Don’t like to read? You can listen to this post as a podcast by going here: Ancient Pathways with Dave Hershey. You can also find this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.
Two years ago I began training as a Life Coach and one of the assignments in the first class I took was for us to create our personal vision and mission. I came up with that vision, which I hope to be my legacy. Implicit in it is my faith that Jesus is fully God and fully human – Jesus is our clearest image of God and our sharpest picture of who humans were made to be. Thus ,the more we become like Jesus the more human we become and the more like God we become.
There is a lot more I would love to say about that Vision. It was helpful to think through what motivates me and get it down on paper. Every word has a deeper meaning. Just starting with “I” means I start with myself – what I desire for others is what I desire for me. My Purpose builds on this statement:
Purpose (Our Way of Being) – I hope to be someone who looks at people as unique individuals created in God’s image and loved unconditionally in Jesus Christ. I value being open and accepting of where each individual is on their own life journey. I believe humans grow through being honest and authentic with themselves and others. As I come alongside others to help them grow, I seek to instill in each relationship integrity, joy, curiosity, depth of thought and humor.
This podcast is another venture to help achieve my Vision and Purpose. Over the years I have read, studied, learned and taught a lot. Just in 2020 I read over 100 books. Lots were fiction, but plenty were theology and Biblical study and philosophy and history. I love learning. In this podcast, I will seek to share what I have learned. My target audience is college students, specifically those I work with. But I hope to draw a wider audience of anyone who desires to learn.
If you desire to learn more about who God is and what God has done, I believe this podcast will benefit you.
If you desire to learn more about who we are as humans and what we were made to be, I believe this podcast will benefit you.
The goal is not just head knowledge and acquiring more information though. The goal is to get to know our Creator, the one in whom we live and move and have our Being, we we can Become who we were made to be.
That idea of us becoming points to the truth that spiritual growth is a journey. (I want to make a reference to Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive here, where the words of the Knights Radiant are “Journey Before Destination” but this isn’t a podcast about amazing fantasy novels. Of course, there is truth there and truth can be found anywhere, even amazing fantasy novels.) From these ideas of becoming and journey I titled this podcast Ancient Pathways. For as much as our world has changed in the last year or few years…or few centuries, the ways to become mature and Christlike are the same as they have always been. I do not promise anything new here. These are ancient paths. The subtitle reinforces that: Finding Wisdom as We Walk with the Saints. One of these saints is the prophet Jeremiah, and I love what God spoke to him millennia ago: “Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good ways lies, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (6:16).
The first ancient pathway we will cover in this podcast is the story of scripture. The saints we will meet will be the men and women who have sought to live by God’s law and in God’s love, from Abraham and Rahab to Ruth and David and all the way through to Jesus. The goal is to provide a general overview of the Scripture story from creation to the beginning of the Church.
This is a study I have done quite often over the years with students, in both small and large groups. Over the years I have observed that most students who come to our meetings and Bible studies are already seriously committed to faith. I imagine if you are listening to this podcast (or reading the transcript) you are at least relatively interested in your faith as well.
Yet I have also noticed these students possess a general unfamiliarity with the story of the Bible. That’s not a knock at them or their church; I didn’t have a good understanding of the overarching story either when I was in college. Those of us who grow up in church often end up knowing a few Bible stories, but most of us lack an understanding of the over-arching story that connects Genesis to Revelation and everything in between (a big word for that is “metanarrative”).
Originally I wrote a book to remedy that lack. When I wrote this book, I knew the biggest obstacle was that my target audience, college students and young adults, are unlikely to read many books. I get it: we are busy with work and school; we prefer to spend our free time watching movies and playing video games. On top of that, we have grown up in a visual culture and do not like to read. So I wrote this book, or maybe we could call it a curriculum, and I have sat on this completed work for a few years. I admit, I am not good at marketing. I have a book that covers the story of scripture, what do I do with it?
Covid has, of course, changed everything. Our campus ministry was quite different last semester. As I pondered how to serve my students in 2021, I decided I want to make this material available. I wanted to work towards my vision and purpose and putting out this material in a podcast, rather than as a book for people to read or even a small group Bible study, seemed to make sense. Meeting together right now is difficult, and even if life gets back to normal, things will never be what we recall as normal. We all want to learn “on demand” just as we want our entertainment “on demand.” Providing material you can listen to when you like, rather than waiting till we can meet together, makes more sense plus it has the potential of reaching more people.
When I conceived this project, I wanted to create this book to read like a devotional. That is why there I wrote fifteen chapters. Penn State, like many other campuses, runs on a fifteen week semester. My hope was that individuals and groups would read this book together, a chapter a week. For this podcast, my hope would be that people would engage with one another and discuss what we are learning. So I encourage you to join the CSF Discord.
If you want to know where we will be going in the next few months, I will include a sort of “Table of Contents” in the notes.
Finally, as I wrap up this inaugural episode, I want to offer a final word on why I think experiencing the Bible as a Story is helpful and compelling. We all love stories. When we are with our friends, we tell stories that bring laughter and tears. We flock to the movie theater, or at least we used to, to watch stories play out on the big screen, or we binge watch our favorite television shows on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Disney Plus. Maybe we read a good book or play video games that make us part of the story. Stories are a tremendous part of who we are.
The Christian faith is rooted in a story. It is the story of God that begins in creation, includes wonderful highs and horrifying lows, culminates in the coming of Jesus, and continues today in our lives. As we learn the basic outline of this story – from creation and brokenness to calling and redemption and new creation – we see how it intersects with our story. As God’s story and our story connect, we cannot help but be changed and become more like Jesus, more the people we were created to be.
As we set out to journey through the scripture, I want to share two ways of reading the scripture story that will be helpful. I call these two ways reading from front to back and from back to front.
Reading from front to back is to begin at the beginning and simply to experience the story as we would any other story. When we read a good novel or watch an exciting movie, we do not know how the story is going to end. There is excitement in the mystery; we stick with it because we want to see how our heroes will get out of the binds they are in. Even when we know how a story ends, there is value in pretending we do not, placing ourselves in the story to experience anew, as those living in it. When we watch The Avengers Endgame, it is fun to forget that “on your left moment.” And when we read the Bible, even if we know what happens in Jesus, it is worth it to try to put ourselves in the shoes of those who did not know. To interpret a passage in the scripture in this way would be to focus on what it meant to those who originally read, or more likely heard, it. There is great value in placing ourselves in the context – what was it like for Ruth or Jonah or Habakkuk or any of those figures.
The other sort of reading is what I call to read from back to front. This is when we experience the story with our Christian lenses. In this reading, we recognize how the entire Bible points us to the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh to which the word of God in scripture points. From a Christian perspective, we do not fully understand any passage of scripture until we apply the Word of God revealed in Jesus to it.
Finally, through both types of reading we will see, right from the beginning we see how the truths of scripture impact our lives now. The Bible is the story of God working in the world through Israel to ultimately enter creation itself in the person of Jesus. The story of scripture, which is the story of God, intersects with our story. We see ourselves in the story and recognize the scripture is also about us.
My hope for you as you join me traveling on these Ancient Pathways is two-fold. First, I hope you coming away with a better understanding of how all of scripture ties together as one big story in which God is the main character and is working to build relationship with humans. Second, I hope you see how the themes within scripture are challenging and practical for our life in the real world. I hope you learn some things and are changed.
May God bless you through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit to learn and grow into the person you were created to be
The Story of Scripture outline (where we’ll be going):
1. The Beginning of the Story
2 . God Calls Abraham
3. God Saves Abraham’s Descendants
4. God Dwells with the People
5. God Gives the Law (Part 1)
6. God Gives the law (Part 2)
7. The Conquest of the Land
8. God Gives Israel a King
9. David: The Ideal King
10. Solomon: The Downward Slide Begins
11.5. Interlude – What’s Next?
12. Jesus Announces the Kingdom Has Come
13. Light Overcomes Darkness
14 . Jesus Wins the Victory
15. The Beginning of the Church
16. The Beginning of Christian Theology