STORIES IN THE BIBLE
By Grace D. Chong
Writers usually refer to the Bible as literature when we cite a whole range of literary genres in which we write: proverb, poetry, song, visionary writing, drama, oratory, saying, chronicle, complaint (lament psalm), oracle, apocalypse, parable, song, epistle, and short story.
Virtually every page of the Bible is complete with literary techniques. For me, to truly enjoy God's word, we also have to read it as literature, beyond the main reasons we study it.
If we add more specific literary forms like travel story, dramatic monologue, doom song, and hymn, the number of literary genres in the Bible is over a hundred.
But as a little girl, I looked upon the Bible as a book of stories. Whether they were parables or real-life historical epics, I lumped them all into one genre—short stories: Adam and Eve, the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, Jonah and the Whale, Ruth and Naomi, Queen Esther, the Last Supper, Joseph and his Technicolor Dream Coat, Moses and the Burning Bush, Samson and Delilah, Solomon and Sheba, The Ten Commandments, The Seven last Words, and my favorite of all—David and Goliath.
In my youth, I was in love with David—the young, handsome shepherd boy who slew Goliath, the much-feared giant and warrior. Michelangelo’s sculpture was how I saw his face. (SHOW PHOTO!)
Well, the description of David in 1 Samuel 16:12 (ESV) is thus: “. . . Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, 'Arise, anoint him, for this is he.'"
David was chosen by the Lord Himself to be the king of Israel to succeed King Saul who was turned away from God and was a total disappointment.
As I grew older, David's persona became bigger and deeper, unfolding tough answers to tough questions about life.
David is so fascinating that again on April 14 this year, when he was first mentioned in my chronological Bible, which is also my devotional book, I couldn't stop reading. Three days later, I was already on May 18—when David died. I was more than one month ahead of schedule!
I know Devotional Bibles are meant to be read and reflected on daily (one to two chapters at a time), but when you're reading the events as they happened in chronology, especially about your favorite bible hero, you get sucked into the action. You may already know the story by heart, but you want to dwell on details you might have missed before.
David was a daring dynamo and a creative whiz. He was gifted with so many talents: he played all the musical instruments of his time, composed music, danced, wrote poetry, and if he were born in this era, he would be a prolific blogger, or maybe even a multi-awarded writer like our speaker tonight. David recorded all his emotions in many Psalms. And yet, he was a daring warrior, a methodical organizer, and a charismatic leader at the same time.
As an artist, David was impulsive. As a warrior, he was calculating. As a manager, he was systematic. He was what we call today a right and left “brainer”—a rare combination.
Although he was God's anointed, David suffered greatly as a TNT—Tago Nang Tago—from the pursuit of jealous King Saul who wanted him killed. As a fugitive, David went through colossal difficulties—crying out to God every step of the way—but never wanting of the Lord's grace of protection.
Finally, after 13 years of living a vagabond life, when King Saul was killed in an unrelated battle, David became the King of the small territory of Judah. And only after seven more long years did David become the King of all of Israel, 20 years after he was anointed by God.
As King and father, David was both a success and a failure. He made epic mistakes with God and his people. Many of his undisciplined children with his concubines had minds of their own and rebelled against him.
But the thing is—David never forgot who God was in his life; David was always immediately contrite after sinning against the Lord.
Hollywood would never be able to capture the carnage, pillage, immorality, and bloodbath that happened in David's lifetime. Not even a Cecil B. De Mille, Steven Spielberg, or Len Wiseman could put into images the colossal crimes that would make serial killers, perverts, and Osama Bin Laden today seem like Walt Disney cartoon characters.
David reigned over Israel for forty years, seven of them in Hebron (Judah) and thirty-three in Jerusalem, uniting all Israelites.
Aside from being a very interesting story, what makes David a riveting read for me?
He paints a picture of torment in his life, yet maintains a deeper joy found in his inner self. We earthly beings look for happiness that’s external. David teaches us to rush towards a place in ourselves, a place of glorious well-being, where we can develop pure trust in a sovereign God despite the turmoil in a turbulent world.
How can one not fall in love with David?
Let me end by what, to me, is the passage in the Bible that best encapsulates who David was: Psalm 32: 5-7 (NLT): “Finally, I confessed all my sins to You and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.' And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Therefore, let all the godly pray to You while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment. For You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.”
May God bless us all.
Grace Chong is a member of the Christian Writers Fellowship.