As a child growing up my family had a book called, “The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes” by Kenneth N Taylor. You can find the version we had on eBay and Amazon these days. Even though they have a 2002 version selling today, it is very different than the one we had as children.
This book gathered very realistic oil paintings of Bible stories from artists over the years. The pictures looked more like photographs than the pastel cartoons that the other Bible story books we had. It was a lot of dark, warm colors that were in stark contrast to the fairy-tale-like stories I saw elsewhere.
The main point of the book was to give realistic illustrations and ask real questions about the account in scripture. It pulled no punches. I can still close my eyes and see the picture of the ground opening up to swallow the Israelites who did not follow what God had said (Numbers 26) or the ones with people escaping the death of snake bites by looking at the bronze pole God allowed to be their salvation (Numbers 21).
Old Testament is brutal at times, but there was grace in it too.
Each picture had 3-4 thought-provoking questions about the scene. One such painting had the story of Abraham sacrificing Issac. The question that will always remember was, “Do you see the lamb? Do you see the lamb hiding in the thicket?”
Now before you start thinking about how this must have scared me as a small child. Let me reassure you. Before coming to know Christ I was very sanguine and am still quite morbid, so it was right up my alley. It did something else too (the thing intended by my mother and aunt who found it in the first place). It made it more realistic.
Even today I view scripture differently. I can see the melodramatic escapades of the Hebrews. Or the real fear in the eyes of Peter as He is sinking into the sea he had just walked on. I still read passages and find myself asking real, hard, and truth-digging questions.
Now the question arises, when did we relegate the power of scripture to fables or fairy tales?
Maybe with our pastel story books we have viewed them that way a bit.
But for those who grew up in the church and could really picture the giant fall or the lame man rise, I ask, When did it begin to be just be a story?
When did we start reading these for the morals instead of for the powerful work of God?
When did we start reading the Bible like it was about us instead of about Him?
When did we start to water it down into fables for good people or fairy tales for people who don’t live in the hard circumstances we are trudging through?
I pray we can shift our focus, because it is a God who calmed seas that can help our difficult circumstances. It is a God who came for the Jew and the Gentile who can help us understand racial reconciliation and refugee help. It is a God-man who cried over the death of a friend.
Father, help us see your word with new eyes and teach it to each other with the bold power you began it.