I think that the first stories that I learned as a child were Bible stories. They were stories of adventure and courage. Stories of people in far away places who got to do amazing things, like sailing the sea with all those animals or battling giants. And through it all was a loving God who was overseeing everything this world has to offer. Looking back over those stories with adult eyes gives us a different perspective of those old favorites.
Adam and Eve -a story of Grace
We teach this story of Creation and focus on God’s power and authority but upon closer inspection we start to see the story of grace starts right here in the beginning of Genesis. They never asked to be created yet they were brought forth and placed in a garden paradise. They had done nothing to gain them any reward, yet they were given animal companions and all the food they could eat without having to earn any of it. Even in their disobedience, they were shown grace and given another place to live – the world we live in today which as difficult as it can be is still a very beautiful place. If grace can be defined as being given what you do not deserve, then this story is a picture of God’s grace to his creation, undeserving though we may be.
Cain and Abel – a story of justice
This story is a dark one but we teach it to our little ones as a cautionary tale. These two brothers were each cut from very different cloth. Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the land. While Abel was grateful to God for all he had, Cain seems rather indifferent. When God smiles upon Abel but not Cain, Cain responds with jealousy towards his brother and anger towards God. God first warns Cain that his angry thoughts will head him down the wrong path. Cain ignores the warning and eventually murders his brother in a jealous rage. Here we see God’s justice at work. Justice for Abel in Cain’s punishment but also justice for Cain. His disobedience drives him from God’s presence, but his story doesn’t end there. The Bible records Cain’s family tree where we find people like Jubal, the father of all musicians. Only God could bring something as beautiful as music from a family rooted in something as ugly as murder. God’s justice is designed to bring us the hope of restoration.
What kid didn’t have a story book showing all the animals lining up two by two or was told to look for rainbows after a storm. This story is a favorite for many reasons. It captures kids’ imaginations with it’s images of exotic animals and high seas adventure but it is much more than that. It’s a story of God’s compassion on His whole creation. Noah is introduced as being the only righteous man in a world that had strayed very far from its Creator. God will destroy the corrupted earth and basically start over but goes about it in a very unusual way. Noah instructed to build a huge boat that will save his family and all the animals from the coming calamity. Yet, the building of this ship will take a very long time and as Noah is gathering supplies and constructing the boat, his neighbors would have had to notice what was happening. This would give many an opportunity to question and possibly repent. Sadly none did, but the chance was always open to them. Those who did enter the ark, were the only people on earth who were willing to place themselves in God’s hands. And of course, there is the rainbow at the end of the story. The ultimate sign of God’s compassion for his people. Compassion is described as loving someone enough to share in whatever they suffer. This is how God loves. Scripture records how He cries over our sinfulness, always holding out that offer of forgiveness. We can see how God cares for and protects Noah and his family through one of the darkest times in human history. And surprisingly, we can see how God has compassion on the very people who have brought about this darkness.
Who doesn’t love a good “kill the evil gaint” story? Isn’t it great when you see the underdog emerge victorious? We all love a classic good vs. evil battle and this story delivers. David, the youngest of his family, has watched all of his brothers join the army to fight the Philistines. David himself must have wanted to go but he is too young. He stays on the family farm and helps his dad take care of things at home. Then dad send David out to where the army is encamped with bread and cheese for the soldiers instructing David to come back with news of his brothers. While at the emcampment, David hears Goliath, the giant Philistine, threaten the Hebrew army and the rest is history. While this is certainly a story of faith and courage, it is also a story of the importance of obedience. I’m sure that David thought often of his older brothers and looked up to them as they defended the homeland. More than anything, I’ll just bet that he wanted to be with them and fight the Philistines. But he obeyed his father and stayed home. In fact, he only shows up at the battlefield as an act of obedience to his father by delivering sandwiches to his big brothers. He will not be given the opportunity to fight the giant until after he obeys. When we make obedience to God a bedrock principle of our lives, we might be surprised at what God will build upon it. After all, He made David, who started out as a delivery boy, the greatest king of Israel.
I always found this one a little disturbing. Jonah is thrown overboard into a stormy sea, swallowed by a large fish and then vomited up on the beach. Disgusting! But that’s the only parts a kid generally remembers and there is much more to it. Simply put, Jonah tries to run away from God but God turns him around. Jonah has to tell the Ninevites to repent and they do. Jonah now sulks because he thought the city deserved punishment from God and can’t understand why God is forgiving them. Jonah was happy when God gave him another chance but apparently doesn’t want to extend that same courtesy to the people of Nineveh. Mercy is not something that comes naturally to us. We can understand the concept of justice but His mercy often confuses us. Mercy is the very nature of God. Though we all deserve death (sorry to be so blunt), God offers us life and that is what mercy is all about. God shows mercy to Jonah, the Ninevites and you and I.
The Bible – a story of love
All these stories have a central theme that runs through them. They speak of a love that is beyond the limits of this earth – the love of God. As I read through these stories again and again, I gain new insights. We may first learn these stories as kids but when we relearn them as adults, we can see so much more.