Show and Tell

There’s a helpful technique writers use when telling a story called “show, don’t tell.” For example, I might write, There was a girl in the adjoining room. I’ve conveyed the facts, but nothing more. A more indirect way of expressing the same idea might be, John sensed he wasn’t alone even though the room appeared empty. Then he heard a muffled cry that seemed to come from behind the large wooden door to his left. Instantly, without thinking, he turned the knob, not knowing what he would discover on the other side. Nothing could have prepared him for the tiny form bundled in a soft pink blanket lying on the unmade bed.

When we turn to the Bible, we find that God often takes us through long narratives, especially in the Old Testament, which show us truths in bold and rich textures through the lives of flesh and blood characters. The story of Joseph is a good example of this, filling about thirty percent of the landscape of Genesis. God could have been more economical with words and just told us then and there that He never leaves us or forsakes us even when our circumstances speak otherwise. Or He could have fast-forwarded and just declared to us that He is working all things together for our good.

But think of your Bible without the account of Joseph standing before his brothers in Egypt and weeping. What would it be like if we didn’t have his comforting words, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20)? How many times has the Holy Spirit used these words to heal broken hearts and lives devastated by sin?

And what if the Book of Ruth had never made its way into the canon of Scripture? Ruth is the most beautiful portrayal of hesed love in the Old Testament, showing us over and over again what covenantal love looks like in the face of loss, suffering, prejudice, poverty, and bereavement.

Through all of these narratives, God is showing us the glory of Christ in His saving victory for His people—sometimes called the scarlet thread of redemption—through the unfolding drama that begins in Genesis and weaves its way to Revelation. Today, I hold in my hands the very word of God, words, in fact, that are my very life (Deuteronomy 32:47), rich in instruction and narrative, showing as well as telling me the good news of the Gospel.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4

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