The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is my favorite Bible storybook available. The illustrations by Jago are interesting and faithful to the text. The audio version, narrated by David Suchet, is well produced and engaging. It is a product that the whole family has enjoyed greatly since it was released several years ago.
When Zondervan announced the forthcoming release of a grown-up version of the book, The Story of God’s Love for You, I was intrigued. I wasn’t sure how well the story would convey without the pictures.
As it happens, this little volume does stand well on its own without the illustrations. While I still prefer the full version of the book, the big kid’s version is almost as good.
BEGINNING AS THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE
For those that haven’t encountered The Jesus Storybook Bible, the approach is worth considering. Most Bible storybooks focus on particular scenes in Scripture that seem most likely to be interesting to a young audience. Thus, while still well-told, a regular refrain tales make their appearance in most Bible storybooks: David and Goliath, Noah and the Ark, Moses and Pharoah, Jesus calms the storm, etc. These are the same stories that I was raised on in Sunday School and seemed to come up with a regular frequency.
Often missing from the traditional approach to children’s Bible storybooks is any sense of the big picture. How does the crossing of the Red Sea fit into the bigger picture of the Bible? Is the Bible just a loose collection of hero tales and miracles? The metanarrative of Scripture has been tragically lacking in many books intended to bring Scripture down to the cognitive level of children.
As a result, many children grow up in the church with no sense of what God is doing through the Bible. This has allowed young Christians to fall prey to skeptics who assault the apparent inconsistencies between the miracle-less present and the supernatural accounts of the past. It has created a broader culture may know that David and Goliath is a story about little beating big, but is unaware that this has the additional significance of being God’s anointed one defeating the seemingly unconquerable evil. In other words, David and Goliath tells a piece of the bigger story of Christ defeating evil in the world.
Sally Lloyd-Jones takes those stories, which have been made to trite and simple over the years of Sunday School tradition, and reinvigorates them with a theological approach. She tells us,
This approach unites the stories in Scripture into a tapestry of wonder, which is woven (often untidily) through with the golden thread: Jesus saves because God loves his creation. Lloyd-Jones communicates that truth so simply a child can comprehend it, but without dissolving the polychromatic hues of Scripture into a monochrome mass of christocentric allegory.
STANDING ON ITS OWN
Even having lost most of Jago’s lovely illustrations, the text Lloyd-Jones wrote is edifying. It takes a reader willing to put up with a bit of child-like simplicity and sometimes silliness to enjoy the volume. Her prose is playful, which could make the adult concerned with being grown-up disdain this volume.
However, taken on its own merits and enjoyed for what it is (an entertaining retelling of an amazingly complex story), The Story of God’s Love for You gets along quite well. For the seasoned saint who needs encouragement, there are reminders of God’s always surprising affection for us on nearly every page. At times the capricious retelling highlights an aspect of a story that would have otherwise remained obscure to the accustomed eye, which always tends to read what the mind already knows.
This volume may also have use in introducing new believers to the big picture of Scripture. Again, the attitude of the reader makes a great deal of difference. However, Lloyd-Jones hits the high points and provides a basic hermeneutic that can help the novice to see the purpose in many of the stories of the Old Testament. They aren’t just weird fables of an outdated God; they are pieces of the bigger story, which is the most exciting story of all.
Note: A gratis copy of this volume was provided by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.