with traditional Bible formats due to challenges like dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Learn more about Video Bible.