I no longer believe in the boogie man, the tooth fairy, or my invisible friend (actually I never had one of those), so why would I continue to read the Bible as if the stories it contains are true? After all, Noah’s ark, Daniel and the lions den, and Moses splitting the Red Sea are about as wild and fantastical as any other fables out there, so why should I view the Bible any differently?
It has become popular to suggest that the Bible is best understood as fiction. It may provide us with some helpful information about God. It may give wisdom, truth, and instruction on how to live our lives, but the stories contained within it are just fairy tales, they are simply examples put forward to teach us about how to live a good, moral life. Sounds reasonable, right? Here’s the problem. This way of thinking neuters the power of the scriptures in the life of the reader. It profoundly changes one’s opinion about who God is and it challenges one of the most important foundations of the gospel – the incarnation.
In studying to preach on Exodus chapter six this week, I stumbled upon an important entry that could easily be skimmed over. Exodus 6:13-27 records a small, seemingly insignificant list of names, a genealogy. Up to this point in the Exodus story, God has introduced himself to Moses and his people Israel. He has made his intentions known to them. He plans to deliver the Israelite slaves from their captivity in Egypt and he will humble Pharaoh and all of Egypt with mighty acts of power. However, as chapter six comes to an end, God hasn’t done anything yet. All of these promises are just lip service. There is a tension building, a sense of anticipation. Will God actually show up? Will he back up his words and perform mighty deeds to bring Pharaoh and all of Egypt to it’s knees?
The skeptic answers that question with a resounding, no! God does not perform miracles. God does not interrupt natural processes that he has put into place from the creation of the world. Those who choose to read the Bible as fiction, and chalk up the stories contained within it to mere fairy tales, join the ranks of the deists who refuse to believe God speaks, acts, or even cares for his creation. They might believe that God exists, but at best he is aloof and disinterested in what is happening here on planet earth.
The genealogies, written into the pages of our Bibles, challenge this shallow view of scripture. Before Moses tells us the story of God’s miraculous deliverance of his people Israel, he takes the time to write down their names. Don’t miss this. This is important. God didn’t take a faceless, mythological people through the Red Sea and into the promised land. He took Eleazer, Abiasaph, Assir, Putiel, Moses, Aaron, and countless others. This is not an imaginary story. This is not a fairy tale. It happened in history to real people with flesh and blood, real people with real names.
Most people don’t understand the implications of dumbing down Old Testament stories like the Exodus to mere Fairy Tales we share with children. They tend to think of it as a right of passage, a mature and enlightened way of understanding the Bible. After all, everyone has to grow up and leave behind Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and monsters under the bed. Ironically, many people I know who have embraced this view of scripture still hold on to their faith in Jesus Christ. On one hand, I’m grateful for this. The life found in Jesus Christ has a way of transcending our calculating minds and capturing our hearts. But why stop half way when it comes to believing in all that God had done for us?
If you believe in Jesus, then it might be helpful for you to understand how he viewed the Exodus story. Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the son of man must be lifted up…” (John 3:14). Did you catch that? Jesus is telling us that the tales of Moses are as sure and true as the cross of Calvary. If you believe in Jesus, it should follow that you believe in who Moses was and what he did. If you don’t believe in who Moses was and what he did, what does that say about your belief in Jesus?
The stories in Exodus are not metaphor, analogy, or parable. They are not included in the scripture so we can entertain our children in Sunday school. These stories introduce us to a God who is intimately involved in his creation. He is not far off, aloof, or incapable of action. He loves the world so much he was willing to enter human history, take on flesh, and die a bloody death on the cross to redeem, rescue, and save every man, woman, and child from sin and death. Not only is this a story of salvation. It is a story of Exodus.