Thursday, January 21, 2016

Getting the Big Picture

Sometimes life can be so humdrum and repetitious that we fail to see the big picture. Georges Seurat was a big picture person. He introduced a technique known as pointillism, which is a portrait painted from thousands of tiny dots. From up close it just looks like so many dots, but as you back away the picture begins to emerge. The Bible is a big picture book even though it is filled with thousands of details.[1]

As we read through the Pentateuch, we can get lost in the details of Exodus and Leviticus, so it is helpful to back away and try to get the big picture of what God is doing. Exodus 29:45-46 helps us do just that: “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”

This is God saying the reason I brought you out of Egypt and gave you a tabernacle and a priesthood in the wilderness was to make it possible for us to dwell together. The whole idea of the God of heaven making his dwelling on earth is incomprehensible. This is, however, the big picture. It’s what God wants for us. He wants to make us holy so we can serve him and fulfill his glorious purpose in our lives.  

We have so many distractions in life that it makes it hard for us to see God’s big picture for our lives. We struggle with our health, our money, our interpersonal relationships and so many other things—and they all just look like dots. As we get quiet and focus on God’s big picture, we see so much more. We see what really matters in life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about death shortly before he was executed by Hitler. It’s clear as he painted a big picture with his words that God had helped him focus on what really mattered:

No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected, and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence. Whether we are young or old makes no difference. What are twenty or thirty or fifty years in the sight of God? And which of us knows how near he or she may already be to the goal? That life only really begins when it ends here on earth, that all that is here is only the prologue before the curtain goes up—that is for young and old alike to think about. Why are we so afraid when we think about death? . . . Death is only dreadful for those who live in dread and fear of it. Death is not wild and terrible, if only we can be still and hold fast to God’s Word. Death is not bitter, if we have not become bitter ourselves. Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in him. Death is mild, death is sweet and gentle; it beckons to us with heavenly power, if only we realize that it is the gateway to our homeland, the tabernacle of joy, the everlasting kingdom of peace. How do we know that dying is so dreadful? Who knows whether, in our human fear and anguish we are only shivering and shuddering at the most glorious, heavenly, blessed event in the world? Death is hell and night and cold, if it is not transformed by our faith. But that is just what is so marvelous, that we can transform death. [2]

[1]Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL 2005, P. 911.
[2] Metaxas, Eric, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Location 10448-10454

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