Every story has its thread.
The one in the Bible is scarlet. There’s a reason!
One of my favorite things about stories in literature is the predictably unpredictable – those things that happen which one never sees coming. As a student, I enjoyed predicting what was going to happen by those subtle hints early on in assigned literature. I admit I was rather good at figuring out future timeline events in stories by the foreshadowing given in the events of the day.
It’s the same way when we study the Bible.
God gives us the foreshadowing of what is going to happen. Sometimes it’s easy to recognize and sometimes one has to read between the lines. At times He clearly said, “This is what Jesus will be like.” and other times He shows us, but never mentions it specifically. That was when He is foreshadowing. If we pay attention, we will get the implication.
I’m fascinated with the way God used foreshadowing to get His people ready for what was going to happen. All through the ages of history and chronicled in the Old Testament is a scarlet thread. This thread runs continually through the events, stories, and happenings in the lives of those people who lived thousands of years before us and before the time Jesus came to this earth. That scarlet thread continues in the New Testament, all the way to Revelation.
It’s a mystery story with detailed history and poetry all written into one Book.
There is birth and dying, betrayal and murder, love and arranged marriages. There is deceit and there are familial tendencies coursing through generation after generation. There are good people and there are bad people. (Actually, there is bad in good people and even good in bad people.)
There’s a man who commits adultery and arranges a murder in order to cover up his sin – the same man who is declared by God (later) to be a man after God’s own heart. Now that’s a wrinkle that runs right along that scarlet thread!
There are women from pagan cultures used by God to fulfill His plan. They leave their pagan gods and sin behind and join those people through whom the Jewish line is continued. They are a part of that scarlet thread.
There are children who become messengers for God. One of them is the little maid whose message sends a captain to find help. That’s the time seven dips in a dirty river cure a case of leprosy. There’s the time the ground opens up and swallows entire families because of disobedience of husbands. Priests die while sacrificing because of their disobedience. A a blind man uses his strength to bring down pillars, killing not only himself but hundreds of pagan people. I guess you could call that a “suicide mission”.
A real live donkey speaks actual words. Other animal pair supernaturally move out of the forest to board what will become the first floating zoo. A visit from hornets persuades the stubborn Canaanites it’s time to move. The mouths of lions are shut by angels for an entire night. Their den mate, a man who won’t stop praying three times a day, lives to see the morning.
Millions of men, women, and children spend the night walking on dry land as the sea is rolled back to allow passage. A prophet is thrown into a well and then given ropes and rags so he can be pulled out of that well. A favored son is sold into slavery and accused falsely. After years of rejection, he is promoted to second-in-command, next to the Pharaoh in the land. A priest burning incense moves between the people as a plague courses through them, and the plague stops – after 14,000 people are dead. The waters of a river move aside as soon as the feet of the priests (carrying the Ark of the Covenant) touch its banks.
People bitten by serpents are healed when they look at a bronze serpent on a pole, and battles are fought and won when weary arms are held up by assistants and when time literally stands still. That’s the time the sun stays in the middle of the sky for a full day.
There are sins: fornication, incest, bestiality, drunkenness, and nakedness. We read about idolatry and gossip, suicide and murder. There is owning of slaves and women given to their masters to bear children. There are false accusations and people are imprisoned. The king goes into a cave to relieve himself and the one he is pursuing silently cuts off the bottom of his royal robe. Though this warrior has every opportunity to slay his adversary, he won’t touch the king (God’s Anointed).
There is gloom, despair, and wretchedness. There is also divine intervention and a complete plan for restoration that unfolds as time continues. Through prophets and priests, rulers and judges, God’s timeline extends.
Miraculously, a common scarlet thread is woven throughout each book of the Bible.
That thread takes us from Creation to the Messiah, from His birth to His death and His Resurrection – and to the promise of Eternity.
I rediscover this scarlet thread every year when I start another journey through the Bible. Sometimes I read in chronological order; sometimes the order in which I read is historical. Usually, I read by myself; one year Dave and I read it through together, sentence by sentence (until October, when we ended up finishing it on our own because of time constraints). Sometimes I begin Genesis in January and finish Revelation in December. This year, I’m following a 222 day plan. Each time, I learn new things and find myself noticing the foreshadowing of what is to come as characters move across the stage, following that scarlet thread. As the curtain is drawn after each scene, I’m sitting on the edge of my chair, wanting to know more – wanting to read the next chapter, to see the next act. The more I read it, the more I like this Book because it becomes easier to follow that scarlet thread.
It’s all there. Holding each chapter together is that thread of scarlet, intertwining grace with judgment and mercy with justice.
Like the stories we dissected as students, these stories are true, full of mystery, and a shadow of what was and is to come. One scene, one Act at a time, and I’m still waiting for the grand finale!
When we don’t understand God’s timeline, we can still trace His hand. Down through the ages, His hand has moved across this world, around nations, and inside individuals.
That thread of scarlet is still there. It continues while time lasts. One day, the last prophecy will be fulfilled. One day, the last foreshadowing will be finalized. The final chapter will be realized. Signed, sealed, and delivered!
God’s plan of salvation will be complete when He welcomes the ransomed Home.
And, just like the Bible foreshadows, we will forever be whole, restored, and free!