“Now, these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

When God looked out over all of the potential forms of communication that the world would ever see, he decided that the primary form he would use is narrative. That’s right … when God chose to communicate his most important message, he told a story. And that is what we have in the pages of Scripture: a lot of stories. Sure, there are other genres in the Bible, but the vast majority is narrative. God knew one day there would be an entire literary genre called “historical nonfiction” that would fastidiously document all of the pertinent details of historical figures with precision and detail. He could have chosen to communicate to us during a time when the Apostle Paul could have been live-tweeting his missionary journeys in real-time, when Moses could have had his own YouTube channel, or when David could have debuted the Psalms on TikTok. Instead, God chose to have his followers retell the stories of Israel’s heroes and villains, of great deeds and terrible mistakes.

Why would God choose to tell stories?

Maybe he told stories because it is the best way to communicate complex moral and theological principles that could stand the test of time. Think about the difference between a word and a picture. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is because, within a single picture, there are tons of details that you can observe with words. Then our minds can formulate conclusions and fill in the context. Many complex ideas, emotions, and stories can be captured in one good picture. Clearly, some pictures may be worth many thousands of words. But if that is true, how much more is a good story worth? Good stories populate our minds with images and scenes and concepts that are too big for words. Think about the simple story of the Prodigal Son. In the English translation, it is a story of only 493 words. However, how many words have been written about this simple story? Millions? Billions? Whatever the number, it would take more than a lifetime to read all the words that this simple story communicates.

So, this is why Paul reminds us that the stories throughout scripture are not just there for entertainment. They are there for our instruction. Let’s continue to study them and apply them, but let’s also read between the lines and fill in the gaps, imagining what the context of the stories of scripture was so that we can mine the depths of all that they are supposed to teach us today.

Josh Rose
Teaching Pastor

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