The Bible constantly stresses the importance and value of people and helps us to see the prime importance of relationships – our relationship with God (after all, as the Westminster Catechism reminds us, ‘the chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever’) and our relationships with other people.
In the book of Genesis, we find the story of God’s relationship with mankind and how even though this relationship is broken through man’s disobedience and sin, God has a plan to restore everything and make everything new in its time. Larry Crabb, whose book ’66 Love Letters’ traces the key love story which runs through every book of the Bible, says that God in Genesis is in essence saying ‘I have a plan and you are invited to my party.’ (’66 Love Letters’, Larry Crabb, P 2) God’s relationship with Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not to mention Joseph, all emphasise this plan of redemption and restoration, showing us how even though people may fail God and let Him down, all He is looking for is people who will trust and obey Him, walking in daily relationship with Him. Each Old Testament book shows us more of God’s love and faithfulness: Exodus shows God doing whatever is necessary to carry out His plans, not being thwarted or daunted by the greatest world power of the day (Egypt); Leviticus shows us how holiness has to be a key part of our relationship with God (for He is holy, so we too have to be holy (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2)); Numbers shows us that relationships must learn to withstand trials and tests; Deuteronomy reminds us that even when we fail and are faithless, God remains faithful (see 2 Tim 2:13). These five books of the Law, known as the Pentateuch, with the Law being known as the Torah in Judaism, give us much information about the history of Israel, but primarily, they show us that God’s story involves a relationship between God and people and that God is working all things together for good.
The Old Testament tells the story of God’s chosen people, Israel, and emphasises the importance of this relationship with God above everything else. The history books (Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles) give us glimpses of how this relationship looked at different periods of history: how Israel prospered whenever she followed God’s commandments and lived in humble trust before Him, worshipping Him only, and how often she fell away through rebellion, disobedience and open sin. The books of the Prophets show us God calling His people back, yearning for that intimate relationship to be restored. Books like Hosea and Song of Songs in particular highlight the love relationship between God and His people, epitomised in the image of God as the Bridegroom and Israel (and later the church) His bride. At times, the prophets use the vivid imagery of adultery or prostitution (see Jer 3:1, Ezekiel 16 & 23) to emphasise the deeply personal nature of sin and how this spoils the relationship of love and trust which is God’s plan for every one of us.
Other Old Testament books are deeply personal: Ruth tells the story of deep loyalty and faithfulness in relationships; Esther shows us how one person acting with courage and determination can save a nation. The whole of the Old Testament shows us the value of relationships: Proverbs, for example, gives us good advice on how to get on with people in life, looking at family relationships, relationships with neighbours, relationships with employers and rulers and how to treat God. Psalms is a prayer book demonstrating personal communication between people and God.
When we get to the New Testament, we find that God’s plan of redemption and salvation is set out in 4 gospels (accounts of ‘good news’), each showing us different facets of God’s love and how salvation was worked out through the person of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.The Acts of the Apostles and the New Testament letters continue to teach us more of God’s love, mercy and grace and how He is working everything out in conformity with the purpose of His will (Eph 1:11), a fulfilment finally seen in the book of Revelation. Relationships really do dominate every book of the Bible!