The Good Author

I was five minutes away from the church last night when I received a phone call saying that my pastor was going to be late and that I would have to teach until he got there. Now I’m a firm believer in 2 Timothy 4:2, so I’m always prepared to preach or teach if I have to, but it’s nice to have some notice to get notes together if possible. I didn’t have that luxury last night and I had no clear direction on what to say. I always have messages that could be preached or a passage that I’ve studied that I can explain, but knowing which message or which passage God wants me to speak on is much more important than just having something ready to go.

So anyway, I got to the church and as they were opening with prayer I went into the office to pray and seek direction. I knew what I wanted to talk about but I didn’t have a peace from the Lord that it’s what he wanted me to talk about. So I went out and as we worshiped in song I got my direction. I spoke briefly on God as the author of our faith, or more precisely, as the author of our story. The thing about authors is that they know the whole story long before the reader does. The reader finds out what’s happening moment by moment. At one moment they can be completely sympathetic toward a character and at the next moment hate the very same character. The story changes as the narrative progresses and once we know the end it completely reshapes what we think of the beginning and middle (Peter Leithart has an excellent chapter on this in his Deep Exegesis).

In Isaiah 46:10 the LORD says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.'” God knew the end of the story from the beginning because he wrote the story. Whatever he’s written will come to pass. This is really what separates God from his creation. We can only know what’s happening moment by moment. If someone were to look at the story of our lives at any given moment they would think one way about it. But in light of later moments they would read those earlier events in a completely different light. I used Jesus’ conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus as an example of this.

In short, Jesus had been crucified, buried, and now resurrected. The disciples have heard the reports that his body is no longer in the tomb but they haven’t seen it. As Jesus walks with them they tell him of everything that’s been going on. The text says:

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” (Luke 24:17-24 NIV)

Notice how the disciples tell the story. They had “hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Now, because he died, they doubted this to be the case. They were stuck in one moment of the story, discouraged because they didn’t know the end of it (although they should have since Jesus told them repeatedly!). The story continues:

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

Jesus already knows the end of the story and when he explains it to the disciples it completely reshapes how to read everything that came before it. He takes them through the Scriptures and shows them all the things concerning him.

So my point was that we have to maintain our faith when things get rough. When it seems like God isn’t fulfilling the things he has promised we need to be patient. We can’t get caught up in the individual moments of the story because the next moment can completely change the one before it. We have to rest assured that the divine Author knows how to tell a good story. I’m not the biggest Jesse Duplantis fan in the world but he always said one thing stuck with me; he used to say, “I read the end of the book—we win!” Amen to that!



14 thoughts on “The Good Author

  1. I’m not much of a Jesse DuPlantis fan either, but I’ve got a friend who swears by his Cajun cookbook, haha. Anyways, good insights in your message.

  2. Now that, Mr. Needs2BanAuthor, was an excellent story/sermon!

    “27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,…”
    Have you ever wondered why Jesus picked this place rather than further back in the story?

  3. Nancy – just a thought – it says be began with Moses and the prophets. Does that mean he ignored David, Solomon, etc.? or the Patriarchs? I think not – perhaps he just started with the more obvious “sources” in the OT – because it then says “all the Scriptures”. Maybe that’s a lesson when we’re witnessing that we should not use the more nuanced passages first.

  4. Nick: Once again, I tip my hat to you for the reminder – very good timing for me today! I would also add the observation that when God writes His story, He is infinitely conservative. That is, there is no such thing as a “filler” character or a loose plot line – every little thing that we think of as of no consequence is there for a reason.

    I’ve gotta say, I think you’d enjoy Markus Zusak’s “I Am the Messenger”. It’s a great example of that conservative, everything-with-a-purpose story, for one thing (not to mention a certain revelation at the end that absolutely clinches it as my favorite fiction book). But whatever you do, don’t read the Amazon reviews – there is too much they give away that would lessen the impact. Trust me on this one. ;-)

  5. Although, as I think about it, I can always copy and paste some of the reviews that don’t contain spoilers and e-mail it to you. If you’re interested.

  6. I once heard Jesse Duplantis tell a story about how he was taking up to Heaven while driving his car on the interstate, and when he came out of his ecstasy he was on the off ramp for his exit, having driven the whole way without getting in an accident.

    The point about what we know about the end of story shaping what we know about the beginning and the middle is very well taken, and has been observed by literary critics, and has been ably articulated by Peter Rabinowitz in Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation (Columbus: Ohio State, 1998). The book is available online here.

  7. Nancy: Yeah… duh!

    Tom: Good point and I’ll keep that book in mind (it is a book, right?). As for filler, I guess you’re right, but what are Unitarians if not filler? ;-)

    Esteban: Wait, so Jesse went to heaven twice?!! Wow! He’s quite the popular guy. I’ve only heard of his one visit and how once he returned the glory of God emanated from him to the point that an entire church was slain in the Spirit the moment he opened his mouth to speak. I wasn’t there so I can’t say that it didn’t happen, but I’ve always wondered.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll have to put all the files together into one PDF. I don’t know why they couldn’t have just done it for me!

  8. Yes, evidently he went to Heaven at least twice! I know he has a book on the subject, but needless to say, I have never read it. Perhaps there have been other trips?

    I had not heard about the trip to Heaven that you describe, or about the Spirit-slaying incident of which you speak, but perhaps it happened as he says: surely anyone who knows differently would have spoken up by now, right? My own question would relate to the matter of whether anybody hit their head on a chair when they were thus slained.

    As for the Rabinowitz book, I have no idea, but I do know that publishers like to make people’s lives miserable…

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