The Strange and Formative Word

The Bible is a strange book.

Written over hundreds of years by a collection of named and anonymous authors, it spans genres and themes as diverse as power and money, family and sexuality. It alternates between genealogical lists and colorful histories, ritual law and love poetry, all managing to say something important about what it means to be human, the nature of the world, and God.

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how the Bible is both a product and a means of God’s mission in the world. It is a witness to the things God has done in the past to shape and recreate people, and it is itself a part of the process of shaping those who read and receive it.

For instance, take the story of Nathan confronting King David (1 Samuel 12). It’s both a witness of how God was confronting and shaping David to be the king he was supposed to be. But at the same time, as we read the story and allow ourselves to live in it, the story shapes us as well, challenging us to think about how we use power, or our own tendency to cover up our sin with even more sin.

As we read stories like that, or meditate on the poetry of the prophets, or read along with the first century churches in their letters from Paul, we’re pulled into the story of God through time, and are shaped to be more like God, and less like the world.  We become gracious where the world is judgmental. We become joyful where the world is bitter, and mourn in the places where the world wants to celebrate. We become peaceful in the middle of a world at war, or we become generous in a world of selfishness.

The Bible is a strange book.

But, that’s okay.  We’re a strange people.

By God’s grace, and through God’s word, we’re becoming stranger every day.