He teaches us using literal stories, parables and a systematic inner meaning
The Word (the Bible) is a revelation by God of Divine truth itself. Every word in the Old and New Testaments is from the mouth of the Lord. In the pages of Scripture He teaches us that there is a God, that there is a heaven and a hell, and that there is life after death. He also teaches us how we must live and what we must believe in order to come into heaven and thus into eternal happiness. Without this revelation, we would know nothing about any of these things.
The literal stories are very important. They serve as a rich – sometimes beautiful, sometimes harsh – foundation of imagery that ministers to the varying emotional states of our life. These stories comfort us when we are grieving, give us courage when we are weak, or help us find peace when disturbed. They give us direction when we need to get out of a spiritual rut.
The Bible is a metaphor about your relationship with God
God, in speaking to us in His Word, tells an ongoing story that is simplified, much the way a parent would explain a complicated story to his young children. The Lord uses parables, metaphors, allegories, symbols and more in which to tell His story. Many passages in Scripture hold more than a literal or one-time meaning. God often assigns two, perhaps three or more layers of interpretation to many portions of Scripture.
"These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father." John 16:25
"All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable." Matthew 13:34
"We should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:6)
"The letter kills, but the spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6)
Examples of Biblical Allegory
The Children of Israel being in bondage in Egypt pictures how we can become enslaved to bad habits or evil desires. The pain and oppression they endure pictures how living that kind of life is really a type of slavery, full of pain and sorrow. The Lord, by means of Moses freeing the slaves, pictures how the Lord can lead us out of this condition and set us free – leading us to the promised land of spiritual life.
The Tree of Life is mentioned a number of times throughout the Bible, but it is never said to be a literal tree growing some hidden place in this world. Rather, the tree of life is a symbol of wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 3:8, 13) and wise speaking (Proverbs 15:4) and of the fruits of the labor of a good man (Proverbs 11:30; 13:11, 12). The tree of life is seen in visions of the prophets growing the City of God in heaven (Revelation 22:2, compare Ezekiel 47:7, 12). Likewise, the Tree of Knowledge is not a literal tree. Apples, figs, olives and bananas grow on physical trees. Knowledge sprouts up in the human mind.
Gardens, trees and growing crops are among the commonest metaphors in the Bible. Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:1-8). The kingdom of heaven is like a growing mustard seed, or a field of growing grain (Matthew 13:31, 24). A person who trusts the Lord is like a tree planted by the water (Psalm 1:1-3, Jeremiah 17:7-8). The tents of Israel are said to be like gardens by rivers, trees the Lord has planted, cedars beside the waters (Numbers 24:6). "For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah His pleasant plant" (Isaiah 5: 7).
Clearly, this is not a literal vineyard or garden, but the garden of the soul, a spiritual state in which good things grow in a person’s mind. "The LORD shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, … and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not deceive" (Isaiah 58:11). "For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Isaiah 61:11). "Their soul shall be as a watered garden, and they shall not sorrow any more at all" (Jeremiah 31:12).
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