We all love a good story don’t we. Whether it’s getting lost in a great novel, sitting around a camp fire reminiscing of the “good old days,” or gladly hearing that same story Uncle Tom tells every year at Christmas about the “snow storm of ’72,” we all love a good story. The art of story telling is as old and respected as the world God created.
In the study of narrative there is what’s known as a framing story. A framing story is a literary technique that embeds smaller stories into a larger overarching story. In a sense, it could be stated as a story within a story. Sometimes those embedded stories don’t help to reinforce the larger story, but often times they do.
When it comes to viewing the Bible through the lens of story, the concept of a framing story can be helpful in putting all of scripture together. All too often people approach the Bible as a bunch of disconnected stories that teach disconnected moral lessons. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This has come to light for me again while reading through the story of the kings of Israel, which is one of those stories within the larger story of scripture.
The story of the kings of Israel starts out with King David passing on his rule of Israel to his son, Solomon. But with each passing king and each passing generation the nation as a whole drifts further and further away from the Lord, to the point where at the end of the story countless generations have no awareness or knowledge of the Word of the Lord that was given to his people through Moses.
As the Lord watches the nation drift away, it becomes evident that his people are transferring their allegiance from him to the gods of other nations. The result of this generational legacy of idol worship is exile. The nation as a whole is hauled off into exile by Assyria and Babylon.
While the story of the kings of Israel is pretty grim, it has an unusual ending that actually gives way to scripture’s larger framing story.
The king at the time of exile was a king named Jehoiachin. It’s no big surprise, but he was said to be an “evil king” whose rule was short lived. It was only three months long before the Babylonians descended on the nation and took him and the people captive. But then, after 37 years of captivity, here’s how the story ends,
In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin from prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.
King after king after king that is said to have “done evil in the sight of the Lord.” Generation after generation after generation characterized by idol worship. Story after story of God’s people drifting further and further and further away… and this is how it ends? An evil king is shown kindness, he’s released from slavery and ends up being treated as royalty?
It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t add up.
And that’s exactly the point.
When we step back and survey the larger framing story of the Bible, we come to see that the Bible isn’t really about us and whether or not we are good or bad people, it’s about God. It’s about God taking broken people and broken situations to serve his purpose of bringing healing, wholeness and redemption.
Even though the story of the different kings of Israel is grim, and even though it ends in exile, the release of Jehoiachin gives a little glimmer of hope. Because even though he was an evil king, when we jump to the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, we find Jehioachin’s name listed (although it’s spelled Jeconiah, v11). His release from captivity preserves the line of people who ultimately brings us to Jesus, the one who releases all of humanity from our own captivity to sin.
From beginning to end, the story that frames every other story in scripture is the story of God bringing redemption through Jesus. Everything before Jesus points towards him. Everything after Jesus reminds us of him. Jesus is the one who holds the entire story of scripture together.
So I guess the question that comes to mind to wrap up this post is… does the story of your life point towards and reinforce the larger story of what Jesus is doing in the world? Or, does it point to something else?
Grace and Peace.