One of my favourite things about volunteering with the high school students at my church is getting a fresh perspective of the events and people of the Bible. When I am teaching, either Sunday School or our weekly Bible Study, the passage we are studying is usually one I have known for as long as I can remember, and the events that are recounted are ones I have pondered before. When a teenager, especially one with limited exposure to God’s Word, asks a question, it is often one that makes me stop and consider things in a new light.
As we dive into answering the question, I often say “remember, these were real people, living real lives”. When reading the Bible it is easy to read it like a movie script and forget that these “characters” are not fictional and the “scenes” are actual events. Last week, we were covering the first kings of Israel, Saul and David, in an overview of the books of Samuel. As we were talking about the different events, it came up that, even though we look at the events as happening all at once, the books cover about 80 years of history, as both Saul and David reigned for about 40 years each.
I believe every word of scripture serves a purpose (2 Tim 3:16), and each event and person mentioned is there to tell us about God’s love. Because there is roughly 4000 years and dozens of main characters covered in its pages, the Bible is not an exhaustive account of history. While this makes practical sense, it does lead to us forgetting that these people dealt with life’s ups and downs, the mundane day-to-day and the uncertainty of how it all would play out.
Sometimes I take for granted that the heroes of scripture knew how the story would unfold. I don’t consider that they were acting and reacting to everything in real time, much like we do today. They were not certain of how everything would turn out, as evidenced through the many times people took things into their own hands and tried to change the situation in their favour but ultimately caused more problems than they solved.
When I approach God to ask Him for guidance, I often hope that He will lay it out before me with step-by-step instructions. I wanted to read the script before I start the action. Didn’t Daniel refuse to stop praying because he knew the lions wouldn’t eat him? Didn’t Jonah demand to be thrown overboard because he knew a fish would take him safely to shore? Didn’t Nehemiah ask the king to allow him to return to Jerusalem because he knew he would gladly allow it?
Of course, the answers to all these is “no, they didn’t know”. The Bible is full of stories of people who stepped out in faith, with no guarantees it would work out for them. Even those who had angelic intervention in their lives didn’t have foreknowledge of the details. They all had to walk by faith.
We have to walk by the same faith in our lives. We don’t get to know how things will work out. The examples of faith in the Bible are there for us to follow. They are as much to show how God works through His people as they are that God’s people must trust in Him. God will accomplish His will, we must walk by faith.