Tag Archives: God’s Metanarrative

The Epic of Eden by Sandra L. Richter

the-epic-of-edenSandra Richter is an associate professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary who has taught the Old Testament for decades in “an array of educational and ministry positions.”[1] During her tenure she noticed that the overwhelming majority of Christians do not know and/or understand how the Old Testament impacts their lives as a follower of Jesus. Moreover, a lot of Christians do not have a structure in place to help them make sense of the overall story line. The Epic of Eden is Richter’s solution to this ignorance where she tries to provide a structure that modern Christian can learn to understand and love the Old Testament.[2]

Using the analogy of a “dysfunctional closet” Richter begins to create a structure upon which the Old Testament facts and stories can be hung.[3] Chapter one begins by first discussing the culture in which the Old Testament was written followed by a chapter on rehearsing the “story of redemption through the lenses of real space and time.”[4] In chapter three, Richter begins to hang “clothes” on the closet structure through an understanding of the “concept of covenant.”[5] Richter, like other scholars before her, sees the theology of the Old Testament as being organized around “five covenantal interactions” connected to five biblical figures: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.[6]

After outlining the basic historical concept of a covenant, Richter shifts gears for chapters four and five. In these chapters she first discusses “God’s Original Intent” for humanity before dealing with “God’s Final Intent” (chapters four and five respectively).[7] The end result of these discussions being that God’s original and final intent for humanity is for humanity to dwell in “God’s place with full access to his presence.” [8] Seeing how things went wrong in Eden with Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel, God embarked on a rescue mission to restore his lost relationship with humanity. This goal was “accomplished in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.” [9] While the covenants have been fulfilled in Jesus, Christians still live between the “already” and “not yet” where we are “restored but waiting, free but bound, born again yet still experiencing death.” [10]

Having discussed God’s covenantal interaction with Adam in chapter four, Richter begins to flesh out the details behind the remaining four covenantal interactions in chapters six through eight. God’s covenants with Noah and Abraham are dealt with in chapter six, Moses in chapter seven and David in chapter eight. The last chapter of the book deals with Jesus and the fulfillment of the “impossible rescue plan first hinted at in Genesis 3:15” after the rebellion of Adam and Eve.[11] As Richter states at the end of the book, “what began in Eden, ends in Eden” with “God’s original intent to offer kingdom citizenship to every man, women and child” being “reaccomplished in Christ.” [12]

On a personal level, though I like the overall flow and message of Richter’s book, I see the storyline of the Old Testament a bit differently. To me, the story being less about the covenants the Creator King makes with his people and more about kingship of God and his mission to establish his rule and reign over all of creation. This shift in focus, though subtle, helps one keep their eyes on the person of God rather than on what he has promised. It is, after all, the relationship with the Creator King that will last long after the covenants have been fulfilled.


Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008.


[1] Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008), 17-18.

[2] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 16-20.

[3] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 17-18.

[4] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 17.

[5] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 69.

[6] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 69-70.

[7] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 92 & 119.

[8] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 118.

[9] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 134.

[10] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 132.

[11] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 216.

[12] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 224.

Our Place In The Story (Act 5 Scene 3)

This past Sunday was the last week of our eight month journey through the Bible tracing the metanarrative  or grand story of God. Being the last sermon in the series,  this sermon served two purposes: 1) a recap of the entire eight months and 2) an arrow pointing forward to our part in The Story.

Five Act Shakespeare Play

Along this journey we used N.T. Wright’s outline of a lost Shakespeare play with the final act missing. This ‘newly discovered’ lay is wonderful, full of drama, passion and amazing insight into the human soul – this play is destined to be a classic on par with Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. The only one problem is that missing last act….

So what do you do?  Well, you pull together the best Shakespearean actors and actress on the planet – the ones that know all of Shakespeare’s other plays – you give them all the acts that you have – the first four acts – you have them study them, to enter into the story – to learn and know the characters in the play – then you put on the play with the actors living out the last act within the theme and direction of the first four acts.

This is us – we are in the fifth act of God’s story.

We have the first four acts recorded in the Bible – shoot, we even have the first and last pages of Act 5! We just don’t have the pages in the middle… so what are we going to do? I pray that we learn the first four acts with all our hearts, mind, soul, and spirit – let us enter into the God’s story with all that we are so that we can live out our part in the story in line with those who have gone before us – the cloud of witnesses as the author of the book of Hebrews says.

Continue reading Our Place In The Story (Act 5 Scene 3)

Church History (Act 5 Scene 2)

This last Sunday service was a a tad different as we looked at the church history between Acts chapter 28 and today (Act 5 Scene 2 in the Grand Story of God).

While history may not be in the Bible, this is a very, very important topic as God did not stop working after St. Luke penned the final words of Acts. He is very much active today and He has always been active within history.

There is a reason that the majority of the Scripture is written as history – Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah, Matthew, Luke, Mark, John, and Acts. They are all history books detailing the work of God among humanity… and if God deemed it important enough to include the history of the Jewish people in His Sacred Text, than I feel it is important to know the history of the Church, birthed with Jesus and infused with the Holy Spirit.

The prophet Jeremiah speaks to this in the sixth chapter:

16 This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
-Jeremiah 6:16

The “ancient paths” => we are not alone on this journey. There have been many followers of Jesus who has walked this path before us. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are “surrounded” by a “great cloud of witnesses” who are cheering us on – encouraging us to finish the race set before us by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Continue reading Church History (Act 5 Scene 2)

A New Age Begins (Act 4 Scene 2)

Have you ever watched one of those confusing movies where after a minute or two of video the film flashes back to a few years previously? Just when I started to get the hang of that, the person who I thought was the main character dies. Now I’m REALLY confused. What is the point of the film? Who is the good guy? Is there a good guy? And what the heck is going on?!

For many years I felt the same way about the Bible. Being an avid reader, I picked up the Bible and started at the front. There was this deal about a guy named Adam and his girl, Eve. But they didn’t hang around very long – just long enough to screw up everything.

Trying to keep an open mind, I continued to read – only to get more and more confused as first one character and then another comes on the scene only to die a few chapters later. I was beginning to think that while God was a good at creating planets and the like, He was terrible at writing a book!

After what seemed like eternity, someone let me in on the secret: start with part about Jesus of Nazareth. Flipping past three-quarters of the book, I found the part about Jesus and started reading. Boy did things start making sense – I had found the main character and He was pretty cool!

However, there was one thing in story about Jesus that I did not understand. He kept talking about and referring to the “kingdom of God”  or the “kingdom of heaven” . What in the world is the “kingdom of God”? I knew about the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – and I believe there was a movie called the “Kingdom of Heaven”, which I don’t think Jesus was talking about.

The Message of Jesus of Nazareth

Most of you would agree – or I hope, would agree – that Jesus of Nazareth is the main character in the drama of history. Paul tells us in Ephesians (2:20) that Jesus was the “chief cornerstone” on which the apostles and the prophets were built. In Galatians (3:19), Paul goes one step further and says that the first five books of the Bible (the Mosaic Law) points toward the person of Jesus. Shoot, Jesus said as much about himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 23:27)!

If all of history points towards Jesus, then I think the message that he shared is of great importance. Luckily for us, we have two eye witness accounts (Matthew and John) and two investigative reports (Luke and Mark) of Jesus’ First Century ministry. In them we see that primary phrase used to describe Jesus’ message is the “kingdom of God” or the “kingdom of heaven”, which is just a Jewish way of saying the “kingdom of God” since the Jews did not like to mention the name of God.

Continue reading A New Age Begins (Act 4 Scene 2)

The Invasion of God – Birth of Jesus (Act 4 Scene 1)

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Over the past few months we have been walking through the Bible – Genesis to Revelations – looking at the grand story of God and how our lives fit into His story.

Today marks a radical shift in this story for as we celebrate the birth for Jesus – the invasion of God into Present Evil Age. Life – human history – would never be the same after that first Christmas. The story of God had reached its climax…

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Before we can fully understand the significance of Christmas we must look at how the birth of Jesus fits within the grand story of God.

Lost Shakespeare Play

The story of God is best told as a five part act – all pointing forwarding and connected with each other. It is like a discovering a lost Shakespeare play– it is wonderful, full of drama, passion and amazing insight into the human soul – this play is destined to be a classic on par with Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. There is only one problem… the last act is missing…

So what do you do?  You pull together the best Shakespearean actors and actress on the planet – the ones that know all of Shakespeare’s other plays – you give them all the acts that you have – the first four acts – you have them study them, to enter into the story – to learn and know the characters in the play – then you put on the play with the actors living out the last act within the theme and direction of the first four acts.

This is us – we are in the fifth act of God’s story.

Review the Grand Story

Act 1: God is King

o    Scene 1a: Creation (Genesis 1)

– Who created the heavens and the earth?
– Was it formed by multiple gods? Or by accident?
– Science cannot answer the question of WHO. It only seeks to answer the question of HOW.
– Two different questions….
– If we are to enter into the Story of God, we need to enter into the WHO – join with Him, the one who made everything by simply speaking. Science does not need to scare us or frighten us as we know the One who started everything and created the laws of nature that science studies.

Continue reading The Invasion of God – Birth of Jesus (Act 4 Scene 1)

The Exile (Act 3 Scene 8a)

We have covered a lot of ground since May 15th when we started on this journey through the Bible. We looked at how stories govern our lives and influence the choices that we make.

We looked at the differences between God’s Story and the American Dream, the Dream of Novelty and entertainment, the “White Picket Fence” story, the “John Wayne” self-sufficient-me-against-the-world story, the “Retirement Story”

We have seen the passion of God to draw all people to Himself. We have seen how the theme of Leviticus 26:11-12 has guided the mission of God from the very beginning:

I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.  -Leviticus 26:11-12

As part of this mission, God invited humanity to join Him – to join their story into His; to change their story to one that impacts the entire world. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, and so forth all decided to join with God versus trying to do it on their own.

Yes, they messed up at times…but they got back up and kept on walking with God. Just like we are to do today – we also have, are, being invited to join with God in His mission right here in the Payette River drainage.  There may be days, minutes or week when we are slightly off…but this doesn’t mean that we are ‘out’… NO! We are to get back up and keep on walking!!

Learning about the Story…

As we learned about God’s Story we have seen how He created a nation out of a family of slaves. How He joined this family with other slaves and outcasts in the area to start one of the best nations in the history of humanity.
Sadly this nation did not continue to walk with God.

They allowed the pressures of the world – the fame, the wealth, the habits and stories of the people around them to derail them from following God. There were some times when they tried to get back up – some kings of Judah who tried to get back to their first love….but somehow, someway their efforts failed and the nation was plugged back into darkness.

Yet God was not left without a witness; no matter how dark the land got or how much injustices there was in the land, God always had a remnant of men and women who stayed faithful to Him. They followed the King of Kings regardless of what was going on around them.

Finally God had enough. No longer was He going to keep blessing and protecting a rebellious people – a people who, while claiming to be His children, were not living according to the love, mercy, and justice that embodies God Himself.

So after numerous warnings, the Lord uses the nation of Assyria to conquer the northern 10 tribes (i.e. the nation of Israel). You would think that this action would wake up the southern nation of Judah…but it did not… so God sent the Babylonian Empire to destroy both the nation and the temple in Jerusalem.

Continue reading The Exile (Act 3 Scene 8a)

The Prophets (Act 3 Scene 6b)

The primary function of a prophet of God was to call the king and the people back to the Lord when they start worshiping false idols and gods.

Sometimes during this message, they did foretell the future – usually in a negative sense, as in “If you fail to turn back to God, judgment and discipline is coming.” Granted, they also dropped hints of what would happen to those who followed God (i.e. the new heaven and earth, the coming of Jesus Christ, the breaking in of the Age to Come).

It is like looking at the mountains – you think you are looking at one peak when in reality you are looking at two peaks (one up close and one further back and higher).This means that a lot of what the prophets are saying came true during the time in which they lived while some of it was meant for a future age.

As you can image, this makes reading these books at tad difficult…

Yet I firmly believe that we NEED to read them as we need to hear how much God cares about us and His unwillingness to let us wander off alone into this messed up world.

When we do read them, I feel that we need to keep three things in mind:

1)    Read them through the lens of Jesus and the grand story of God.

One of the cool things about learning the grand story of God is that when we read things we don’t really understand we can use the big picture to help us figure things out. It also helps that we are reading these books after the coming of Jesus (which was foretold by several of these prophet) so we have the ‘inside’ scope.

Continue reading The Prophets (Act 3 Scene 6b)

The Divided Kingdom (Act 3 Scene 6a)

Two weeks ago we talked about the reign of King Solomon

•    It was a picture of God’s Kingdom

o    Every area of life

* Science
* Arts
* Business
* Religious

•    Yet, Solomon made mistakes

o    700 wives and 300 concubines
o    These ladies turned his heart against God
o    Solomon build temples to false gods throughout the land

•    Warning from God right after he build the temple

o    1 Kings 9:3-9
o    If Solomon followed God, God would make sure his family would continue to rule the land on God’s behalf
o    If not, than God would take them out

This is exactly what happened as Solomon did not listen or take this warning to heart.

Divided Kingdom

•    Jeroboam was a Ephraimite and one of Solomon’s officials

o    In charge of Solomon’s work forces

•    Met Ahijah, the prophet of Shiloh

o    Ahijah took a new cloak and ripped it into 12 pieces
o    Told Jeroboam to take 10 pieces

Continue reading The Divided Kingdom (Act 3 Scene 6a)

The Story of Solomon (Act 3 Scene 5e)

18th century Russian icon of King Solomon

God’s desire has always been to spread the knowledge of this glory throughout the world. It is only logical that some point in Israel’s history we would see a crescendo of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament. Solomon’s reign as king shows such a climax.

[Full audio version of this sermon can be found on the PRV website]

•    Solomon’s dream

o    Asks for wisdom
o    Read 1 Kings 3:5-15

•    Wise ruling of the two mothers
•    Secured the borders (rest in the land)
•    Builds the temple

o    Before this sacrifices to God was made throughout the land
o    The Temple consolidated power to Jerusalem and with the King
o    Took seven years to build
o    One of the Wonders of the Ancient world

•    Dedication of the temple

o    The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holiness

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.  -1 Kings 8:10-11

Continue reading The Story of Solomon (Act 3 Scene 5e)

Did God Really Want a Temple?

Something strange struck me last week as I prepared to talk about King Solomon at church Sunday as part of our journey through the Bible tracing the grand story of God from Genesis to Revelation.

God Himself did not plan for nor tell anyone to build Himself a temple.

It may sound like a dumb idea as the concept of a temple is so heavily interwoven into the fabric of Judaism and Christianity. Generations of people have fought, cried, prayed towards and otherwise thought about the small 37-acre plot of land were Solomon’s Temple once stood

Yet it stands that the building of a temple for God was David’s idea – something he came up with while relaxing in his palace (2 Samuel 7:1-2). Similar to the concept of a human king, this idea no doubt came about after noticing that neighboring nations build had beautiful temples for their gods.

The God of the Hebrews, on the other hand, had a simple tent that was to house the Ark of Covenant and other miscellaneous items of worship – granted, by this time, the Ark was hanging out in a separate tent pitched by David at Jerusalem [2 Sam 6:17] while the Tabernacle was miles away at Gibeon [1 Kings 8:4]. This tent, or Tabernacle, was a war-tent originally built during the wanders of the Hebrew people through the desert during the time of Moses and was to remind everyone that God dwelt among them as their Lord and King.

Unfortunately, David and his son Solomon were not content with such an arrangement so they decided to build God a temple that would wow the nations. For some reason, God decided to go along with this plan – probably because of the same reason He allowed the Hebrew people to have a human king, and most likely, because He understood the heart of these men to love and serve Him.

Whatever the reason, God heard their prayers and “consecrated” the temple and placed His Name “there forever” (1 Kings 9:3). However, at the same time God gave Solomon a warning that He would remove His presence and destroy the temple if Solomon or his sons ever turned their back on Him (1 Kings 9:6-9).

Continue reading Did God Really Want a Temple?