Have you ever read a book that had an end that kept you dangling? We tend to want a neat bow around our stories. The end of the book of Acts…..well frankly there is not much of an ending. Acts ends with Paul in Rome teaching and preaching. We never find out what happens to him. What about all the threats on his life? The Bible never tells us what happens to Peter or the rest of the disciplines either. Where is our bow? Why can’t Luke the author give us a neat package? As I have thought about that question this week and wrestled with my own frustration about my “lack of closure”, I have come to the conclusion that Luke leaves the story unfinished because the story is still being told!
When we read a story like Luke’s, we are left with a longing for more. And the truth is there truly is much more to come. Maybe God’s intention was to create a desire in us to be part of the next chapter of the story. Like living out a novel we love, we are called to be part of the story God is writing. CS Lewis explored the topic of Hope in his book Mere Christianity. “The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love,…or first take up a subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no matter how good, or no learning, no matter how interesting, can really satisfy.” He claims that our normal longing, like hunger and thirst, have a fulfillment in a practical way. But what about our deepest longings? God gave us these longings too and he has a plan to meet them through a relationship with Him. What CS Lewis is really saying is that if you have a longing, do not squash it. God put it there to whisper to you. He put it there to invite you into His Big story.
This topic of longing is a great segue into the book of Psalms. The Psalms are filled with emotional lyrics and longings. We will unpack all the different types of Psalms as we move along in our study, but Psalm 2 begs a comment about longing. It is the first of many Messianic Psalms. The book of Psalms is sprinkled with all sorts of whispers of the coming Messiah. Psalm 2:7-8 says “You are my son, today I have become your father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance.” Paul quotes this verse in Acts 13. He says that this verse has been fulfilled in Jesus. After 1000 years of longing and waiting and hoping, Paul declares this whisper in a bold voice…the Messiah has come.
Tips for Reading (Interpretation tip)
(Note: This section is help for Bible Reading in general. It has been building throughout the year under the topics of Observation (what the Scripture says), Interpretation (what it means) and Application (what it means to your life). Feel free to look back over past weeks to get the whole picture.
Which Way Did He Go? (The question WHERE?)
After a trip to Israel last year, WHERE has become one of my favorite observation questions. One of the most important components of any good story is the setting. Understanding the setting gives the story depth. Unfortunately, living in our western culture, most of us are pretty ignorant about the culture and geography of the rest of the world. Without a lot of intentionality, we miss all that the setting of the Bible has to say. Names of cities or landscape of the story are lost on us.
Asking the question “Where?” forces us to focus on the setting.
This is where a good Bible Atlas comes in handy. Most Bibles have at least a few maps in the back. You can also purchase an Atlas of the Bible. You do not have to be a seminary scholar to read a Bible Atlas. I got one last year for children….and it is great!!! We can also recommend Holman’s illustrated Guide to the Bible and Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Each of these books has over 50 maps and hundreds of photos of the area.
While you are reading, here are some where questions to ask yourself.
"Where are the people in the story?" I often circle the names of the city or the location such as “JESUS IN THE TEMPLE” so I can easily refer back to it later.
"Did the people in the story travel to get to this place? If so how far did they travel?"
"Is this a city in Israel or another country like Greece? Can I gain any insight on the terrain of the place? "
Admittedly, understanding where requires work on our part. It can be really tempting to just skim over the names of places. I did it for years. I can reason that in our busy lives some short cuts are smart and make sense, but this is one of those short cuts that truly is cutting too deep. Lets take our time and dive in. I can honestly say that as I have scratched the surface of understanding the where in God’s Word, I stand back amazed at what I have uncovered.
Notes from David's Journal
Let's move into the Psalms. Particularly, look at Psalm 3. In this one, David is being ousted from his throne in Jerusalem by his son, Absalom! Can you imagine? The one he undoubtedly thought to be his successor betrays him. He assembles all the powerful people in Jerusalem, entices them to overthrow his father and follow him to the throne. David flees Jerusalem. Overlooking the holy city, seeing Absalom and his army enter the city, David recites this Psalm. It is a powerful statement of what is going on, how many have risen up against him, what they are saying against David. However, the best part of the Psalm is David's response to the predicament: "But you, Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the lifter of my head." God alone was David's protector, the only One who could eventually lift his head from despair. When David then depended on his God in faith, the Psalm says he laid his head down and slept and awakened the next morning to find the Lord had sustained him. Isn't faith the answer to all our trials? Aren't we supposed to simply go to the Lord and say, "It's your deal, Father. You're in charge of this situation. I trust you with the results." When done righlty, we should be able to put our heads down and go to sleep...and find the next morning we're ready to face a new day.
Isn't that how Jesus was able to sleep in the middle of a huge storm?