+JMJ+ Welcome to the second post in our new Thursday series, The Story of Salvation. I’d like to begin with a prayer. I’ll pray the Come, Holy Spirit prayer. Pray with me if you like, use the same prayer or one of your choice. When you’re ready, meet me back here.
Now, where to start? The Bible is such a big book—well, no, it’s not a book, it’s a library of books, books of all different types. There are narrative historical books, there are works of poetry and prayer, prophecy (which does not primarily mean foretelling the future, but speaking the words that God gives the prophet to speak, a message He wants to give to His people), laws governing ritual and living. There are letters (such as the Epistles of St. Paul or St. John), and sermons. (The Sermon on the Mount comes instantly to mind. By the way, Catholics tend to use the word homily while Protestants tend to use the word sermon. Here’s an interesting tidbit about the difference.)
Okay, you say, but what’s the point of it all? Why is it all gathered together into one bulky, confusing book? Primarily, to be read in the liturgy: first, by and for the Hebrews, then the Jews, then the Christians, who soon began to produce their own Scriptures. The over-arching reason the Bible exists is because God wanted to reveal Himself further to mankind. True, He reveals Himself to some extent by the very fact of the Creation. Look around, there are traces of Him everywhere. But He wanted us to know more, not just about Him but to know HIM. Yes, we’ve had that notion of relationship with the Lord for more than two thousand years, more than three thousand years if you include the whole sweeping panorama of salvation history and the Bible. Christians are, after all, branches grafted on to the original vine. (See Romans 11 to see what St. Paul had to say about this.)
From the beginning the Lord has been lovingly forming His people into His Family, a family of brothers and sisters, though not always gently because some of us are stiff-necked and stubborn and cannot seem to hear unless yelled at, cannot follow instructions unless we learn our lessons the hard way. Raising my hand here. Yes, I am one of those stubborn people who learn lessons the hard way, usually with a loving, spiritual (and sometimes physical though not often wooden) two by four to the head. When I read about the Israelites veering off the way and being punished, then led back to the track by God, I can totally relate. Been there, done that, don’t even have a t-shirt to show for it, but plenty of bruises and scars that finally healed because God took pity on me, in His Mercy.
And that is what we see all through the Bible. The Hebrews swear oaths to be faithful to the covenant, then they do well and get overly confident in themselves, then they get into trouble, then they beg for help, God swoops in and saves them, they swear an oath to be faithful, and the whole thing starts over again. Sigh.
I’ve shared that with people who hate the Bible and they never seem to hear what I’m saying. To them, if it’s in the Bible then the Bible is promoting it. I can only surmise that these people have never learned to read with any comprehension of what they’re reading. A lot of what is in the Bible is there to show us what NOT to do or else. But I digress.
What we need in order to see the Big Picture of Salvation History is a framework, to help us make sense of it all. Jeff Cavins came up with an interesting and helpful way to look at this with his Bible Timeline course and materials. I highly recommend it for getting a handle in a quick way to get that overview and it doesn’t require reading the whole Bible. What you need to start with are just 14 books.
The Narrative Timeline of Scripture: 12 Periods, 14 Narrative Books
- Early World: Genesis (1–11)
- Patriarchs: Genesis (12–50)
- Egypt and Exodus: Exodus
- Desert Wanderings: Numbers
- Conquest and Judges: Joshua, Judges; supplemental ‐‐ Ruth
- Royal Kingdom: 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings (1‐11)
- Divided Kingdom: 1 Kings (12‐22); 2 Kings; supplemental ‐‐ Jonah
- Exile: 2 Kings (17, 23‐25); supplemental ‐‐ Daniel
- Return: Ezra; Nehemiah; supplemental ‐‐ Esther
- Maccabean Revolt: 1 and 2 Maccabees
- Messianic Fulfillment: Luke
- The Church: Acts of the Apostles
The above list was taken from the Great Adventure Bible Timeline Study, see more in the notes section below. Here’s something else I think will help us see the plan of salvation. It’s a graphic from Scott Hahn’s book, A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture.
Chart from page 35 in A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
What you’ll see pictured in the image is a series of covenants that the Lord made with mankind through a string of mediators, from Adam, Noah, and so on, all the way to Jesus, the One Mediator to Rule Them All. (Sorry, I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy recently, again, and it’s still very much with me.)
This chart was a revelation (ahem) to me. ;) It shows how God began with our first parents in a marriage, moved from there to a larger household, to a tribe, a nation, a kingdom, and then the Church that will span the Known World of Biblical times and the centuries following, on up to our day, and eventually, as far as it can be taken out into the cosmos. (I heart that idea. Been working on a story about this very thing, well, thinking about it and working toward it, for a few years now.)
In the next post we’ll look at Genesis 1-11, maybe a little further. We’ll see. There’s a lot to cover. If you have Scott Hahn’s book I mentioned above, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, read the part about Our Spiritual Ancestors beginning on page 30, and God’s Family Tree at a Glance beginning on page 31, and then the rest of chapter one if you want to and have time. You’ll begin to see the pattern.
Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and become the fully human person you were created to be: a SAINT. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- Our Father’s Plan, series by Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn. Video series, from EWTN Religious Catalogue.
- The Bible Timeline Study, part of the Great Adventure series by Jeff Cavins. See this page with introduction and options.
- A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture, by Scott Hahn. Paperback, Kindle. (Affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.) Logos or Verbum format. (Requires Logos or Verbum software.)
Image in the banner from Pixabay. Screenshot from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
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