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Monday, 2 September 2013

The Journey in the Bible

There are a few dominant motifs in the Bible [A motif is a recurring element in a story, an image, or narrative pattern or event that has some evocative significance]. There is one of the Garden, or Land of presence and plenty; there is that of Building - related usually to the Temple, God's Dwelling Place; or those related to the Battle, to warfare, to overcoming enemies; and then that of the Lover, of Marriage, of the Bride and Groom. There are others but these are major ones (any other suggestions?) and the motif of the Journey or Pilgrimage is up there with the big ones, and one that I especially connect with. A really rewarding way to read/study the Bible is to trace some of these motifs through the various parts of the Bible, the different stages of its unfolding Story, and discover the rich, significant and surprising insights that help to convey God's ultimate purpose. I want to just draw attention to the motif of the Journey by way of background to the journey I/we are on at the moment that I intend to reflect on in the next few posts [I am discovering the importance of placing our own journeys/stories against the backdrop of the bigger Story of Scripture, to rightly understand them - I must post more on that some time soon].

Scripture itself is best seen as a Big Story told through many stories, and a story always involves a journey - in the case of the Bible's story, it is the journey from creation to new creation. Then, the story of God's rescue and restoration plan after humanity's rebellion begins with a man - Abraham - on a life-changing and history-changing journey, and others of the patriarchs have significant journeys. Two major journeys loom large in the OT - the Exodus and the Return from Exile - and in fact they are re-imagined and reworked by NT writers to convey something about the spiritual life and our present journey as the church. Many other stories in the OT involve journeys for key characters - think of David, or of Ruth, for example. And consider how the psalmists compared the spiritual life to following the right path or way. In the NT, Jesus seemed to be always travelling, most significantly to Jerusalem; and how many of his parables involved journeys or travel? Jesus is of course the Way, as well as truth and life (John 14:6). Then there are the missionary journeys in the book of Acts, which form the backdrop for the letters. And those early Christians, like us, were aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11), having no 'abiding city' (Heb.13:14), and so committed to a life of pilgrimage in this world. One of  my favourite journeys in the NT is the one where the risen Jesus drew alongside the despondent disciples on the Emmaus Road, and restores their hope (Luke 24). And of course Jesus is able to do that because of the journey he has made from the Father's side to the Cross and through death to Resurrection, to new creation life, blazing a trail for us to follow, and then preparing to make another journey at his Return when he comes to make all things new. Wow! So Journey lies at the heart of our faith - that is why it was originally called the Way (Acts 9:2). This has significance for us now - let's consider it over the next few days. Most posts won't be as long as this one!


  1. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    Robert Frost
    I could resist.

    1. A personal favourite. And I am sure it is for many others too. Journeys involve choices.