This afternoon I sat down and read the Bible from cover to cover. Well, not the whole Bible precisely. It wasn’t the King James or the New International Version. It wasn’t exactly the full text or even the actual text of the Bible. What I read was The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. It’s a paraphrase of the main message of the Bible. It’s a birds-eye view of the whole landscape with stopovers to take in the major landmarks along the way. It’s written with younger children in mind and offers a wonderful summary of the Bible’s big idea. The words are excellent, the pictures are delightful, and it was cool to be able to read 350 pages from beginning to end in one sitting! I loved it!
What makes this so awesome is that the author understands that the Bible is ultimately a book about Jesus. The Old Testament points to Jesus and finds it’s fulfilment in him. The New Testament showcases Jesus and the impact he makes on others. It’s one coherent story about God’s big rescue plan, where Jesus ultimately comes into the world to bring people home to God.
Obviously the complete message of the Bible has been dramatically condensed to create this storybook Bible. What I appreciate are the wise selections of what’s been put in and what’s been left out. You come away from reading this with a good handle on the overall message of the Scriptures. It hangs together, it builds momentum, and it reaches an important climax. In reading the full version of the Bible we’re not dealing with a book of independent short stories, but an historical narrative with a coherent message. It’s one story. It’s God’s story. It’s his-story.
Let me try to summarise the summary! We start with God, who creates an awesome world, makes people who relate to him and all is perfect. The people are quickly deceived into not trusting God, things fall apart, and life seems hopeless. God promises to put things right, he works through a family line, he overcomes every setback, and we keep looking forward in anticipation to his coming into our world to rescue us. This is half the story, what gets described as the Old Testament, and it’s desperately waiting for its conclusion.
The second half, or the New Testament, announces the arrival of God in the person of Jesus. We learn the significance of the Christmas story, see the extraordinary things he does, hear his amazing words, and marvel at the way he treats people. We discover that the cruel execution of Jesus is actually essential to the plan. Easter is the climax. Jesus will rescue people by dying in their place and God will raise him to life, opening the way for us to return to God. God gives his Spirit to Jesus’ followers, they’re transformed by the message of Jesus, and the news of what God has done begins to spread throughout the world. An awesome story and it’s true!
I love lots of things about The Jesus Storybook Bible. You truly get the sense of promise and fulfilment. The heart of God to rescue, rather than destroy, his people comes through at every point. The pictures are wonderful, but it’s the love and generosity of God that really colours this book. The best thing is that this storybook accurately communicates that the Bible is a book about Jesus. He is the focal point of all God’s purposes. He’s the key to understanding ourselves and God and the purpose of life.
One of the great dangers of many kids Bible books is that they can reinforce the misunderstanding that the Bible is a book of cute and not-so-cute stories and that Christianity is a message of ‘doing the right thing so God will like you’. These ideas are false and dangerously misleading. The The Jesus Storybook Bible steers us away from such errors. It stays on message, that the Bible is a book about God’s amazing grace revealed in Jesus. Consider these words…
“It’s not about keeping rules!” Paul told the people. “You don’t have to be good at being good for God to love you. You just have to believe what Jesus has done and follow him. Because it’s not about trying, it’s about trusting. It’s not about rules, it’s about Grace: God’s free gift – that cost him everything.”
What had happened to Paul? He met Jesus. (p340)
Lloyd-Jones uses a wonderful refrain throughout the book speaking of…
God’s Never Stopping
Never Giving Up
I highly recommend this storybook Bible. Adults will benefit from reading it through in one sitting. So will teenagers. But its intended audience is young children from 3 or 4 up to the end of primary school. I’d encourage parents and children’s ministry leaders to get a copy. Read it through first and then take it a chapter at a time. It’d be worth reading through with your children at least once every year. Each chapter also has a reference to the passages of the Bible that are being described. It’d be worth the adults reading over these texts before they read the storybook version to the children. Maybe read the full version in the mornings and then read to the kids before bed.
For adults who want to explore the overall message of the Bible for themselves, I’d recommend following a guided Bible reading plan. It’s also helpful to read According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy or God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. These books give excellent Bible overviews. You might also like to download a series of talks that offer a 10 week overview of the Bible’s message or work through the 8 studies in Full of Promise by Phil Campbell and Bryson Smith.
Come to think of it, there are many contexts where this book would be an excellent gift. If you’re invited to become a god-parent, then why not buy a copy for your god-child? Grandparents, add it to your Christmas list. Pastors, grab copies to offer parents at kid’s clubs or when they enquire about getting children baptised. Maybe, you could buy a copy for your kindergarten or primary school library. Get your children’s ministry leaders to read over it and use it for a training weekend. Use your imagination!