Adam. Noah. Job. Abraham. The ancients. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Hosea. Amos. The prophets. Joseph. David. Peter. Paul. Timothy. The good guys. Pharaoh. Goliath. Herod. Pontius Pilate. The bad guys. The Bible is full of colorful figures, inspiring stories, tales of adventure, faith and didactic warnings. Touted as heroes and lofty examples of goodness and godliness, I learned these old stories at the youngest of ages. As some have no recollection of learning to read, I have no recollection of first hearing these foundational narratives, to the point that I remember at seven years old bragging to an aunt that I knew all the stories in the Bible. As we were on the way to church she asked me whether or not I knew about Stephen. She was teaching a children’s Sunday school class that morning on the first Christian martyr. I stared for a moment, wondering if she were teasing. Stephen was a modern name. He sat behind me in class. Was Jeff in the Bible, too? His seat was in front of mine. Surely, there wasn’t a Stephen in the Bible? Obviously, I hadn’t learned every story. Still, I knew quite a few. After all, I had parents and teachers who read to me faithfully.
In teaching our children, we point to these biblical figures with the intention of instruction. We look to them to emphasize faith, kindness, forgiveness, obedience, and self-control, all the Christian virtues. And yet, in doing this, we might be missing the point. Missing the point of the entire Hebrew and Greek texts. Because, just as in great novels or epic tales, there is a main hero or heroine, so through the pages of the Bible there is one main character, the driving force of every story, the purpose in each parable. Each pericope can be distilled into a single word, the Word, God, the title character.
Perhaps he is explicitly in the forefront, given credit for his omniscience and providence as in the lives of Joseph, Daniel, and ultimately, Jesus. Or maybe it is more implied and his name is not even mentioned as in the book of Esther. Regardless, the story of the Bible is not a collection of tales featuring warriors, prophets, poets and kings, but rather the singular story of God. Over the centuries, he has brought his finger down into the history of humanity, he speaks his word and his creation chooses to follow the story….or reject it. Regardless, he is always the author and title character.
Even now, millennia after the cessation of written words of divine inspiration, I am living a portion of God’s story. Although we may not be able to validate the existence of God-breathed words today, surely we continue to bear witness to God-breathed lives. Knowing we are a part of a greater story does not necessarily diminish the pain we may experience in this world, but if we strive to understand it properly, it can keep us focused on what is important. Our life is not our own story. It is God’s. Just as he led former slaves through a dry sea, a runaway king across naturally hewn caves among the wild hills, just as he led a Jewish scholar to Caesar in Rome, so he leads me, and you. On the written page, in modernity, for all time, he is the title character.