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      The Inkwell The Storyteller
Mark Weaver and John Jenkins

Are there secrets to the art and craft of storytelling? Can they be learned? Or are some people just naturally gifted with the ability to tell a good story?

For the Christian, no story is more beautiful nor more powerful than the story of Christ our Redeemer coming to earth, living among us, and offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. And regular readers of Scripture soon experience an epiphany when they realize that Christ's appearance on earth was not God's afterthought, but rather the fulfillment of His Master Plan from the very beginning.

God is the Master Storyteller. Since before Adam’s first breath, His story has been playing out across the stage of our terrestrial globe - a theatre of grand proportions. He created the sweeping drama of nations, kingdoms, tribes and souls.

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that God's story is really the universal template for all good stories. In the same way that Scripture uses allegory 1 to communicate God’s message, this article will also employ the allegorical form to aid the reader. Allegories can assist us in portaying Biblical truths more effectively so we can better comprehend God’s nature, His character, His plans, and His purposes.

By studying Scripture we learn that life is not haphazard - that nations and individuals do not appear out of nowhere and that they do not exist without purpose. We begin to understand that history is actually an extensive drama crafted by God for His own glory. History is, after all, a story - His story.

Drama is defined as a succession of events or a progression of incidents having a starting and ending point and producing an emotional effect. Before actors are engaged in any dramatic production, three key positions must be staffed - playwright, producer and director. The providential 2 view of history holds that God fills all three roles.

GOD THE PLAYWRIGHT. First, God is the all-knowing playwright, scripting a story laden with majestic themes - a story filled with conflict, failure, defeat, bravery, heroism and victory. As playwright, God insures that it is His story being told and that it is His heart which is being communicated. He masterfully crafts every unique character - both nations and individual souls. He foreknows how they will act, move and respond through every scene.

"The world 's a theatre, the earth a stage, which God and Nature do with actors fill.
Thomas Heywood: Apology for Actors. 1612.

GOD THE PRODUCER. Second, behind every dramatic production, whether local theater, Broadway musical, or film, stands a second key player - the producer. The producer is the visionary who brings all the pieces together. He gathers the resources and has ultimate ownership over the final production. As the producer of history, God carries the entire burden for insuring the success of His story.

GOD THE DIRECTOR. Finally, between the playwright and producer stands the director. God fills this role too. He involves Himself intimately with every component of His historical drama. He is present at the production site, moving characters and props, setting stages and making sure the actors know their roles and lines. He oversees the production scene by scene. He selects costumes and supervises the construction of scenery, then coaches and instructs all of His players in their roles.

The beauty and majesty of the whole heavenly storytelling process is that God somehow manages to fill all three of these roles while still allowing for the element of free will amongst men and nations. What a marvelous, mysterious God we serve!

Stories come to us in many forms. Early mediums included written literature and theatre. Modern forms include film and television drama. But whether the story is about one singular life, a family, a group of friends, a slice from the history of a nation or the whole of human history, every story contains the same five essential elements: setting, characters, plot, conflict and theme. These five components, when woven together, become the fabric in which all of human experience is cloaked.

By studying His story, we can discover a great deal about the warp and woof of our own lives. More importantly, we can also learn of God’s grander purposes and deepen our appreciation of His design for our world.

God is the center of all things, the great I AM 3. He is the One who makes the nations and directs their courses. As Playright, Producer and Director, God creates these five story components over and over again with each new human life, with each new nation and with every church, every business, and every session of Congress.

Here they are in detail:

Settings. Every story must take place somewhere. We live in a physical universe consisting of time, space and matter. But God’s story begins outside of these temporal constraints. The few glimpses of the non-created that Scripture provides leave much to the imagination.

"In the beginning, God created..." tells us that before God inaugurated time, He had already conceived a plan. "Let us make man in our image..." provides a peek at the dialog that occurred within the Trinitarian society before God molded man’s frame from the dust of the earth and quickened him with His very breath.

Our understanding of His story is of course limited to things created. For our discussion, the setting is confined to His creation, the cosmos. From the outset, God established an orderly, harmonious, universe. He created the heavens and the earth.4 He took great care to craft the perfect environment for mankind.

God made the light, the expanse of the heavens, the waters, the dry land called the earth and caused the grass and other fruits of the earth to sprout from seed. He divided the light into day and night and brought forth creatures from the sea, the air and the land. After each day, God appraised His activities and pronounced His work to be good.

Finally, when all was ready, He crafted man in His image and gave him authority over all the earth and its creatures. He then declared His work to be very good.

Although eternity in God’s presence is the destiny of the redeemed soul, creation is the setting for His story. He custom-crafted mankind and earth for one another.

Creation radiates God’s glory. Danish author Isak Dinesen, in her book Out of Africa, described the beauty of her home in Kenya.

"I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. ... the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet [and] ... had not its like in all the world. ... The colours were dry and burnt, like the colours in pottery. The trees had a light, delicate foliage... the grass was spiced like thyme and bog-myrtle...The clouds ... struck the side of the hill and hung around it...The hills from the farm changed their character many times in the course of the day, and sometimes looked quite close, and at other times very far away. ...The hill country itself, ...is tremendously big, picturesque and mysterious; varied with long valleys, thickets, green slopes and rocky crags."5

Run your fingers through the soil of a newly tilled garden. Go for a walk after a spring thundershower. Drink the crisp, autumn air and watch the colored foliage drifting to the earth. Stick out your tongue and catch a snowflake. Whatever hope we hold for heaven, whatever longing we possess to be delivered from this earthly life, we are yet compelled to acknowledge that the earth is good!

Characters. In stories, characters are present to demonstrate the process of learning and growing. Bible characters teach us about change and progress. God’s word encourages us to grow in the grace and knowledge of God 6 by desiring the milk of the word 7 And by receiving the truth in love. 8

Many diverse characters have participated in God’s story. Some grow and some do not. Since Adam, God has been weaving a tapestry of individual souls, nations, kingdoms, tribes and cultures. All press toward the fulfillment of His plan. We have learned much about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the prophets, and the apostles. But what about the nations? What role do they play in God’s plan?

From Genesis chapter eleven forward, God’s attention is focused on the nation of Israel. But a closer look reveals over 350 biblical references to nation or nations. In God’s dramatic historical production, countless nations enter and leave the stage. And God, the Playwright/Producer/Director, is involved with every one.

What purpose does God have for the nations? Why did He create them at all? God established boundaries between the nations and determined their times and lifespans in history so that men would seek Him, reach out for Him and find Him. 9 J.W. McGarvey, in A Commentary on Acts of Apostles, says that God allows the nations without divine revelation to remain to test them so that they might seek after the Lord. 10 God blesses the nations that learn and casts off the nations who do not. 11

What a marvelous variety of nation-characters God has created! God birthed 12 the many nations and divided them into a melange of languages. 13 He created some nations to be stronger than others. 14 He placed nations into companies and alliances. 15 He allowed some nations to have noble laws while others frolicked in foolishness. 16 Sometimes He draws a new nation out of an old one. 17 He moves some kings and governors to respond to Him 18 while he hardens the hearts of others. 19 He still uses one nation to punish another. 20 Sometimes He destroys a nation, wiping it out completely. 21

As characters in God’s drama, nations, in many ways, are like men.22 Nations can receive counsel. 23 They can rejoice. 24 They can be afraid. 25 They can craft and worship and serve their own gods. 26 They can do God’s will 27 and they can rebel. 28 Nations can learn. 29 Nations can seek God. 30 They have memories and 31 they can grieve and mourn. 32 One nation can influence other nations - for good or evil. 33

Nations also have eyes 34 and ears. 35 They can hear God’s counsel 36 as well as ungodly counsel. 37 They have relationships with one another 38 and speak to one another. 39 Like individual souls, they share ideas and philosophies. One nation can ensnare another nation. 40 They plan and strategize and make decisions and determine their courses. As autonomous units they govern themselves. Most do so out of self will. On rare occasions, nations willingly submit to God’s authority.

As director of His story, God knows every nation. Like individuals, nations have their own distinctive features. In God’s own words, some are foolish, 41 some obstinate, 42 some bitter 43, some hasty 44, some wicked, 45 some righteous. 46 Yet each one has a unique role to play in history. From Genesis to Revelation, we see God directing the course of every nation, for they were all created by His hand.

Although most stories have many characters, they are generally built around a primary character called the protagonist. Protagonists have positive goals. In God’s story the protagonist is the community of His chosen people in the earth. In Old Testament times, Israel filled this role. Today, the Church is the protagonist in God’s story.

Though nations and individuals are characters in God’s story, the story is really about Him. Ultimately, God created the nations for His own pleasure and enjoyment. All that exists, exists for Him."... for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (Rev 4:11 KJV). Can we safely presuppose that God takes special delight when nations, just like His individual sons and daughters, learn and grow and mature?

Plot. All stories must also have a plot. A plot is the storyline set in motion by the introduction of the protagonist - and the revelation of the protagonist’s goals.

God set His story into motion in the Garden of Eden with these words:

"... Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen 1:28 KJV)

These are the first recorded words of God to man. Note there is nothing in this passage about fellowship, intimacy or communion with God. We could assume that Adam already enjoyed an intimacy with God. But then again, maybe he did not. We really do not know. What we do know is that God gave Adam a specific commandment - a mission!

He told Adam to be productive, to populate the earth and to bring all the resources of the earth under his jurisdiction. In essence, man’s role was to be a manager, a steward and a governor over God’s creation.

Once introduced, the protagonist’s goal becomes the story’s measuring stick. What did the protagonist set out to achieve? What did he encounter along his path? Did he overcome his obstacles? Did he accomplish his mission? The story - the plot - tells of the protagonist’s struggle to achieve his goal while learning from his successes and failures along the way.

In God’s story, the protagonist, His community of saints in the earth, has been charged with the responsibility of leading the nations to God. Jesus commissioned His Church to teach not just individuals but entire nations about Him and His ways. 47 Fulfilling the Great Commission is the protagonist’s goal and the measuring stick against which the Church’s effectiveness will be measured. In many ways, Christ’s Great Commission to the Church is the redemptive counterpart to God’s original mandate to Adam.

So then, can we conclude that the Church still has an unfulfilled mission on the earth?

Conflict. Conflict must exist at the heart of every good story. A well-crafted plot will portray both the internal and the external struggles of the story’s main character. Evil is real. The conflict it creates with good is the quintessence of human existence - the result of man’s free will at work.

God’s story begins with Adam, the first man, being placed into a beautiful garden in a location called Eden. Filled with many trees, the garden provided God with a testing ground for Adam. "Eat of any tree but one," God said. "You may ... eat of the tree of life and live, but do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for if you do, you will die."

Now another character enters the scene. He is God’s archenemy and is known by many different names - the serpent, the devil, Lucifer, Beelzebub and Satan. Jesus called him a liar and a murderer. 48 He embodies evil and his mission is to conflict with God, God’s purposes and God’s people. He caused Adam to question God’s word.

In giving the first man a choice, God initiated His story’s conflict. Before Adam finally decided what to do, he first experienced an internal wrestling match. He had to weigh his options. Ultimately, he chose the devil’s path and disobeyed God’s commandment. From that moment, spiritual darkness and separation from God engulfed the earth.

But later, at precisely the right moment in history, deliverance appeared. God’s own Son arrived in human form to restore His elect to a right relationship with God.

Again we see conflict played out in the life of Christ. Would He follow His Father’s plan or would He, like the first man, follow His own path? Every Easter, in thousands of churches all across the globe, the drama of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, His agonizing struggle in Gethsemane, His betrayal, His trial and sentence, His crucifixion and resurrection is reenacted. Christ’s story is indeed high drama.

Did Christ experience internal conflict? Yes, He was in all points tempted as we are, but without sin. 49

Through the centuries, men and nations have struggled to allow God to assume His proper place in their lives. As the Church pursues its goal of leading the nations to Christ, it is continually confronted with many obstacles. The devil constantly works to upset the purposes of God. His chief weapon is the lie. The lie and the truth have waged war since Adam’s first temptation in the Garden of Eden.

Sadly, not all stories have happy endings. Because evil is real, failure too is a reality. Thankfully, we can take comfort in knowing that God’s story does have a happy ending.

Theme. Good drama and literature tell stories that effect change in the observer/reader. Good stories have themes - profound ones!

A story’s theme reveals much about the playwright or author. Why did he write the story? What message is he trying to communicate? What is it that weighs upon his soul?

So many themes could be drawn from God’s story. Every character in the Bible has a theme. And every Bible story has a theme. What lesson should we choose? Faith? Perseverance? Sacrifice? Mercy? Judgment? Grace? Patience? No one category even comes close to summing it all up.

We could easily say that the theme of God’s story is best expressed in three simple words - God and man. After all, men alone and not nations, depart this earth to live on in eternity.

Nevertheless, God’s story is not only about men, but about nations as well. We, God's people, His story's main character, have a mission in this setting called earth. We are to bring the lost nations to the cross and to disciple them until God's kingdom is fully established or until He returns. As His plot unfolds and the conflict with evil rages on, we begin to see the theme of God's story more clearly unfold - God, His people and the nations.

In conclusion, though some folks are naturally gifted as storytellers, there are secrets to the storyteller's art that can be studied and mastered. The most dramatic story ever crafted - the one where God is Playwright, Producer and Director - serves as our highest model, the standard to which all storytellers can and should aspire.

To Him be the glory!

1 al·le·go·ry n. 1.a. A literary, dramatic, or pictorial device in which characters and events stand for abstract ideas, principles, or forces, so that the literal sense has or suggests a parallel, deeper symbolic sense. Copyright 1992 American Heritage Electronic Dictionary
2 Providence. The concept and belief that God is the power sustaining and guiding human history and destiny. "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." (Eph 1:11 NIV)
3 Exodus 3:14
4 Genesis 1:1-26
5 Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa, (New York, NY: Modern Library, 1983), pp 3-6.
6 I Peter 3:18
7 I Peter 2:2
8 Ephesians 4:15
9 Acts 17:27

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10 "‘that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.’ He here has reference to those nations who were without revelation; and means, I think, that one purpose of leaving them in that condition was to make a trial of their ability, without the aid of revelation, to seek and feel after the Lord so as to find him." J. W. McGarvey A Commentary on Acts of Apostles , Seventh Edition (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Printing and Publishing Company, 1872)
11 2 Kings 23:27, Jeremiah 31:37
12 Isaiah 66:8
13 Genesis 10: 5, 20, 31, 32
14 Genesis 25:32, Numbers 14:12
15 Genesis 35:11
16 Deuteronomy 4:8
17 Deuteronomy 4:34
18 Daniel 4:34-37
19 Exodus 7:3
20 Deuteronomy 9:1, 28:49, Isaiah 45:1, Jeremiah 50:9

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21 Deuteronomy 19: 1, 31:3
22 Numbers 14:15, Psalms 9:20
23 Deuteronomy 32:28, Psalm 2:2
24 Deuteronomy 32:23
25 Deuteronomy 2:25, Isaiah 64:2
26 Deuteronomy 29:18, II Kings 17:29, 33, 41, 18:33, 19:12, Isaiah 36:18, Jeremiah 22:11
27 Jeremiah 7: 28, 25:15, 27:11
28 Ezekiel 2:3
29 Micah 4:3
30 Zechariah 8:22

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31 Ezekiel 25:10
32 Ezekiel 6:13, 14
33 Jeremiah 25:32
34 Isaiah 52:10
35 Micah 7:16
36 Jeremiah 31:10
37 Psalms 2:2
38 Genesis 35:11
39 Isaiah 14:32, Jeremiah 31:10, 50:2
40 Joshua 23:13, Jeremiah 25:32

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41 Deuteronomy 32:21
42 Isaiah 18:2 & 7
43 Habakkuk 1:6
44 Habakkuk 1:6
45 Leviticus 18:24, Deuteronomy 9:4
46 Genesis 20:4, Exodus 19:6
47 Matt 28:19-20
48 John 8:44
49 Hebrews 4:15

Mark Weaver and John Jenkins
are the authors of
The Century War Chronicles
and the founders of
Reconciliation Press

Write Mark at mark@reconciliation.com
Write John at john@reconciliation.com

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