From A Popular Defense of the Bible and Christianity
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)
To close out the book, as I read the biblical narrative stories of faith in both the Old and New Testaments…I see basically two things happening in terms of journey of faith life-scripts, direction in the lives of Christians, eternal purpose and meaning, and God speaking to us.
The first is the calling of people like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Ezra, Nehemiah, Peter, and Paul…who had major promises of God…or very clear missions, goals, or final outcomes to aim for…given to them by God as guidance and hope-filled inspiration at the very beginning of their difficult and challenging journeys of faith.
We naturally tend to write-off these spectacular callings as if they only apply to the superstars of the Bible…too far above our experience to be a viable pattern to apply to our own lives…on a much lesser scale.
Becoming the “father of faith,” becoming the governor of Egypt, liberating the Israelite slaves from Egypt, conquering militarily the Promised Land, becoming king in Israel, rebuilding the walls and the temple in Jerusalem, and becoming the premier Christian evangelists to the Greco-Roman world in the first-century…these are things that seem too big for most of us…and therefore the concept of the displacement of our ways by God’s higher ways in conformity to the cross of Christ…and the gap that is created in a God-composed adventure of faith life-script having a humanistically unattainable goal according to the definition of faith described so brilliantly in Hebrews 11:1…can both be lost in the magnitude and grandeur of the callings of the storylines of these biblical characters.
These displacement and gap elements in the biblical narrative stories of faith could hypothetically seem to raise the bar…the standard…too high for the average Jew in Old Testament times…and the Christian (Jewish Christian or Gentile) in New Testament times.
The recognition of the displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways and thoughts…and the gap in a journey of faith that separates what we can do from what we cannot do…setting up the context for genuine biblical faith to actualize…this could potentially cause an anticipation and expectation problem for many Christians who are faithfully following God and going about their normal Christian practices of prayer, reading and studying the Bible, being active in fellowship with other Christians, and sharing their faith with others…simply because God has not spoken directly to them regarding a specific calling upfront like the examples of the major biblical characters listed above.
But the second thing that I see that is happening in the Bible…probably more often…is that God also works unseen in people’s lives who are trying to be faithful and do the right things…even though God does not at first reveal directly to them…by speaking to them in the Spirit…a major promise, mission, or goal upfront at the very beginning of their journey of faith.
This second type of biblical character can see God’s hand at work over time in hindsight…part-way through their journey of faith…or looking backwards after it has finished and all the dust has settled.
Examples of this type of experience with God…in the biblical narrative stories of faith…might include Ruth, Hannah, Esther and Mordecai, the three Hebrew young men in the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, and the ten apostles other than Peter and Judas Iscariot.
Ruth is interesting in this regard…in that she does not even know that by marrying Boaz, she has become part of the royal line that produces the future King David in direct line to Jesus Christ the Son of God…born far ahead in the future in the first-century A.D. How could God…in this case…reveal more information to Ruth in-the-moment…without possibly jeopardizing giving away the future plans of God for mankind in the kingship of David and the royal line leading to Jesus the Son of God and eternal King in heaven?
In fact, I think that every positive biblical character did not have a full and complete understanding of the unique and critical role they played in the unfolding saga of God’s eternal plans and destiny for mankind.
It is safe to say that there is not a single person on the planet today that has a complete macro and micro grasp of the higher ways and thoughts of God.
The point I want to make here…as has been repeated many times throughout this book…is that as Abraham gets his calling from God to go from the city of Haran to the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step that Abraham takes God is displacing whatever normative plans Abraham might have otherwise had back in Haran…with a new life-script beyond anything Abraham could or would have dreamed up…beyond anything Abraham could self-compose, contrive, or self-orchestrate.
This worldly unconventional element of displacement of our ways with God’s higher ways…illustrated in the biblical narrative stories of faith according to the two general patterns described above…contained within God-composed journey of faith life-scripts starting with the detailed and highly specific life-story calling of Abraham and continuing throughout the Bible all the way through to the New Testament first-century…down to our current “church age”…is in my view as big as anything else in the history of mankind.
This is as big as the discovery by Copernicus that the earth revolves around the Sun, or Einstein’s theory of general relativity, or the discovery of Edwin Hubble of the Big Bang expansion of the universe, or the discovery of antibiotic medicines to combat disease, or our discovery and understanding of DNA…the “language of life.”
This biblical concept is as big as the American Declaration of Independence…the American Constitution…the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery…the women’s suffrage movement…and the victory over despotic tyranny during World War II.
This biblical concept of the displacement of our ways with God’s ways…and the gap we see in genuine biblical faith between what we can do and what we cannot do on our own…integral and fundamental to a journey of faith following Jehovah in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ in the New Testament…is as big as the discovery by Martin Luther that “the just shall live by faith” rather than works-salvation through pilgrimages, relics, and indulgences…and the monumental realization that common people should have access to the Bible translated into their own languages…that started the Protestant Reformation.
The concept that the living God…the brilliant Creator of the universe…can play a pivotal role…indeed take the lead in crafting and shaping a journey of faith for each one of us…that bears the stamp of divine imagination and innovative creativity in being one-hundred percent contrary to the opposite worldview of pursuing…on our own…our self-validation and acceptance according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…entirely outside of the zone of human literary invention…how can this eternally valuable and applicable biblical concept not be as large or larger than any other concept or event in the history of mankind?
1 John 2:17 reads: “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”