As much as pragmatic Americans might wish it to be otherwise, the Bible is not an answer-book. It includes advice, and laws, and rules, but a lot of it consists of puzzling prophecy, ancient history, obscure parables and apparently abstract theology. What are we supposed to get from that? We ask for an answer key, and God gives us poetry. Can’t we just skip the story and get to the moral?
No we can’t.
God gave us the Bible to guide us, but also – more fundamentally – to form us. By studying the Bible, hearing it, reading it, learning from it, we are being remade.
One of the ways the Bible remakes us is by giving us clues about God’s character and work. Parables aren’t moralistic tales. They’re allegories of God’s work in the world, the mysteries of His kingdom. By learning the parables, we learn to anticipate God’s next move.
We anticipate that when wheat is sown, weeds will be sown as well. We anticipate that we’ll have to wait for harvest for everything to be sorted out. We learn that the tree that counts doesn’t even look like a tree, but more like a bush, or a cross. We learn that God’s kingdom moves ahead through agents that we recoil from – prostitutes, tax-gatherers, sinners – as God sanctifies the world using the unclean.
But by learning the parables, living in the parables, and living out the parables, we come to know the ways of God. God is the choreographer and lead partner of our history and of our lives, and by learning the rhythm of the parables, we learn to keep in step with our dance partner.
- Peter Leithart