There has been so much controversy about the new movie “Noah” that I had to see it. It’s an unbiblical telling of a Bible story which brings up the obvious question, “Why bother telling the story of you are going to stray so far from the original?”. But then, how well do we really know the originals? I’ve always wanted to do a Bible study were we could rehash the traditional children’s stories from the Bible but see them through our sometimes enlightened, sometimes jaded adult eyes. I’d love to sift through the stories of Noah, David and Goliath and Daniel and the Lion’s Den and find out what I missed the first time around.
I once asked the ladies in the Bible study that I was leading, what they would like to work on as we finished the book that we had been reading through. An elderly woman in the group suggested reading “Esther” from the Old Testament. She thought it was so romantic when we are told that the king loved Esther so much that he offered her whatever she asked for. It had been a long time since I had read Esther. I didn’t remember too many details but it sounded appropriate for our little group. As I started to do some preparatory research, I came across something fascinating. Many commentaries on the Bible compare the books of Ruth and Esther. The book of Ruth appears early in the Old Testament, before that time in history when Israel was ruled by kings. It is a beautiful, romantic narrative which compares a human love story to God’s love for humankind. It has been called the “Gospel of Romance”. Esther, on the other hand, is not a romantic story at all. It takes place after the time of kings when the glory days of the nation of ancient Israel have come to an end. This book is a story of two displaced Hebrews, living in a foreign country under a despotic king. There is palace intrigue, evil plans, an overambitious king and those who get caught in the middle of it all. God uses this story as a backdrop to show us His providence in the world. Even when we choose not to acknowledge God, He is sovereign and things will still go His way. An interesting thought for our earthbound minds and prideful hearts. He is truly in control whether we bow to Him or not.
My group spent twelve weeks studying Ruth and Esther. At our final meeting, I asked them what they had learned. The woman who had originally suggested the study, simply smiled. She was thinking of that part where the king offered Esther whatever she wants because he loves her so much. My friend just kept saying, “Isn’t it romantic?”. And the way she remembered it, it was romantic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t accurate. The king was never really in love, he was in lust for the young and beautiful Esther.
Esther has been called the “Gospel of Providence”. God’s good news to us that His plans, which include our well being, will prosper despite our efforts. The king was a lecherous, easily manipulated, power hungry man, Esther an obedient young woman and God would use them both for His purposes.
My friend was unable to get beyond a childhood telling of Esther’s story. Because of that, she was missing so much richness that was tucked away in those ten chapters. It makes me wonder how much I miss because I read Scripture blinded by past lessons. The Bible contains layer upon layer of meaning in each line but if we are not careful, we’ll miss much of it. We tend to think, “Oh, I know this story, I can just skim over it” or ” I memorized the Lord’s Prayer back when I was little, I don’t need to waste time with that”.
So before I went to see the movie “Noah”, I reread the original. I found the director’s version to be very imaginative. Though I didn’t agree with most of his interpretation, it did make me think of the parts of the story that we glossed over in Sunday School. I can’t help but feel that this is what God intended all along. Not that we learn a story or memorize a verse and move on from there, but that we continue to relearn and rememorize through different stages of life. Words that are divinely inspired will continue to reveal more layers of meaning as we change and grow. Scripture will not change, but we do. The stories that we loved as children will remain but we will find new depths to them. My favorite verses will come back to me again and again. Each time I delve deeper into the words, I will renew the promises, remember the stories and, ultimately, reveal the love that God has had for me all along.