I had a very fortunate childhood.
You see, I was raised in part by my great-grandmother who was with us for the first 6 years of my life (she died in April of ’79)
I remember my great grandmother’s stories; stories about Ijapa (tortoise). Ijapa was a very mischievous, cunning fellow and he always came up with several hare-brained ideas that always ended up very badly.
I understood that my great-grandmother was attempting, through stories, to communicate the sort of life she had hoped for her first great-grandson . she showed me through Ijapa’s life that “crime doesn’t pay”; that “honesty is the best policy” and that kindness to others gets one very far in life.
My great grandmother didn’t want me to be like Ijapa, so she made sure that her stories had misfortune coming to him for choosing the wrong course of action.
Above all else, my great-grandmother wanted me to know the sort of person she was; she wanted to reassure me that I would not have an accomplice in her; should I choose the path of Ijapa.
I don’t remember all her stories; but I remember who my great-grandmother was.
You may wonder, “What has all these got to do with the purpose of the Bible?”
Well, you’ll have to wait and see.
I once had a conversation with someone on the issue of misunderstanding purpose and this was what I had to say to analyze the impact of misunderstanding purpose
“No doctor, no matter how intelligent and diligent at his/her study would ever be great if he studied the anatomy of a pig; thinking it was that of a man.”
In his book “The Eighth Habit”, Stephen Covey gave a very interesting analogy to drive home the point on the power of the paradigm, I would try to restate the story using locales in Nigeria to drive home my point.
Imagine if you were asked to show up first thing Monday morning at an address at Victoria Island; at this meeting, a life changing decision was going to be taken. However, there’s a snag, you have lived all your life in Kano, you have never been to Lagos before, let alone Victoria Island, and your only chance of getting to the venue of this “all important” meeting is by using a map.
You got to Lagos Sunday evening; and purchased a set of maps for the various places in Lagos.
Unfortunately, you woke up a bit later than usual and in your rush to get out of your hotel room, you took the wrong map! You took the map of Ikeja thinking it was the map of Victoria Island.
Think about it for a second!
No amount of positive thinking, sincerity, diligence or careful study will change the map of Ikeja into the map of Victoria Island.
And you will stay very lost until you change your map!!
Back to my great-grandmother’s stories; sure enough, those stories were entertaining and one or two things could be said for Ijapa and his victims, but the one thing that these little stories did was to tell a bigger story- the story of the kind of person my great-grandmother was. She was a loving, witty and no nonsense woman, whose love for her great-grandson was not in doubt she eschewed evil and loved truth ( a fact that reflected in her stories) and she wanted me to grow up not only knowing this about her, but also admiring her for it and deciding to tow the same path as her.
My great-grandmother’s stories were really “Her Story…”
In the same way, the purpose of Scripture screams at us from its pages; behind the very many stories, behind the poems, the parables, the commandments, behind the prophecies and all that is captured in holy writ, a bigger, more important story is unveiled – this story is the story of the God-man, the unique Son of God, who is the exact image of the Father.
In John 5:39, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; IT IS THESE THAT TESTIFY ABOUT ME; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”
The very scripture that point to life giving principles and examples; that point to promises and warnings are really pointing to Jesus. The bible isn’t a “to do list”, a “road map” or a book of “godly” principles; it is at its core the unveiling of God. In it God has spoken to us a glorious story about his glory and grace centered on the God-man, Jesus Christ.
Luke 24:25-27: And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” THEN BEGINNING WITH MOSES AND WITH ALL THE PROPHETS, HE EXPLAINED TO THEM THE THINGS CONCERNING HIMSELF IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES.
Luke 24:44-47 Now He said to them, “THESE ARE MY WORDS WHICH I SPOKE TO YOU WHILE I WAS STILL WITH YOU, THAT ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN ABOUT ME IN THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE PROPHETS AND THE PSALMS MUST BE FULFILLED.” THEN HE OPENED THEIR MINDS TO UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPTURES, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Remember our brilliant diligent doctor and the unfortunate traveler with the wrong map; like these folks, if we have the wrong picture as to what the purpose of the Scripture is, then no amount of diligence, sincerity will yield the truth to us.
Let these words from the Lord both comfort and caution us:
John 7:17 “IF ANYONE IS WILLING TO DO HIS WILL, HE WILL KNOW OF THE TEACHING, WHETHER IT IS OF GOD or whether I speak from Myself.