Many use different ways to describe the story of the Old Testament. Some focus on dividing the work of God into dispensations of divine activity6, others have focused on the unfolding of the covenant of redemption initiated by God the Father, carried out by God the Son. Others focus on the story of major characters or the narrative of Israel. Yet one thing is clear; the story of the Bible contains an account of the ongoing relationship between Creator and creation, God and his world. Even more specifically it unfolds the relationship of God with the creatures he has made in his image, those known collectively as the human race. In describing the story of the relationship of God to humanity I will do so in two fashions. First, I will do so through some major categories which describe the Biblical worldview: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. Secondly, I will look at the story through the means of relationship God establishes with people throughout the Old Testament, that of covenants. First, let’s look at some big picture categories.
If we step back and see the big picture of the grand drama of the Bible, we see that it can be described in four acts with God the main actor. Each act we give a name, a category by which we understand what God has done and is doing. The categories we will use are creation, fall, redemption, restoration.
Creation – In the beginning God…so thunders the first words of the Old Testament. The book of Genesis, the book of beginnings, tells us what we know intuitively and by scientific investigation. The universe began to exist in the finite past; it became to be when before it simply was not. God in his wisdom created the universe with both purpose and design. The Scriptures of the Old Testament teach us that the world was created by God and created good. Yet God did not only create the universe, but he also created a unique species, specially fashioned in his own image and likeness.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26, 27 ESV
So at the outset of the Bible we see a creator, a good creation, and a unique creature with a great responsibility given to him by God. Humans would rule over the created earth, hand in hand in fellowship with God. Then the treasonous act which echoes even to this day took place in paradise. The foreknown path of man would be taken – they would sin and rebel and the results would be devastating then glorious. Before turning to the rebellion of humanity, let’s say one last thing about creation. I was once asked some very profound questions by an unbelieving friend. What he said went something like this: If God is perfect, if in himself he has no needs, has no imperfections, is not lacking anything, why did he create a world and little play friends to go with it? I thought…that is a great freakin question! But the answer is even better. First, my friend is right. God is perfect so he did not and could not create us and the world out of need. He was not lonely and he did not need anyone with which to watch the football game or go to the concert. He did not have to create anything, yet he did. Why? The answer is awesome. God created not out of lack or need, but out of a desire to display, to show off his glory, and to share his delight with others. He created to give himself to his creatures and thereby share his beauty, glory and joy with them. As Jonathan Edwards so aptly described long ago in the book The End For Which God Created the World: “It is fitting that God’s glory be delighted in as well as known”.7 God created the world for himself; we only exist by him and for him (Psalm 24:1, Colossians 1:15-17). We were made to worship, delight in, and have joy in God. Which makes what we will discuss next all the more tragic and treasonous.
6.See Greg Herrick, Dispensationalism and God's Glory (Bible.org, accessed December 28 2006); available from http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=535. There also is a fairly balance wiki on the subject of dispensational theology found at Dispensational Theology, (Wikipedia, accessed December 14 2006); available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispensationalist_theology.
7. John Piper, God's Passion for His Glory : With the Complete Text From "The End for Which God Created the World" By Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 149.
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