…there is a “Better.”
I first heard this phrase from a phenomenal teaching by Paige Benton Brown at The Gospel Coalition 2012 National Women’s Conference. The teaching is called “In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God” and in it she traces the motif of the temple through the entire Bible, using 1 Kings 8 as her launching platform. I’ve been so blessed by this message – I’ve listened to it multiple times.
What I loved the most about it was that she took me from the Old Testament to the New Testament to the present and into the future without making me feel dumb. When people start talking “types and shadows” I admit, I get a little nervous that I’m not going to know enough background and end up nodding dumbly pretending I understand. Not so with Paige.
Her mantra leading you through the exposition is this: “Beyond the best, there is a better.” She’s talking about redemptive history and God’s providence in all of His creation. It’s everywhere in the Bible, if you’re looking for it. The concept is similar to people talking about reading the Bible “to see Christ” or “with a “redemptive historical focus” (check out Trent Hunter’s Bible Eater Reading plan). This concept has helped me tremendously.
Redemptive history has been leaping out at me especially in the theme of the Sabbath. It’s been on my mind quite a bit and I’ve already posted about it here and here. I don’t have time here to fully flesh out the concept through the whole Bible, but just to give you a rough and dirty example of what I’m talk about:
In Genesis we see that God takes a day of rest on the seventh day after creating the universe and everything in it. Soon thereafter, God makes it a commandment that we should take a day of rest, a holy day set apart for the LORD. In the Levitical law, an entire Sabbath year is commanded for the land (to allow it to lay fallow in order to keep producing crops). When the Israelites are exiled by the Chaldeans at the first fall of Jerusalem, it’s mentioned that the “land enjoyed it Sabbaths” for 70 years. This is all good – the Israelites had a literal day of rest, received a double portion of miraculous manna in the wilderness to prepare the the Sabbath day, and even the land itself got a Sabbath. But beyond the best there is a better.
In the New Testament, Jesus is constantly confronted about Sabbath rules. He is accused of profaning the Sabbath by allowing his disciples to eat grain from the field. Jesus’ response is to declare himself lord of the Sabbath. We can fully rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ because he lived a perfect life, was crucified, and rose again from the dead. Jesus died once for all and declared “it is finished.” His coming fulfills the purpose of the Sabbath; and so we rest.
But wait, beyond the best there is a better! After Jesus ascended he left us the Holy Spirit as a comforter. We can have peace that surpasses understanding with God’s spirit indwelling us. He constantly reminds us of the truth of what Christ accomplished for us! We can walk in a Sabbath rest daily, hourly, every moment in fact!
But beyond the best, there’s an even better. In the fullness of time, a final fulfillment of Sabbath rest is promised. Hebrews 4:1-4 talks about a rest yet to come – not only will we, mankind, be at peace, but all creation. There will be a new heavens and a new earth and all things will be made right. The land and everything in it will be allowed to “enjoy its Sabbaths” forever. No more tears, no more sin, no more death, no more pain – just the overarching, brighter-than-sunlight blazing, beauty and holiness of Jesus. This final Sabbath rest for everything and everyone will be a grand and glorious worship service!
So that’s “redemptive history”! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only did I do a ridiculously high fly-over of all the Sabbath has to offer, but there are hundreds more themes in the Bible just waiting to be mined for all their great worth. So have at it fellow Christians, drink deeply the word of life and be satisfied!
Photo Credit: MB Photography