Poet Muriel Rukeyser said, “The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” Nothing moves us so deeply and communally as a story, the story of who we are and where we come from, the story of good triumphing over evil, the story of an underdog up against impossible odds. So it should come as no surprise that God chose to reveal himself to us through a story. Yes, the Bible is more than just a story, it’s also poetry and wisdom and law, but ultimately it traces the real events that occurred throughout the history of humanity, and how we intersect with the greatest story of all: God’s story.
God loves stories, and he especially loves when we tell his story that is woven through our individual lives, our own small chapters of the greater story, you could say. We know God loves this because he commands his people in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” When you tell bedtime stories to your kids, tell them about me, says God. And when you’re sitting in the car waiting for your Target curbside delivery, talk about me. And when you watch a really good movie, tell each other how it reminds you of me. Everything you do, says God, should be viewed through a gospel lens, and we keep this gospel lens sharp and focused by telling the story of God to ourselves and to each other all the time.
Later on, we see God reminding his people of this under the leadership of Joshua. In Joshua 3:5, Josh essentially tells the people, “Buckle up. God is going to do something amazing tomorrow.” The next day, the priests carried the ark of the covenant, which was at the time the very dwelling place of God on earth, down to the river. As soon as their feet touched the water, the river opened up a dry path for the people to cross over. The priests stood in the dry place in the middle of the river until all the people of God had safely passed, and as soon as the priests were all on dry land, the river rushed back into its bed.
Then God gave instructions to Joshua for the people. Joshua told them, “ “Pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” These stones were not only reminders, they were stories for a largely illiterate society. When they looked at the stones, they would remember the day that God stopped the river so they could cross, which would remind them of when God did the same miracle many years earlier during their rescue from slavery in Egypt, and that in turn would perhaps remind them of God’s promise of a coming savior, a descendant of their father Abraham, who would rescue his people from the slavery of sin for all time by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the slaughter. You see how important these stories were. They were a reminder of who the people were, where they had come from, what God had done for them, and the wonderful promises God had yet to fulfill.
The more often we tell these stories to ourselves and to each other, the more we come to understand about the nature and character of God. Peter said, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Through the knowledge of God, we are supernaturally given everything we need to live godly lives. This doesn’t mean that God is going to be revealing new information directly to us each morning but that God has given us all the knowledge we need in his word, his story, the Bible. The more we dig into this story, the more we learn about God and about how he calls us to live, and the more the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so. We can trust that his word is true because, as Peter goes on to say, “[N]o prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (21). The Bible was written by men but was inspired by the Holy Spirit, making God its ultimate author.
And one of the coolest parts of God’s story for you and for me is that we get to play a part in it, because the word of God continues to go forth into the world through members of the kingdom of God. Jesus told his followers in Matthew 10, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (19-20). The same Spirit that inspired the writing of scripture, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, is at work in you and in me, giving us the words to say when we need them, giving us the stories that people need to hear. So don’t be afraid to share your story, giving special attention to the places where your story intersects with God’s story, your own personal stones of remembrance. Then buckle up, because God is about to do something amazing.
Written By: Jess Upshaw Glass