While it is made up of 66 books written over the course of millennia by many authors, we cannot forget that the Bible also has a single divine author who shaped those 66 books, inspiring its authors, who were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
That single divine author was telling a story about God’s sovereign grace and his glorious redemptive plan. Too often, however, we think of the Bible as a series of disconnected stories or principles. So it can be helpful for us to stop and think about how all of the pieces fit together.
If you’ve ever done one of those thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles, you know that the picture on the box top is going to be an essential guide as you try to put every piece in its place. In the same way, once we have a good sense of the whole story, then we are better equipped to fit the stories and principles we find in the Bible in their proper places.
In my new book The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses, I’ve tried to write a guide to help Christians create their own roadmap through the Bible, so to speak. To do this, I’ve chosen 16 key verses that will give us a good sense of both the forest that is the story of the Bible and some of the important trees in that forest.
In this post and my next, I’d like to introduce those 16 trees. Hopefully this will encourage you not only to read my book (though I do hope it is helpful), but, more importantly, to see the glory of God on display in his great redemptive plan that culminates with Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and return!
1. Genesis 1:31
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
The story of the Bible begins with God. As A.W. Tozer reminds us, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” We see in the first chapter of the Bible that God created the universe and he made it very good.
As the king, he had authority to proclaim his kingdom very good, and so we see that at the beginning God’s creation — and his commitment to it — is a very good thing.
2. Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Even though God created a kingdom over which he is King, God entrusted the stewardship of his kingdom to human beings. A big part of what it means to be made in the image of God is that we are to represent God as stewards and managers of his kingdom, all for his glory.
Human beings and their creator were in perfect fellowship. But, sadly, that glorious relationship was not to last.
3. Genesis 3:6-7
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, he made a gracious covenant with them. They could eat from everything, except one tree. Even though God gave them everything they could possibly need, they did not trust that he was enough.
Instead of listening to God, Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, took the fruit from the tree, and rejected God’s call to represent him in the world. As a result of this fall, their perfect fellowship with God was shattered, and sin and death entered the world.
4. Genesis 3:15
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
God did not leave Adam and Eve without hope, even in the midst of the painful consequences that came with their sin. As he was explaining the curse that came with their fall, he also promised that one day, he would defeat the serpent and all his “offspring” — that is, everyone who walks in his prideful path.
This defeat would come through the promised offspring of the woman, Eve. In many ways, the rest of the Bible is the outworking of this promise of redemption.
5. Genesis 12:2-3
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
In the years that followed the fall, things went from bad to worse — so much so that God judged the whole world through the flood. However, he also preserved the offspring of the woman in the line of Noah. God made a covenant with Noah’s descendant Abraham, and revealed that the offspring of the woman is also the offspring, or seed, of Abraham.
He promised to make Abraham a great nation, to bless him, and to make his name great. Through Abraham’s family, these covenant blessings would come to the whole world.
6. Genesis 49:10
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
In the rest of Genesis, we see God’s mercy and grace in fulfilling his covenant promises. Abraham himself, not to mention his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, were not exactly shining beacons of righteousness. Jacob’s son Judah had a daughter-in-law who tricked him into sleeping with her to continue his family line.
While God used Joseph to preserve the family by going down to Egypt during a famine, here we also see that the promised offspring would in fact be from Judah’s line, and that his promised one would rule over the nations.
7. Exodus 12:23
For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.
Although God preserved the promised line in Egypt, their time there soon turned into a nightmare. The Egyptian king made them slaves, and they called on God to remember his covenant promises and deliver them. God remembered his promises and delivered them. But in this redemption from slavery, God also reminded the people that their sin still demanded justice.
The Passover lamb was sacrificed so that God’s people did not receive the punishment they deserved. In the Law covenant that he gave his people on Mount Sinai, God revealed their ongoing need for a substitute to sacrifice for their sin and guilt.
8. 2 Samuel 7:12-13
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
After bringing his people through the wilderness and back into their land, the family of Abraham was now a full-fledged nation. They wanted to be like other nations, so they asked for a king like the nations around them. And that is exactly what they got at first — a king who was like the nations around them.
But God then chose a young man from the tribe of Judah (as he had promised). His offspring, the offspring promised to Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Judah, would reign forever over God’s people.
9. Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Even though God had promised that the offspring of David would reign forever, there was a problem. David sinned, and then he died. So did David’s son Solomon. So did Solomon’s son, and his son, and his son. The nation split into two kingdoms — Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
Their kings continued to turn away from God’s covenant, and the nation eventually went into exile. They still needed a substitute! So God promised to send his Servant, the one who would bear the iniquity of all God’s people and remove their sin once and for all. But they were still waiting for this promised servant.
10. Ezekiel 37:3-5
And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”
While God promised to solve the problem of sin through the sacrifice of the Suffering Servant, there was still one other problem that would keep the royal offspring of David from reigning forever over God’s people: death.
But God came to the prophet Ezekiel and gave him a vision of a valley filled with dry and dusty bones. And he promised that, as part of a new covenant, his breath, or Spirit, would enter these bones, and they would again live. In other words, God promised resurrection and lasting life for his people.
11. Isaiah 65:17
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
While God’s people still were suffering in the pain of death, God promised to remove their sin and iniquity. With that promise came the hope of new creation, when God would renew his creation and make a new heavens and earth so that his people could dwell with him forever.
The hope of God’s people throughout the OT was that he would remove sin and death so that through the servant and the work of the Spirit, God would establish a new covenant and give lasting life to his people in the new heavens and new earth. But as the Old Testament draws to a close, they were still waiting to see how these hopes would be fulfilled . . .
Click here for Part 2: The Whole Story of the New Testament in 5 Verses.
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