I wrote this devotional up this afternoon for some friends at Assembly Care Ministries. You might not think of the following as a “devotional” because it is closer to a Biblical Theology. However, it is just this sort thinking that I find nourishing in a devotional way).
I want to recommend a practice that I think you will find helpful in your study of the Bible. In a nutshell, it involves making yourself aware of the long narrative arc that stretches from Genesis to Revelation; the big storyline of the Bible. Narrative is a common word for “story.” The bible is a grand story. Story need not mean fiction. One can tell a story of knights and dragons (fictional), or one can tell a story of NASA’s lunar missions during the 20th century (nonfiction). In its most truncated form, that narrative arc (or storyline) goes like this:
Creation > Fall > Redemption > New Creation
Each of these portions can be developed more. For example, “Redemption” (occupying most of scripture) can be further divided into the work of God through the Patriarchs, Exodus, establishment of Israel, restoration of Israel after the exile, birth of the Church, global expansion of the church, and so on. The focus in this devotional is on the big picture though, not the details.
God created a good world, sin entered and disfigured God’s creation. In His grace, God takes the initiative to redeem and restore his creation rather than destroy it. God progressively draws nearer and nearer to humanity through COVENANT, CHRIST, the spirit indellwed CHURCH, and ultimately his second COMING. We go from isolation at the garden to seeing him face to face in the New Heavens/earth. It goes without saying that Christ is the Key to the entire story. Christ is Creator, Christ is king of the Jews and the Messianic King of Israel, Christ is the sacrificial lamb at Calvary, he is bridegroom of the church, the last Adam in whom we see a new humanity, Christ is the coming one who ultimately defeats evil and brings earth to its original purpose. All of the scriptures speak of him.
Once you’ve got the Biblical storyline in your head, you can begin to look at various topics:
(a) In light of the Big Storyline of the Bible and
(b) in light of Christ as the key to scripture.
Take a single example: WORK (the same could be done with Marriage, Art, Government, Food, Rest, etc..)
- Creation – Work is a pre-fall establishment of God for pre-fall humanity. While God “rested” on the seventh day, man was given work to do in the context of rest. There does not seem to be a contradiction between these two prior to the fall.
- Fall – Work takes on a laborious difficulty (sweat-of-thy-brow), with humanity ultimately dying and returning to the ground he tills.
- Redemption – God commands and uses work under the Mosaic Covenant as well as the daily life for those in the Church. God uses work for a variety of good ends in Israel, the Church, post-fall life. In his grace, God draws our daily work into the accomplishment of his greater plan for human history.
- Christ – Christ as a human engaged in work prior to his public ministry (as the perfect man) and describes himself as engaged in his Fathers work after the commencement of his public ministry.
- New Creation – prior to the New Creation, in the millennial kingdom, believers will rule and reign with Christ on earth. This appears to be a form of redeemed and glorified work with God. In the final scenes of scripture (Rev 22:3) Edenic symbols (tree of life, river, abolishment of the curse). In this scene we read “his servants will serve him.” While we can’t speak where scripture is silent, we can look where the narrative arrows point. If there was work in the pre-fall Garden, and if we will serve the Lord in restored earth (with Edenic overtones), and if Christ the perfect man worked, it is not unreasonable to think we will continue to serve and work with God in the future. Perhaps a holy activity rather than a holy stasis awaits us.