Monday, September 1, 2008


In Homiletics (preaching) classes that I took at seminary, I was taught to always look for the “big idea.” Our instructor, Haddon Robinson, insisted that each passage in the Bible could be reduced to one big idea, a simple sentence with a subject and a predicate that sums up the whole text, whether it’s a verse, a paragraph, a chapter or even a book. This became a major tool for me, not only in preaching or teaching, but also in my study of Scriptures.

I began to wonder if it would be possible to find the big idea of the whole Bible. Is there some overarching theme under which all the Scripture can be subsumed?

Then one day while studying the book of Habakkuk, I found it! There in the middle of the LORD’s reply to Habakkuk’s gripes, stood this verse: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

This is it: the big idea of the Bible – God’s ultimate purpose in history! Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was not the first to make this discovery!

And this thought is not only found in Habakkuk, it’s scattered throughout the Old Testament, often popping up in places we’d least expect it. “But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of God” (Numbers 14:21). The context is the LORD’s pronouncement of judgment on the whole generation of Israel that refused to enter the promise land.

“And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and amen” (Psalm 72:19) – a prayer of Solomon.

“They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

“They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD’, for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, declares the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This is included in God’s promises of His future New Covenant.

So let me try to state it in brief summary: God’s purpose in history (creation, redemption) is to bring about in His creatures the knowledge of His glory.

And, of course, this theme is carried over into the New Testament.

Look at Jesus’ prayer in John, “ . . . Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You” (17:1). “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (17:5). He claimed that He had glorified the Father. “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You had given Me to do” (17:4).

How God is fulfilling His purpose is spelled out in clearer detail.

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

God the Father is glorified by the exaltation of His Son!

So how do we fit in God’s master plan?

Our place, our task is, of course to contribute to that glorification. By our worship, by our witness, but most of all by our becoming more and more conformed to Christ.

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

I believe the Westminster Confession had it right: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

It’s not about me; it’s about Him! The paradox is that the more we seek His glory, the more we find our own purposes, our own selves and our greatest pleasure.

Bill Ball

1 comment:

gary said...

like it bill, i think that is why more of our prayers aren't answered and why all of jesus's prayers are answered. they are for the sole glory of god.ephesians. most of our prayers include this sinful part of our flesh.
can we have glory without suffering with Him? that is the problem we have. we really must value Him to offset the reality of the problems that come from being closely tied to Him.