Have you ever re-watched a movie or re-read a book and discovered that there's more going on in the story than you initially had noticed? Have you ever looked back on certain points in your life and discovered that there was more going on than your first impressions of a particular episode or event? One of the reasons we tell stories is to discover the meaning within the mess of our lives. Because stories, at least good ones, typically have a beginning, middle, and ending (or resolution), they give us the power to perceive connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The more we read, study, and reflect on the story of God and his people, as recorded for us in the Old and New Testaments, the more we discover meaning and purpose within that epic narrative. And because we're living in the late middle part of that story - after the climax, but before the final resolution - the more we read, study, and reflect on it, the more we will discover meaning and purpose for our own lives. I often hear people talk about practicality and applicability when they refer to the study of scripture, as if God had simply given us a self-help instruction manual for life. No doubt, our lives are greatly enhanced when we live within the flow of the overarching narrative from creation to new creation, but to treat this transcendent story as nothing more than a pop-psychology primer or a guide to greater spirituality, is akin to reading Shakespeare to simply increase one's vocabulary. There may be some value in it, but it nevertheless misses the point. And just as one's reading of Shakespeare will be greatly enhanced by a cultural and historical understanding of Elizabethan England, so too is our reading of the Bible blessed by Biblical scholarship. But the point of the endeavor remains: to get inside and live inside the story that scripture tells.
This past week, I was blessed to sit at the feet of N.T. Wright and other Biblical scholars, theologians, and ministry practitioners at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. I'm always pleasantly amazed at how rich, deep, and wide is the story of God and his people. None of us will ever exhaust the riches found in the pages of this brilliant saga, so the best thing for all of us to do is to live out that story through our limited understanding, wherever we find ourselves. Let's continue to read, study, and reflect, as we get on with the biggest task of all - living it out! - Shay