Teaching Your Text in the Context of God’s Story
But let’s just say that there were parts of my brain that hadn’t been activated since college, and it’s certainly true that words like “hermeneutics” weren’t on the first grade spelling list.
I’m writing a recap of the workshop that I taught on teaching your text in the context of God’s Story. But before I get to the Verity Fellowship conference weekend, I need to take you back almost exactly three years to my first day of seminary. Let me set the scene for you: It was a Monday night when I walked into my classroom, ready for four hours of hermeneutics (a word that I looked up about five times before I got there to make sure I could define it – it means how you interpret or understand the Bible). I was completely insecure about being there. I had spent the last twelve years of my life as a homeschooling, stay-at-home-mom, and I felt entirely out of my element. To clarify – parenting and teaching your kids is a noble, worthy and skilled labor that I wouldn’t trade for the world - but let’s just say that there were parts of my brain that hadn’t been activated since college, and it’s certainly true that words like “hermeneutics” weren’t on the first grade spelling list. So on that night, I wasn’t even entirely sure that the “classroom-learning-memorize-information-and-take-tests-open-your-mouth-and-say-something-intelligent” sections of my mind were even still alive.
And it was into all of that self-centered insecurity that my teacher started talking about biblical theology. He explained that the Bible has a divine Author who is telling one story that can be traced along the timeline of redemptive history. He summarized the plot as,
And then he pointed out that Jesus is the shining star of this story. Right away, this truth began to impact me. First, it changed my heart from being all about me to being about Jesus and his glory. It reminded me that, not only is the Bible God’s Story with Jesus as the center, but also that our lives as Christians, as those who have been redeemed from sin (yes, even self-centered insecurity), have meaning and purpose. This is because God is still working out his plan – other people are being added to the family daily – and we get to be a part of it!
With my eyes back on Jesus and his glory, I listened as my teacher continued by revealing the effects of the reality that Scripture is one Story: It means that we can take a biblical theme, such as atonement or shame or love, and follow its progression and development through the Bible. For example, the concept of atonement is introduced in the beginning when God kills an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. Later, Noah sacrifices animals to the Lord. Then Abraham needed to be willing to sacrifice Isaac, which was a picture of the Father’s willingness to give up his own Son as the payment for our sins. In God’s covenant with Moses and Israel, he instituted a system in which there was a yearly atonement for sin. And finally, when it was time for Jesus to die, it became clear that all of those pictures of atonement for sin were really pointing forward to the full and final atonement for sin – the death of Jesus in the place of sinful humanity. All of this so that all who come to Jesus in faith might be saved from eternal condemnation and death and instead receive eternal life and fellowship with our Creator. WOW!
Right away, there were implications for how I was going to teach the Bible. (Aside: I quickly realized that the years I had spent attending and teaching women’s Bible studies really had prepared me for seminary and are probably the primary reason that parts of my brain aren’t dead – thank you, women’s Bible studies). Whatever text I was teaching, I needed to understand where it took place in God’s Story, so that I not only understood it in its original context but also in the light of what God was doing in that moment of redemptive history. This would enable me to see how it was connected to Jesus.
Fast forward to the first Verity Fellowship conference. Not only was the theme “The Big Story of Scripture,” but I had the privilege of teaching a workshop that talked about how to get from a text you are teaching to the larger story. We talked about lots of elements of that task, but the central concept was how to understand the expanding contexts of any passage. First, you understand it in its original context. Then you need to understand it in the light of which covenant it takes place during (for example, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac took place during the Abrahamic Covenant). Finally, you take the passage all the way to Christ and his work on the cross because, as Jesus himself says in Luke 24, all of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, are ultimately about him.
For the rest of the workshop, and most fun of all, we were able to take those concepts and apply them to a passage from Scripture. This interactive part was my favorite because I got to hear insights and learn from the women who attended. We read and talked through the story of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers. We saw that it was necessary for God to save this family because he had promised that the Messiah would come from this line. We saw that Judah’s repentance was a picture of how repentance looks for a sinner; we saw that Joseph foreshadowed Jesus, in that he had the power to destroy his sinful brothers, but instead welcomed them and forgave them. And we saw that God not only receives back those who turn from sin, but also abundantly blesses them, especially with a close, intimate relationship with him. And, best of all, God did save this family from death; he did keep his covenantal promise.Jesus really did come, and we have been brought into these promises by faith in Christ. The women who attended were a great blessing to me. We really are meant to do this in community, and I got so much more out of it as a result.
So, as I think you can probably see by now, teaching this workshop at the conference was itself part of God’s redemptive story worked out in my life. For he can take an insecure and self-centered woman and open my eyes to see Jesus in the gospel again. Better yet, he can even give me the opportunity to teach what I wasn’t sure I could even understand. And his love for you and his plan to work out his Story in your life and through your ministry of the Word is just the same. No matter where you are in your understanding of the Bible, God is eager and willing to show us how every text ties into his Story of redemption through Christ. My prayer is that he will give us more opportunities to learn together!
If you'd like to listen to Katie's workshop, you can access the audio on the event page for Verity Conference 2015.