The greatest story ever told has a scope and complexity in its narrative and characters that exceeds all known literature. To some, it is a mysterious volume of allegorical myths. To others, it is a mass of contradictions. It is the story of God and his creation, involvement with and salvation of man. It gets messy, because people are messy, but God’s purpose is not thwarted. The greatest story ever told is not great because man figured out how to salvage himself. It is great because God, driven by love, has, through patience and mercy saved men.
Welcome to the Feast
In the Bible, we are guests at God’s banquet. A modern reader struggles to make sense of this story written so differently to our modern texts and popular novels. The structure of the Bible story is based upon Israel’s festival calendar (detailed in Leviticus 23). Consider the pattern or process you might follow when hosting a dinner party. Our to-do list is arranged to illustrate its parallel structure:
A. You send your invitations
B. You cover the table with a cloth
C. You lay out place settings & cutlery
D. The guests are seated
C1. The food and wine is served
B1. The feast is consumed
A1. You recline, full & satisfied with an digestif
The invitation (A) anticipates the satisfied diners at the end of the party (A1).
The table cloth (B) dedicates the table for the dinner (B1).
The placement of the cutlery (C) is matched with it’s use to eat the food (C1).
At the center of this event, the guests (D) are seated. Will they partake of the meal? Will they enjoy the party? It’s a simplistic example, but hopefully you see a parallel cycle of forward movement.
The Bible story is similar. God has given us an invitation, he has prepared life for us, he has called us to himself, he has given us his Word. Will we receive it? Will we make it a part of ourselves? When we do, we have “a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (c.f. 2 Peter 1:11).
From the beginning of the Bible God has purposely laid the table for us so that we can read, follow the pattern and enjoy feasting on his Word.
The pattern starts in Genesis 1, continues through the Old Testament, and is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The exact details of the pattern will vary using different motifs, allusions and imagery, but the goal of the process is the same.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. … And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. ~ 1 John 5:13, 20