This year, my favorite present is not one that I was given but one that I gave.
Amy and I are always looking for good books for Rylie (we want her to be a reader) and both of us desire her to know and love Jesus Christ. So when Tony over at The Shepherd’s Scrapbook put The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones as his number 4 book of 2007, I thought I’d order one and check it out. Wow, am I glad I did!
Picture this. I’m at the church office when it arrives from the bookseller. I open it up and start reading… and I keep reading… and reading! There I sit in my office, surrounded by shelves full of commentaries, volumes on systematic theology, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and I’m engrossed in a children’s Bible? Yup. Let me explain why.
Sally Lloyd-Jones has done a great service, not just to children, but to the Church. She has reminded us of what the Bible is all about: Jesus. The Storybook Bible begins with a wonderful introduction to the Bible itself, in which she writes: “No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story […] the Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And a the center of the Story, there is baby […] He is like the missing piece in a puzzle- the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.” This is a lesson many Sunday School teachers (and a few pastors) would do well to remember.
The book’s cover by-line is “Every story whispers his name” and this cover promise is delivered upon beautifully in each story. As each story is told, Lloyd-Jones concludes by tying it to the unfolding narrative of redemption and continues to push towards the Cross (and then in the New Testament works out from the Cross). She faithfully shows the Big Story.
Here are just a few examples of how she does this:
The story of The Fall concludes with: “Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve: ‘It will not always be so! I will come to rescue you! And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake. I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!’ And he would. One day, God himself would come.” Now, go read Genesis 3:15. Hasn’t she done a beautiful job, in just a few words, of explaining to a child this rich promise and pointing the story to Christ?
The story of the Noahic Flood closes with: “And there, in the clouds -just where the storm meets the sun- was a beautiful bow made of light. It was a new beginning in God’s world. It wasn’t long before everything went wrong again but God wasn’t surprised, he knew this would happen. That’s why, before the beginning of time, he had another plan -a better plan. A plan not to destroy the world, but to rescue it -a plan to one day send his own Son, the Rescuer. God’s strong anger against hate and sadness and death would come down once more – but not on his people, or his world. No, God’s war bow was not pointing down at his people. It was pointing up into the heart of Heaven.” Hmmmm… when was the last time you heard subsitutionary atonement taught from Genesis 9? How many of your Sunday School stories about Noah’s Ark ended with a gospel presentation?
One last example. She ends the story of Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments this way: “ ‘God promises to always look after you,’ Moses said. ‘Will you love him and keep these rules?’ ‘We can do it! Yes! We promise!’ But they were wrong. They couldn’t do it. No matter how hard they tried, they could never keep God’s rules all the time. God knew they couldn’t. And he wanted them to know it, too. Only one Person could keep all the rules. And many years later God would send him -to stand in their place and be perfect for them. Because the rules couldn’t save them. Only God could save them.” Now, that is the way we need to teach our children the Ten Commandments!
All of these wonderful Christ-centered lessons are beautifully illustrated and read easily for children. And because each story is tied into the bigger story, it has the feel of one big narrative told through many interconnected scenes. This keeps Rylie eager for the next story. (I love that she looks forward each night to our time together reading from “her Bible” and that each evening, when I give her a little preview of tomorrow night’s story, she responds with “It’s tomorrow night!”)
However, what delights me most is that each evening I have an opportunity to talk to her, in a very natural way, about the Gospel. It flows out of Bible stories she can understand and grasp. This is a wonderful delight, especially since she is not yet ready for the book of Romans!
Want one last testimony as to why I’m gushing over this Christmas gift? Last week, when we finished the story of the Exodus, I asked her “Who is the rescuer that is going to come?” Without any hesitation, my two year old daughter joyfully shouted “Jesus!” Now, did you get anything better than that for Christmas?