Today I want to tell you a story. Actually, it’s a story about a story. Maybe you’ve never looked at the Bible as a story before, rather you’ve primarily seen it as dated book of history that, to say the least, is hard to read and understand. I want to tell you a story about how and why the Bible was written and help you understand this part of Scripture better. Important: this story as written here is my paraphrase of Genesis 1-3. I would strongly urge you to read the actual Bible and correct me if you feel I’m wrong anywhere in my understanding; that will put your eyes on the actual words of God and help both of us learn.
Once upon a time, there was a group of people. They lived a long time ago in a land far away and they had a problem.
They had recently been told to leave their country and everything they knew and go to a brand new country. They had followed that direction, but it wasn’t exactly an easy thing to do. You see, they had been slaves in their country and were led out from there by a man named Moses and through a remarkable series of events that were said to have been done by the God of the universe. And the problem with that was that their masters had a bunch of different gods so it was a little confusing for them to be introduced to another one, even though He did do really out-of-this-world things.
So here they are, that group of people. They were called the Israelites, because before they lived in their home country of Egypt, their ancestors had lived in a country called Israel. After they left/were driven out of Egypt (that’s another story), and after they walked through the middle of a sea on dry land (another cool story), they found themselves in the desert with Moses still leading them but with no real idea of where they were headed. And while they believed this God had saved them, they didn’t really know who he was. Some of their ancestors had known Him very well, but the Israelites had lived in Egypt for 400 years and many of them forgot who this God was. So God wrote them a story to remind them.
He and Moses were really good friends. They spent lots of time together and Moses acted as the go-between for the Israelites and God – when either of those wanted to talk with the other, Moses was the guy to deliver the message. And so it was through Moses that God started telling the Israelites this story. Moses wrote down the things God told him to and outlined the most important things that happened in the world and amongst the Israelite ancestors so that these newer generations of Israelites would understand their own history and the God that wanted to know and save them.
In the first three chapters of Genesis we find the story of how God created the world. The Israelites had probably heard other stories about how the world was created by the various gods of the Egyptians, but the true God corrected them. He said, “I created the world. Before the world existed there was darkness and emptiness, but I was there.” (Genesis 1-3, paraphrased). He told them how he created everything – from the stars and moon, to the animals and fish. He spoke and these things came into existence. He told them how He formed man out of dust and breathed life into him, and how He formed woman out of the man’s rib bone. And of each of these creations he said, “It is good.”
God told the Israelites how the world He had created was good and perfect. As a king puts up a statue to declare ownership of a certain region, God put man and woman on the earth to declare His rightful ownership of it. But unlike a king and his statue, God lived with the man and woman. They were close friends! God provided for them and also gave them the freedom to build things in the world, to explore, to have a family, to enjoy all the good things He had made.
There was just one rule in this new and perfect world. Out of protection, God told Adam he could not eat from one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If Adam disobeyed and ate from that tree anyways, he would die.
Things went great for a bit! Adam and his wife, Eve, got to live in the Garden of Eden with the Creator of the universe – God, himself! They enjoyed his presence and a relationship with Him that almost no one has since enjoyed. But this good life didn’t last forever.
One day in the garden, a snake told Adam and Eve a lie. To be honest, I don’t really know how this snake was able to talk – add that to the list of things I want to ask God someday. Anyways, this snake convinced Eve, and Eve convinced Adam, that eating from this forbidden tree was really no big deal. In fact, he said, eating from this tree would make them just like God! Adam and Eve bought the lie. They both ate from this deadly tree and their world was instantly changed.
First of all, they realized they were naked. Can you imagine being so blissful that you don’t realize you’re naked? As you might expect, when that bliss was shattered they got real embarrassed real quick at their lack of clothing. And then, because they were naked and also maybe because they knew they had disobeyed, they hid from their God and Creator.
And when God found them and they told him what they’d done he was not happy. He punished all of them – the man, the woman and the snake. There would now be pain and struggle and hardship in their lives. But he also made them a promise. One day a man would come to crush the head of the serpent. He would restore this harmony that had been destroyed by the lie of the snake. Though the serpent would bruise the heel of this Savior in this battle between right and wrong – i.e. though this person will be injured – the snake will be killed (vs. 3:15).
Because God is completely holy and perfect, it’s impossible for sin to be in his presence. And Adam and Eve were now sinners, made evident by their disobedience. They were banished from this paradise, the Garden of Eden, and more heartbreakingly, from the presence of God. They were no longer worthy or allowed there. And still, God was kind. He sent them out but gave them clothes, something he didn’t have to do for these rebels (vs. 21).
The story of the Israelites continues on, up to the time just after they had left their slavery in Egypt and long after, to the days of the snake-crusher and beyond. That story is filled with other stories of people who loved God and of those who hated God. There are stories of triumph, stories of fear and death, stories of anger, of love, and of hope for the future. And amidst all of those stories is a holy God relentlessly pursuing these fickle people he has chosen to love.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
I wrote this post as a story for a few reasons. First of all, as people we do just about everything through story. Stories help us understand history and relate to those around us. Second, while scripture memory is a very good thing, I think it helps to remember the big picture when it’s understood as a story.
Finally, I find imagining the Bible as a story told by a Father to his children a beautiful picture of this relationship we are invited into with the God of the universe. God loves us, wants us to know him, and is eager for us to know this story of redemption.
Arguably, there is a lot of confusing and even boring stuff in the Bible. But have you thought everything your father ever told you was super interesting? (Not you, Dad. I’ve listened to everything you’ve ever said with rapt attention! Also, I know you know I’m lying.) All relationships take work. It should come as no surprise that the relationship between God and us would as well – because, honestly, could there be anything more unlikely?
Be encouraged that this story doesn’t start in chapter three, when death becomes a reality. It starts with God creating a world where all is good, and where the relationship between him and man is untarnished, uncomplicated, and full of joy.