If you know me at all, you know I love talking about the big story of the Bible—the one that starts in the garden and doesn’t end until we see God on his throne in the new heavens and new earth. This big, overarching story—also called the metanarrative—is beautiful, vast, and shows us a God who spans eternity and holds all things in his hands. But does it do more than simply astound us? Are there reasons to understand it other than merely marveling at it? In other words, does understanding the metanarrative of Scripture make any difference in my day-to-day life? The short answer is, it should. Understanding the biblical story helps us read our Bibles well, remember God’s love, and reminds us there’s more going on.
Read Our Bibles Well
The Bible is God’s self-revelation. We don’t “discover” God; we can’t. He’s completely other-than us. He’s the Creator and we’re the created. Any knowledge we have of him is because he has chosen to reveal himself to us—because he wants us to know him!
The way he chose to reveal himself is through a story. In this story, he sometimes tells us who he is (i.e. Ex. 34:6-7), but mostly he shows us who he is. If we’re reading our Bibles well, we’re supposed to know more about God by observing what he does. He creates, protects, rescues, promises, speaks, provides, and engages in real relationship with his people. We are meant to take those actions and ascribe them to God. He is a creator, a protector, a rescuer, a promise maker (and we’ll see promise-keeper, too!), a provider, etc. He doesn’t come right out and tell us most of this, we learn it as we see God act.
Ultimately, he took on flesh, dwelt among us, lived a perfect life, was crucified, and rose from the dead in order to save us . . . but we don’t know all of this about him at the beginning of the story. We learn these things about God as we progress through the story. That’s because God’s self-revelation is progressive, meaning, we know more about God at the end of the story than we did at the beginning. And this is a fundamental aspect of reading our Bibles well. When we read a passage, we need to know where we are in the story. We need to ask questions like: what do we know about God so far, what has he done, what is he doing, and what more do we learn about him in this particular text? So, knowing the whole story helps us read our Bibles well.
Remember God’s Love
Knowing the big story also helps us remember God’s love. As we read, we see God faithfully pursue a people in spite of their rebellion, disobedience, idolatry, and sin. He never lets us go. He never gives up. He never walks away. It’s God’s steadfast love on display. Sally Lloyd-Jones, in The Jesus Storybook Bible, defines this love as “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” It’s the kind of love our souls long for.
But why? Why would God love us like this? Why would he be continually faithful to people who were continually unfaithful? We read something throughout the story that gives us the answer to those questions. God says over and over, you will be my people, I will be your God, and we will dwell together again. This is what compels God to act. He wants us to be his; he wants to be our (only) God; and he wants to live with us forever. Astounding. But true.
This is a love we can rest in. This kind of love is secure; it doesn’t waver. It’s the highest love, the best love, the purest love. And it’s the love our God has for us.
Love always requires a response and I think there are two appropriate ways to respond to this love. The first is to love back. Even though our love for God pales in comparison to his love for us, our hearts should be filled with love that compels us to worship, obey, and be in relationship with the One who loves us so. The second response is to rest. We don’t have to strive for this love. We haven’t earned it, which means we can’t lose it. We don’t secure it or sustain it. God does. This love is based entirely on his character—not ours. So, we rest. We still obey, but we do so as children who are greatly loved, not people trying to earn that love. As the apostle John wrote, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1). Read the story and remember you are dearly loved.
Reminds Us There’s More Going On
Knowing the whole story of the Bible also reminds us there is more going on than what we can see. I don’t know about you, but my circumstances—my problems, struggles, sufferings, joys, successes, even the mundane things of each day—can occupy the lens of my life. All I see is me and how things affect me. God’s story lifts my eyes. It reminds me that my story is swept up into a greater, longer, and more satisfying story. God’s story is eternal; mine is temporary. At the end of God’s story, we see that all things truly work together for the good of his people. I may not be able to see the truth of that reality in my story just yet.
This perspective helps me put the realities of my day into perspective. I can see that suffering truly is temporary. Battles with sin won’t last forever. And mundane faithfulness has great reward. How do I know? The great story in the Bible tells me so.
If this all sounds great and you would like to better understand the metanarrative of Scripture, but you don’t know where to start, there are numerous resources available that can help. Here are some of my favorites:
- From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story by Courtney Doctor
- The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno
- Even Better Than Eden by Nancy Guthrie
- The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words by Chris Bruno
- How To Read the Bible (video) by The Bible Project
- The Story of Redemption Bible (ESV) published by Crossway
May God bless you as you study the beautiful story of his great redemption.
About the Author:
Courtney Doctor is an author, Bible teacher, frequent conference and retreat speaker, and periodic blogger. She received an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary and is the author of From Garden to Glory: A Bible Study on the Bible’s Story (2016) and Steadfast: A Devotional Bible Study on the Book of James (2019). She currently serves as the Coordinator of Women’s Training and Content for The Gospel Coalition and as a Visiting Instructor of Communication at Covenant Theological Seminary. Courtney also has a love for education and serves on the advisory board for Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. God has blessed Courtney and her husband, Craig, with four wonderful children, as well as two amazing daughters-in-law, and four “practically-perfect” grandsons.