Yesterday I nudged us to remember the importance of geography in our Bible teaching. As John Smith put it, history without geography wandereth as a vagrant without certain habitation. But it goes the other way too, geography without history seemeth a carcus without motion.
Our God is a God who not only created everything, including time, but He also has stepped down into this world, and into time. So, history:
Epochs and Eras – It is hard to fathom what the antediluvian world was like, it certainly wasn’t the same as after the flood. Travel for Abram was certainly different than the travel experience of Paul. Out of the swirling nations of the ancient world God called one man and began a story that has woven its way down through numerous epochs and era. The Patriarchs and the pyramids. The golden age of David and Solomon, finally a time of peace before the relentless march of empire upon empire. The age of human philosophy and wisdom yielding nothing but a blank page in our Bibles. The Greek culture and language outlasting the empire and sophisticating the Roman war machine. Roads built for enforced peace then used to transport a message of true hope and peace. And throughout it all, hints and promises and prophecies of a kingdom coming one day that will fill the whole earth.
The Great and the Small – The Bible is a masterpiece of the great and the small. The mightiest men on earth. Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar, both relying on foreign nobodies to explain their terrifying dreams. Alexander the Great…unmentioned. The great Caesars of Rome playing a very minor support role in the great drama of the coming of the greatest of all, born in the most common of places, dying the most ignominious death, and turning the world upside-down. Yet it is not just the Great-Seen-As-Small, although He is the focus of it all. There are so many small people playing their part in the narrative of God’s great plan – from the small brother with big dreams, to the youngest of eight with his harp, to the teens taken to Babylon, to a shepherd of Tekoa, a young man fleeing naked and another falling sleepily to his temporary death.
Power and Politics – The story advances through time with perpetual shifts in power. Each power figure thinking they are the ultimate and discovering they are not. The hard-hearted king with his great nation seemingly under attack by its own gods, yet all at the hand of the One true God. The arrogant-mouthed conqueror sent home in disgrace and killed by his sons. The proud-hearted emperor turned into a beast of the field until he acknowledged who is really in charge. The partying-victor brought to fearful humiliation by a finger writing on the wall. The conflicted parties of a council with restricted powers stirred to rage by a carpenter-rabbi from Nazareth, who confounded the governor with real power in the region, while ignoring the entertainment-oriented “king” given his audience with a true King. History seems to be a tale of waxing and waning powers, but actually it is the story of the only true power, thankfully with a truly trustworthy heart.
History and Geography, partners in powerful biblical teaching.
One thought on “Effective Bible Teaching 2 – History”
I am often surprised by how little most Christians actually know about history, especially the history of their faith (and who is to blame for that but those who teach and preach?). It is so important to know not only Biblical history (and even that is often very sketchy) but also the post-NT history of the church.
A while ago I met some Christians who were teaching that we should still worship on Saturday. Now that is something one might be able to defend, but their main argument was that the move to Sunday was one of the terrible things Constantine did to the church. However, whatever Constantine’s problems, this was not one of them as a little historical knowledge shows: there is clear written evidence from early in the second century that the church had been meeting on Sunday from the earliest days.
Another momentous event that is often overlooked is the fall of Jerusalem in AD70. Without some knowledge of that and the events around it, how can one possibly understand the “apocalyptic” discourses of Jesu…