If I told you that a hero was someone who sacrificed for the good of others, you might nod your head but your eyes would glaze over. If you watched a hero rescue his daughter from kidnappers or save a city from villains, two hours could fly by and you would have just finished your popcorn.
Whether it’s Frodo carrying the ring into Mordor or Will Smith detonating a hand grenade to protect the cure that would save mankind, well-conceived stories grip us.
The Bible is a book of stories. Most of its pages detail the adventures of kings and shepherds, prostitutes and prodigals.
And it is masterly written. The depth of word choices, repetition, significant action, rich metaphors – all these and more blend the narratives into powerful messages about people, their choices, and their God.
C.S. Lewis, no slouch in studying and writing literature, said once, “There is a…sense in which the Bible…cannot properly be read except as literature; and the different parts of it as the different sorts of literature they are.”
Powerful literature captures the heart and struggle of people. Paul Roche, who wrote The Bible’s Greatest Stories, commented that the events in the Bible “tell of mankind’s experience at its most moving and most memorable in words that go beyond mere chronicle: words that strike the heart and light up the vision.”
Words that strike the heart and light up the vision.
The mastery of words creates depth of meaning and The Bible has both.
Take a look at the story in Eden, where the man and woman lived in the freedom of an lush and bountiful garden. Their nakedness symbolized the innocence and safety of Eden.
The Garden’s beauty – the rivers, the trees, the lush fruit – revealed the nature of the Creator. They saw his handiwork and his abundance. Can they trust his judgment?
God asks them to trust him in command: do not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good Evil. Could they trust his knowledge?
They trusted their own knowledge more, taking the fruit in at attempt to become like God.
Instead, their new knowledge exposed their rebellion. Shame caused them to snatch fig leaves in a desperate attempt to hide their nude bodies from each other and then from God.
God’s words, as he came to the Garden, tear at the fabric of what could have been: “Where are you?”
If you’ve ever witnessed the joy of a two-year-old racing uncovered through the house after a bath, you’ve seen what the man and woman knew in the Garden. Joy. Innocence. Freedom.
In choosing to experience evil, the pain of failure washed over them – and the reader. We want to grab the fruit: “Don’t eat this! You can’t go back!”
We are gripped by emotions and this story, delivered in precise and meaningful words, strikes our heart and lights up our vision.
A simple story masterfully told creates emotion and meaning.
More on this next Friday.