I revisited two classics this month: Dig Deeper by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach and God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. I read both books about ten years ago when I first became a Christian. These are almost must-reads by new or young Christians. For different reasons, I picked them from my bookcase again this month and reread them. I have to say, I benefited from them even more this time than I did the first time I read them. Yes they were written many years ago and the context could sound basic, but the knowledge and skills they teach are foundational. You need a strong and solid foundation to build a tall building. These two books have filled holes and gaps in my Christian life foundation, especially my Bible-reading life.
Dig Deeper teaches a series of tools that help anyone who wants to read the Bible for themselves rather than listen only to what other people say about the Bible. Some tools you would have been familiar with already, for example, the Linking Words Tool can help you find the logic of Paul’s argument; the Genre Tool can stop you taking the picture language of a psalm literally; the Bible Timeline Tool helps put the command to sacrifice a goat into perspective! Some tools take more practice to master, for example, the Quotation / Allusion Tool can give Jesus’ words a whole new meaning if you know where he was quoting from and can hint at a deeper message if you know the bit of quotation he deliberately left out. The Copycat tool can show that not everyone described in the Bible is held up as a model to copy. The ‘Who Am I’ Tool can stop us imagining ourselves to be the hero of every story; stop us from thinking, how can I find the Goliath in my workplace and how can I have a burning-bush experience in my life.
What I’m particularly interested in is on the page at the end of the book, where it talks about how university students in Christ Church Clifton in Bristol learn these tools in small group settings under the leadership of Ed Shaw. I would love to do that with our students!
I don’t know about you but I think reading the Bible is quite a daunting task. It’s so big, not mentioning all the other reasons. And I’d like to see the master plan before I dive into individual stories. God’s Big Picture is a Bible overview. It traces the storyline of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. After reading this book, you should be able to read any page of the Bible in the light of the whole.
It starts with the pattern of God’s kingdom: Adam and Eve living under God’s rule and blessings in the Garden of Eden (chapter 1), quickly followed by the Fall, when sin came into the world and spread throughout generations like an incurable disease (chapter 2). In this dark point, God made the over-arching and unconditional promise to Abraham, to make him into a great nation, to give him a land and to bless him and to bless all the nations through him (chapter 3). The nation of Israel takes the stage in chapters 4 and 5, where God brought his people into the Promised Land and blessed them with his Law. But people did not love God or obey him despite repeated warnings from the prophets (chapter 6). The Exile happened as the punishment from God. But the prophets looked forward to the future, when the promise to Abraham will be fully fulfilled. Then Jesus came and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies (chapter 7). The true blessing for every one of us is made available. This is the age we are living in, when Holy Spirit is actively at work, to bring spiritual life, to equip people to serve and to produce holiness (chapter 8). At the end of time, there will be a perfect everlasting kingdom of God after the final judgment and the destruction (chapter 9), at which point our reader will give a sigh of relief, and say “come, Lord Jesus!”
What impresses me most is all the links with Jesus: the serpent crusher, the Passover lamb, the Exodus, the Tabernacle, the Temple, King David and more. The whole Bible is truly all about Jesus, and one can only understand the Bible correctly with Jesus in mind.
Both books are relatively small. Dig Deeper is about 180 pages. God’s Big Picture is only 160 pages. If you are a visual learner, the video course might help. If you haven’t heard, Clayton TV, which is a Christian video content production team, has made God’s Big Picture book into a brilliant video course.
I highly recommend both, if you want to know God personally through reading his very own word.
P. S. Am I the only one who thinks that the two front covers look similar? I wonder if they were designed by the same front cover designer from IVP.