In last week’s essay, I commented on the importance of reading the Bible in context. We noted that, without context, a person can make the Bible say just about anything he wants. However, just as you object when your words are taken out of context, God expects us to read his Word with careful attention to its intended meaning. And we are on a better path to finding the intended meaning when we stop reading the Bible as though it’s simply a scattered collection of wise sayings; instead, we should read it as a coherent book.
We can speak about the coherence of the Bible, however, in at least two ways. The first one is this: the Bible, from beginning to end, tells a story. (I’ll address the second kind of coherence next week.) What is the Bible’s story about? To answer that, let’s take a brief rabbit trail.
Have you ever noticed just how many familiar Christmas carols proclaim that Jesus is a king? “Let earth receive her King.” “Come and behold him, born the King of angels.” “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.” “Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’’ “Noel! Born is the King of Israel!” And this list is merely a quick sampling.
The hymnwriters here reflect an accurate understanding of the story of the Bible: from beginning to end, the Bible is about God’s plan to establish his kingdom on earth, with Jesus as the king. We see hints of this in the Garden, when the first man is given the instruction to subdue and have dominion over the world, establishing the principle of kingship. Even before we reach the end of Genesis, we find prophecy that a king will arise from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). The story continues, gradually highlighting David as the head of the royal family of Israel. God gives David this promise: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
And so we should not find it surprising at all that the announcements of Jesus’s birth are filled with language about kings and thrones and kingdoms. Consider Gabriel’s announcement to Mary: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32–33). And skipping ahead to the end of the story, in the words made so familiar in Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
This theme is the story of the Bible: Jesus is king, and he will reign!