After much studied research I have devised a theory about the writers of scripture. That is: The writers of the Bible took writing lessons from William Shakespeare. (It may be the bother way around, timeline’s have never been my thing)
In the prologue of his famous play, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare ruins his ending before the play even begins…
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life…”
Time and time again, the scriptures do the same thing. God often gives away the ending before the story even starts. Even as an amateur writer, I know this is not the way to keep readers engaged. And yet God seems intent on spoiling the ending.
In John 11, Jesus receives the news that his friend Lazarus has fallen ill. Rather than building the suspense, the first thing Jesus says is, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory, so that the Son may be glorified through it.” (v.4) Geeze, you could have at least left me wondering for a second. When I read a story, and the opening sentence tells me that one of the central characters is sick, the immediate suspense comes from guessing whether that sick character will live, or die by the end. It’s basic storytelling. And I have to assume that Jesus knows how to tell a great story, just look at the parables. And yet Jesus spoils the entire thing by telling us that Lazarus will live, thus making the story as I said before, utterly predictable.
This happens all over the Bible. In Exodus 3, God spoils the entire journey of the Israelites liberation from Egypt when he tells Moses from the burning bush, “I have come down to rescue them…and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (v. 8). Why would I even read the next four books of the Bible if I know that’s where the main tribe is going to end up?
And furthermore, let’s be honest, in the end, what are the prophets but a bunch of spoiler alerts? They speak about the coming of this Messiah who will be the savior of the world. They ruin the end of God’s story. And John the Baptist beocmes the worst of them all by spoiling the ending of the greatest story God has even told. In John 1, Mr. Baptist sees Jesus and immediately says, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”…”I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
CAN I GET A SPOILER ALERT???!!!
But (there is always a but) even with it’s ruined ending, Romeo and Juliet is still widely accepted as the greatest love story ever told. Why? Because the important part is not just that the lovers die, but also how they get there. The story of two kids falling in love so badly that they kill themselves is sad, but not heartbreaking in the way Shakespeare intended. But when he allows us to dive into their circumstances, we become intimately acquainted with the hearts of these two teenagers, and that is why the tears flow when the final curtain drops.
The same is true with God. The only thing more amazing than the things God does is how he does them. And it is only by diving into how he does them that we can discover why he does them. Understanding God’s plan of action is the fist step to understanding his heart.
The promise to enter the land flowing with milk and honey was not delivered upon for hundreds of years, and we see the Israelites had more than their fair share of twists, turns and wrong-doings along the way. The heart of God is loving and patient and faithful toward his children.
It was the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that took away the sins of the world, not some gigantic physical battle where he tore the enemy limb from limb. The heart of God loves so deeply that he is willing to give his only son.
While Lazarus is dead, Jesus knows that he will live again, and yet we see Jesus weep. The heart of God cares for those who are suffering, even though he knows that a great ending is coming.
And therein lies the rub. If God gives away the ending to all of these stories, then why does every person and character in them still doubt and wonder and fear and question? Because the ending that God spoils at the beginning is often so good, and the circumstances so bad, that we are unable to believe it. We look at the current situation, and it’s so bleak, that we discard God’s promised ending as “impossible”. The Israelites oppression was unimaginable. Lazarus was dead. Jesus was a carpenter from Nazareth. But God brings his greatest endings from the most humble beginnings.
God is telling a story with each and every life. And his word is filled with spoiler alerts. (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, John 16:33, Joshua 1:5-6) Unfortunately, we often don’t believe in them, because God’s ending for your story is way better than you could even imagine. And if the ending wasn’t amazing enough, just wait and see how he gets you there. It’s not just where God takes us in life, but also how he gets us there that reveals the fountain of love flowing from his heart.