I have a picture from 1917 or ’18 of my grandfather’s army company. It is one of those panoramic pictures that a photographer took in numerous shots and then seamlessly joined together. Because of the way the picture was taken, it was possible for a man on one end of that long row of soldiers to sprint to the other end and have his picture taken a second time. So, in some of these old photos, you will find the same soldier on both ends of the same row at what seems like the same time! I suppose it would be possible to find the same soldier in one of these panoramic pictures on both ends and in the middle.
It is like that when we take a panoramic look at the Scriptures. We look in the beginning, at the creation, and then we turn our gaze to the end, to the judgment, and beyond. And at both the beginning and the end, we find the same figure. We look in the middle, and there he is again! And there, and there! Wherever we look, we find Jesus Christ. He is “the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.”
God’s story is as seamless as one of those old panoramic pictures, and everywhere we look we find him. Sometimes we get the idea that God’s story has been interrupted, started and stopped, or that the theme has occasionally changed. It is not so. It is one story from beginning to end. God is both the author and the actor. The Bible is, in that sense, autobiographical. It is the story of what God has done and is doing to right what has been wronged in his creation. It is the story of his love and faithfulness or, as the Scripture often puts it, his righteousness.
When I first came into possession of the panoramic picture of Company A (or whichever company it was), I went over it with a magnifying glass, trying to pick out my grandfather. Often, we do something similar with the biblical story. We focus on one detail, to the exclusion of everything else.
Now that is not wrong; in fact it is a good thing. Every detail deserves our scrutiny and rewards our effort. But sometimes it is necessary to back up and scan the whole picture, to get a wide-angle view.
On the plains of Peru there is a network of strange lines made by the ancient people, the Nazea. Some of these lines cover as many as ten square miles. For years archeologists assumed that the lines were what remained of ancient irrigation ditches.
Then in 1939, Dr. Paul Kosok of Long Island University, discovered what they really were. He flew over those plains and, from an aerial view he could see that the ancient lines that seemed so random at ground level were in fact enormous drawings – like pictographs – of birds and animals and insects.
Just so, from one perspective, the stories of the Bible seem detached and unrelated. But as we survey them from a wider angle, we suddenly see how one line leads to another to form one great picture of God’s redemptive purpose – from Genesis to the Revelation. And while there are many great men and women in the Bible, we discover that there really is only one protagonist, the lead actor throughout, and that is the Lord God himself. A wide angle view of the Bible can help us see with greater clarity (or, perhaps, see for the first time) what God is up to, and how we fit into it.