Some people like to think of the Bible as an instruction manual. Instruction manuals simplify life and save time. Most parents would appreciate having a manual handed to them along with their first child.
To write a useful instruction manual, the writer must have superior knowledge of the unique design of an item. The user also needs to have some comprehension of the parts and purpose of the item to be able to understand the manual. According to my experience as a parent, the engineering design of children is much too complicated for anyone to write such a manual.
If the Bible is an instruction manual, I’m in trouble. My thoughts and ways are not anywhere near God’s thoughts and ways. Therefore, I don’t have a chance of comprehending the instructions.
I like to view the Bible as God’s autobiography. The most useful parenting books are written by parents suggesting ways to interact with children rather than specific procedures to apply. The Bible is full of stories about God interacting with mankind. These true-life stories allow us to get to know God.
The cool thing is that this autobiography doesn’t have an ending because God is as much alive today as he was in the beginning. We are a part of the never ending story. The Bible shows that God has interacted with mankind in various ways throughout time.
In the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. After the Garden, he interacted with chosen people through his Spirit. Eventually, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. He is no longer with us in the flesh of one man but Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to live in his followers. Not just with us, but in us. That’s a pretty close relationship.
If we view the Bible as an instruction manual, we will go nuts trying to make human sense out of whether we are to annihilate our enemies or turn the other cheek. A friend was once trying to read scripture as an instruction manual and found the “instructions” concerning the mold in her house to be rather humorous.
Everything in the Bible has purpose and meaning. Just as every aspect of my life has made an impact on who I am, we can learn who God is by looking at the various aspects of his life as revealed in scripture.
God’s actions and instructions do change throughout the Bible. His character never changes. Actions that never change are instinct or habit; they are performed without much thought. Actions based on the character of a person change according to the relationship encountered.
If we view the Bible as an autobiography of the Holy Spirit that is alive within us, the entire Bible is much more enjoyable to read. Rather than say, “that instruction doesn’t apply today,” we can ask “what impact did that interaction between God and man tell me about who God is and his relationship with me today?”
Do you want to have a relationship with God or just follow instructions written by one with an intellect beyond the scope of human understanding? He is not made in our image. We are made in his image.
God desires obedience, yes. But it is obedience to his gentle voice which we recognize by getting to know his unchanging character. That character is revealed when we read the Bible as an autobiography in which the main character is God, not us.
May the peace of Christ free you to live in relationship with the Creator of all things.