Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, January 25, 2008

God's Storytellers

What kind of story do you want tonight?” I asked my three children as they prepared for bed.
“A Bible story!” exclaimed the middle child, Mikey.
“Not a Bible story,” disagreed eight-year-old big brother, Cyrus. “The Bible is boring!”
This was the first time I had ever heard one of my children refer to the Bible as boring. But I can certainly remember making the same comment when I was a kid! I didn’t know how to combat the statement, so I answered, “What kind of story would you like, Cyrus?”
“A cool story,” he replied, “about dragons or swords, or something like that.”
An idea began to form in my mind and I smiled internally. “Hmmm,” I said, “So if there was a Bible story with a dragon or sword, then the Bible would be cool?”
“Sure,” came his confident reply, “But there isn’t one, because the Bible is true and dragon’s aren’t real.”
“Ah, but there is a story about a dragon in the Bible,” I replied with a sly smirk.
Now, I need to be honest—I have been known to tell a fib or two to my children (and other people’s children, if I get the chance) so, the response of my three was understandable. “Really, Dad? You’re making it up!”
“Yes, really,” I answered. “It’s a prophecy found in the book of Revelation.”
“Tell it to us,” they demanded, convinced they were calling my bluff. The three skeptics sat back, unsure but expectant.
“It starts with a woman who was very pregnant,” I said, drawing my hands spherically over my belly to imitate a woman with child. “And she was standing on the moon.”
“DAD!” all three kids chimed together, obviously disappointed that I had revealed the story as a hoax so early in the telling.
“It’s true!” I stated emphatically, “It’s in the Bible!”
Raised eyebrows and crossed arms accosted me as silence returned to the room. “The woman began to have her baby and screamed in pain. When she screamed, the dragon heard her and began to fly toward the moon. With each scream, the dragon’s wings beat faster, drawing it nearer to its target—the newborn baby. The dragon was going to eat the baby!”
All three kids were leaning forward, hanging on every word. The story had pulled them in—perhaps the most powerful aspect of prophecy!
“As the woman screamed a final scream, pushing out a baby boy, the dragon landed on the moon and skidded toward the woman. The woman reached out to catch the baby. The dragon swung his seven heads toward the boy—seven gaping mouths, with 14 rows of razor-sharp teeth, opened wide. Then, amazingly, a huge hand swept in and caught the baby, whisking Him away to heaven. The dragon was not happy. He leapt off the moon and chased after the hand, which was accelerating toward heaven.
“By the time the dragon reached heaven, the baby had grown into a man, named Michael, and was waiting on the edge of heaven—with a sword in His hands. And there was war in heaven. Michael and His angels faced the dragon and his angels, and drove them out of heaven. The fight was furious. With each swing of the swords of righteousness, the enemy was pushed, bit by bit, out of heaven. Until, finally, the dragon tumbled out of heaven and plummeted to the earth.
“When the dragon landed on earth, he saw the woman standing in the desert. He clawed his way toward her, picking up speed as he ran, intent on killing her. If he couldn’t get the baby and he couldn’t get heaven, he would kill the woman.
“Seeing the dragon catapulting toward her, the woman began to run deeper into the desert. The dragon was much faster and gained ground rapidly. Luckily, the woman sprouted wings like an eagle and flew into the air.”
“DAD!” the kids interrupted.
“It’s true!” I pleaded, “It’s in the Bible!”
Their scowls lessened and they settled down for the rest of the story.
“The woman flew as fast as she could but was still not fast enough. The dragon took seven huge breaths into his seven huge mouths and breathed out . . .” I paused to hear their response.
“Fire?” they guessed.
“No!” I exclaimed, “Water! A huge torrent of bubbling, gushing water—a flood rushing toward the woman. It was higher than she could fly, wider than she could see and faster than she could imagine. The wave was going to catch her.
“Then the desert floor opened. A huge chasm cracked open and swallowed every drop of the rushing wave. With the water now gone, the dragon looked at the place where the woman had been. She was gone. While the water blocked the dragon’s view, the hand of God took the woman and hid her where the dragon couldn’t find her.
“The dragon had been outdone again. Just as he hadn’t been able to kill the baby, just as he hadn’t been able to overthrow heaven, he now failed to kill the woman. This made the dragon more angry than he had ever been. He decided on a new attack—he would attack the woman’s other children. And that is just what he did!”
I looked at my three kids, sitting transfixed. They were waiting for more. “That’s the end of the prophecy, the end of the story,” I said.
“But what about the children? Did the dragon get them?” one child asked.
“Well,” I replied, “in prophecy, everything in the story represents something in real life. Who do you think the dragon is?”
“The Devil?” came the quick response.
“Very good!” I affirmed. “And what about the baby, or Michael?”
“Jesus!” They replied in unison.
“Excellent” I said, “and the Woman?”
“Mary, Jesus’ mother?” guessed one of the kids.
“Close and I can see why you would think that,” I replied. “Mary and Joseph fled into the desert, didn’t they? And King Herod tried to kill baby Jesus when He was with His parents. The prophecy could remind people of Jesus’ earthly parents. But the woman in the prophecy actually represents God’s Church—those who follow God’s Word. Both before and after Jesus was here on earth, the church has been persecuted for teaching the truth.”
“But what about the children?” asked one of the kids. “Did the dragon get them?”
“We are the children,” I replied. “At the end of the prophecy, in Revelation 12:17, it says the dragon started attacking all those who follow the 10 Commandments and tell the story of Jesus. That’s what the Devil is doing right now. Can you tell me some ways that the Devil attacks God’s people?”
“By hurting people?” one child suggested.
“And by making us hurt each other,” answered another.
“Yes, you’re both right,” I replied. “Satan is doing anything and everything he can, to either hurt people who are keeping God’s commandments or cause them to stop obeying God. He hates God and wants to hurt Him. And Satan knows that God loves us. So, by hurting God’s people, Satan knows he is hurting God.”

the power of story
Reflecting later on the prophecy in Revelation 12, I was amazed that I had never told it as a narrative before. In fact, I realised, I had never told any prophecy as a story. I had used them to “proof text” my way through the truth of the Bible and its key points. And yet, many prophecies were given as fantastic stories. How had I missed that?
I am a passionate storyteller and tell Bible stories to thousands of children and adults each year. And yet, I have completely ignored the prophecies when researching Bible stories to tell. I now tell the Revelation 12 story regularly. And I have made a commitment to learn and tell more prophecies. They are powerful narratives and deserve to be told and retold—surely that’s why God presented them in story format. Stories are remembered. Stories are shared. Stories are powerful!
Some weeks later, I was tucking Mikey into bed. That evening, while having dinner, we had been talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Evidently, Mikey had been thinking about it for quite a while.
As I tucked the blanket around his little six-year-old frame, he said, “I know what I’m going to do when I grow up, Dad.”
“Really, Mike?” I replied. “Tell me, what are you going to do when you grow up?”
“I’m gonna kill the Devil,” he said with conviction.
I was stunned, not to mention a little bit perplexed. “How are you going to kill the Devil?” I asked.
“I guess I’ll get some metal, melt it and make a sword,” Mikey replied. “Then I’ll poke him in the tummy.”
I knew I should tell him that Jesus had already done this for us—His death on the cross took care of Satan once and for all. But I was too enthralled in the mind of this little warrior. “What makes you think you are the one—out of the billions of people on the planet—who is going to kill the Devil?” I asked in wonder.
He looked at me like I had missed something extremely obvious­—as if everyone knew, except me. He took a big breath and let it out slowly, as if he were explaining something to a child. “Dad, I am Michael, you know.”
And that is the power of story. Mikey had listened to the prophetic parable of Revelation 12 and heard his own name in there—Michael, the dragon slayer. And his future was mapped out for him. It’s no wonder Jesus said we must have the hearts of little children to enter the kingdom of God!
Unleash the power of Bible prophecy in your life and the lives of those around you. Explore the stories in God’s Word. Tell them often. And become part of the Dragon’s bane—God’s storytellers.