Picture This

A picture is worth a thousand words. The Lord knew that long before we coined the phrase. In fact, He designed us that way in order that we might not only fill our brains with details, but that we fill our hearts with the glories, wonders, and joys of all that He is and all that He has made and done. And so His Word combines technical teaching with pictures in order to augment our understanding of its truths. A very simple illustration can communicate a truth not only to our minds, but to our souls; and it can do so in a way that no mere listing of facts possibly could.

We learned this vividly when our daughter was three years old. One night at the dinner table we read concerning the most well-known of all the Bible’s pictures: the lamb sacrificed to atone for sin. Our daughter interrupted, “Oh, no Daddy. You mean a wild animal.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They’d kill a wild animal, right? They wouldn’t kill a lamb!”

You see, she could comprehend sacrificing an animal that was violent and dangerous—a wolf, a bear, or a lion. Such an animal in her mind could deserve to die. But a lamb? With one simple picture the Lord had communicated a truth to our daughter’s soul that no amount of cold teaching could ever convey: the horror of sacrificing an innocent, harmless lamb to pay for our sin.

And so the Bible turns out to be something we’d never have guessed it to be: the best picture book in the world. People skim through the Law and feel it’s too technical, too cold, too lifeless. Such feelings say more about the reader than about the Law. For the Law is filled with some of the richest and most moving pictures in all of the Scriptures. And it reminds us that casual, careless reading deprives us of appreciating the true riches to be discovered in the Word of God. The Lord uses pictures to open our minds and stir our hearts about the grandest themes of the Bible: salvation, the Church, and, best of all, His Son.

But there’s another lofty topic that the Scriptures use pictures to reveal. A picture is worth a thousand words but how many pictures is the Word worth? As we read through the Bible we find that it presents to us pictures of itself: pictures of God’s Picture Book. And now we see that not only is it a book, or a picture book. It’s also a sword. A mirror. A hammer. Water. Milk. The good seed. And much more.

Each picture reveals something fresh, something different, some new glory of the Word of God. How did He ever fit it all in? I suppose the “how” doesn’t matter. What’s important is that He did. Only God could compress so much into one glorious book but it is our delight to explore, uncovering one treasure at a time.