What do you mean the Bible isn’t about me? Of course it is! For all these years of youth group, church attendance and Bible studies, I have been trying to apply this book to MY life that God gave ME.
I am one of those people that grew up in a Christian home and raised by amazing parents who love Jesus. I am lucky enough to say that believing in God’s existence was never a problem for me. I’m literally the last person you would ever consider a skeptic. Okay, so I’m giving myself a lot of credit here, but you get the point! Here’s the thing: I’ve been beginning to wonder if my lack of skepticism was “lucky” after all.
Late in my teen years I started dating this boy. I’ll go ahead and give away the ending…this boy is now my husband. This boy was charming, treated me well, and frankly, he was adorable. There was one thing, though: Dane said he believed in God but was, you guessed it, a skeptic. In our early years together I felt a sense of pity for him; he just didn’t seem to get it! He was always questioning God’s existence and whether God could truly accept him in spite of all his sins. On the other hand, there I was on my own little island of believer’s perfection, or so I thought…until I realized there was this pretty important element of Christianity called the Gospel (we’ll get back to that).
I spent years in Bible studies with other ladies where we would study the book of Esther or Ruth. Time after time, I left feeling empty and more confused. These stories of women in the Bible are absolutely wonderful and I am beyond thankful that God included these amazing women in the bible for us to learn from. However, each time I left wondering how to apply it to my life. Now that I have studied Esther am I supposed to be a nice queen that saves her people if I ever marry a king (sorry, Dane)? Or after reading through Ruth, am I supposed to stay with my mother-in-law if my husband passes away and marry my kinsmen-redeemer (again, sorry Dane)? Are you as confused as I am?
I was missing one very important thing—or rather, person—in all of my studying…JESUS! Yes, I knew it was important to believe that He died on a cross for my sins, but I couldn’t possibly see how this connected to these stories. In one of Pastor Tim Keller’s sermons he says, “Jesus is the true and better Esther, who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace, but lost the ultimate One, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life.” As for Ruth, one of Tim Keller’s mentors, Edmund Clowney, writes that Jesus “has become our kinsman [redeemer], made one flesh with us so that He might purchase for us the eternal inheritance of His salvation.” What!? How did I not see this before? And it’s not just Ruth and Esther. In the same sermon, Tim Keller continues to give more examples like Adam, Jonah, Job and Isaac, each one as jaw-dropping as the next. He ends with a flourish: “He is the real Passover lamb, the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread; the bible is NOT about YOU!”
Everything in the Old Testament is foreshadowing our King Jesus, who left perfection with the Father, who “…sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” which means that Jesus took all of the punishment that we deserve (1 John 4:10). “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” so I don’t have to be the next Esther, Ruth or even Proverbs 31 woman (blasphemy!) to have favor with God (Romans 8:1). Reading Ruth, Esther, and other Old Testament historical accounts moralistically (what must I do to earn God’s favor like they did) led me to anxiety. Seeing them in their proper role in redemptive history (shedding light on the Gospel—good news—of Jesus) now helps me to find deeper levels of joy and rest in Jesus, the one who perfectly earned God’s favor in my place.
Ironically, my husband’s honest skepticism about the existence of God and whether God truly loved him led him to steadfast confidence and rest in Jesus. My presumption (assuming God’s grace towards me) led me to unstable confidence in myself. But the good news is that JESUS is Truer & Greater, the perfect God-man, fulfilling what I never could. The Bible is all about HIM!
I am beyond excited to study through the book of Hebrews that unpacks Jesus as the Truer & Greater One over the next ten months with all of you at iNVERSION. Our God is so brilliant!
1. Here is the relevant clip from Tim Keller’s sermon.
2. Edmund P. Clowney (1988); The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament; Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing; Pg. 161.