Two years ago we were at a church that was reading through The Story, a summation of the Bible. Each week we read a chapter that the pastor preached on and our small group discussed.
Our small group was awesome. We were a really varied group, lots of different life experiences in the room and faithful to meet each week. Our friend Derrick was in the group, a pastor who now has a ministry that he runs in America and Israel. Derrick is one of those teachers that I hear teach and what he says has immediate impact in my life. Do you know this kind? I could probably list a dozen pastors and teachers and mentors that I simply hear better than others. When they speak their words go right to my heart. Derrick is one of those.
All through the reading of The Story, Derrick added his discoveries and fun facts to all we were reading.
I remember when we were reading through Exodus Derrick explained how each of the ten plagues correlated directly to an Egyptian god, so that each and every plague was a direct offense to that false god's followers.
And then they got to the Red Sea. And Derrick explained that even today, when you visit the Red Sea, there is a beach that stretches a mile or two wide. On either side of this beach is rock that would be pretty impossible to pass. But this beach is there, and it leads to a land bridge under the water, just 70 feet deep, also of sand that goes across the bottom of the Sea to meet up with another beach on the other side. The land bridge is also a mile or two wide, and on either side of the land bridge the water drops dramatically down to great depths.
He mentioned that this would be a great place to part the waters to let a million people pass through. And then he showed us images of this beach along with photos of the coral patterns on this land bridge that are in the shape of chariot wheels.
I remember sitting there, looking at the screen and I felt very skeptical. This all seemed rather convenient. Where are these images from again? I'd like to see this for myself.
But then the study continued. And we read of the journey following the crossing of the Red Sea, and Derrick showed us a map of the area, with the timeline written out from Exodus with how many days they traveled by foot from place to place. One of the pictures was a mountain that is no longer called Sinai, but is the one that he believes (and many others) was where God spoke to Moses. Interestingly, the top of this mountain is charred black, unlike any other in the area.
There were may more pictures and image that showed actual (and plausible) locations for the scenes from the story. I want to tell you what it did for me. Seeing these images, whether I thought they were the actual location of not, helped me momentarily suspend my disbelief, and I began to imagine how these events could have actually, literally played out. I began to hear the story as factual. Not as the epic tale of the exodus of God's people to the Promised Land, but as a real-it-actually-happened-exactly-as-written-account of this incredible history.
I can't quite pinpoint it but somewhere along the line I had decided that much of the Bible was great metaphor. That the reality of the events didn't matter so much as the message in the story.
But walking through the Bible, the written word of God, with these new eyes of belief began to change things for me and made me wonder new things. Mostly it made me wonder where in the Bible I had drawn the line that separated my belief and unbelief.
Listening to Derrick, and hearing and seeing his evidence of each historical event made me feel a whole lot like doubting Thomas who was given the grace to touch the holes in Jesus' hands and sides. A lot of people see that story of doubting Thomas as sort of a tisk tisk on Thomas for not believing without seeing. Jesus even calls the person who believes without seeing blessed. But I have always thought the story of doubting Thomas is full of grace. Because Jesus still let Thomas touch his scars. He still gave Thomas the fleshy evidence that Thomas needed to believe.
That feels like grace to me, and I felt especially close to Thomas as I tried to draw the line of metaphor to factual event. This was a long process. There were lots of conversations. I read a lot and prayed even more. I just wanted the truth.
About a year later, the Holy Spirit became very, very real in my life. Incredible wonders were seen right with my own doubting eyes and ears. It felt like God took me here first because he needed me to know that he is indeed alive and active today. That he is the God of the universe and is as big today as he was in the stories I was wrestling through. There are a few personal stories from that season that shook my faith in incredible ways. And because of those experiences, I decided to believe God could be big enough to be God.
Honestly, that was the heart of the matter for me. Was the God I had just experienced in power able to do all that he says he can do? Or is he unable to close the jaws of hungry lions? Is God unable use a young boy to kill an enemy giant? Is He not able to speak through dreams? Could God not keep a man alive inside of a whale? Is God unable to call two of every kind of animal to a boat? Is creating the universe in six literal days too difficult a task? Is God unable to resurrect his own son? Of course not. He is God, and able to do all things.
I have sat here in this new place for almost a year. It's a place that fully embraces the entirety of the Bible as true. Factual. Historical. Exactly as written. And I will tell you, it is a peaceful place. I read the Bible with so much more interest and openness. The Word of God speaks to me so clearly now, largely because I am not proof reading the text for errors.
This stance is definitely contrary to what the world is teaching. And it likely puts me in a camp that others would label simple minded. But I am okay with that, even though it's not true. I have read more about carbon dating discrepancies and dinosaur soft tissue and sediment layers from flooding in the past year than ever before. And I see the history written in God's word with more clarity each day. As God's Word has come alive, God's World has also taken on new life.
And then there is this bottom line: When I read the Bible, I find the whole thing so believable. And I feel an overwhelming gratitude for seeing the truth. The Bible makes so much sense to me lately, especially because the world is such a mess. When I read the Bible I find the same mess, stemming from the same sins, from the same people rejecting God and mocking his commands. I just find it all so believable. And I take such great comfort in that. The Bible throws everything into the light and I can see that when you're not plainly listening to the Lord to direct your steps, sin creeps in and will gladly lead you astray.
This has me praying more than ever before and again, sincerely feeling grateful to have God's Word..for boundaries, for the law, for grace, for Jesus, for forgiveness, for second chances, for hope and eternal life, joy and provision. I'm so thankful for all of it.
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit that was not for them, it was because Satan whispered in Eve's ear, "did God really say..." and with these words, Satan planted a seed of doubt in Eve's heart wondering if God really was who he said he was. One of my favorite children's Bible's says that when God found out they had eaten the fruit he was heartbroken because now they would doubt who He was and begin to think they knew more than Him.
That is exactly what I see in the fallen world around me. A whole lot of people who think they know more than God. That they've out reasoned the Word of God. It's the oldest sin in the book. First introduced by Eve and Adam, and still creeping into every human heart, "did God really say?"
And you know, we can answer that question boldly. Yes. God really did say don't eat that fruit. God really did say to follow His commands. God really did lay down a law that is for our own good. God really did send Jesus to save us from every way we fall short of that law, the Word made flesh. And it's all recorded in the history written out in those 66 books. I have decided to believe all of it because it all leads to life as God intended from the very beginning.