Our family is reading Sally Lloyd-Jones’ hugely successful The Jesus Storybook Bible with our kids. There is much good to be said for her work. She is an engaging writer, helps make the stories come alive, and Jago’s artwork is really well done. Our kids love it.
But her method of finding Jesus in the Old Testament leaves something to be desired. Regarding little Isaac’s birth, she writes, “And one day, God would send another baby…” At Isaac’s near sacrifice, she comments, “Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back.” The battle of Jericho points to “another Leader”; David and Goliath, “another young Hero”; Daniel looks to “another brave Hero”; Jonah, “another Messenger”; and so on.
No one would argue that Jonah alludes to another messenger and David another king. Jesus endorses those interpretations. But if that is all that can be said about Jonah or David, they become two dimensional sign posts, or props, which have value in themselves only inasmuch as things in their story relate to things in Jesus’ story.
Isaac’s sacrifice is prime prop territory. He’s got it all – wood, hill, son, sacrifice. The following chapter of Sarah’s death and burial, equal in length and of huge importance to the story of Abraham’s promise gaining fulfillment, doesn’t. A tedious land purchase for Sarah’s grave is harder to be overlaid by the Golgotha narrative.
The most troubling problem with this kind of reading is that Old Testament narratives can become negligible. You don’t even need the Bible. With a prop Christology it would be much easier to preach from Jack and Jill than Isaac and Rebekah.
“Jack and Jill went up a hill/ to fetch a pail of water./ Jack fell down, and broke his crown,/ and Jill came tumbling after…And many years later, on another hill, the Living water, gave up his rightful crown…”
I’m being goofy and giving Sarah Lloyd-Jones far more trouble than she deserves. But I am calling for expecting more from our Old Testament, more about God’s grand narrative and more about his Son. I for one am eager for the Gospel Coalition’s Conference this year to learn what this looks like.