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  • Writer's pictureJill Ball

Telling a Story

Storytelling is one of the most popular means of entertainment throughout the world. It was also one of the main ways that Christ Jesus used to teach. Much of the bible was written as stories that we can retell and learn from.



The way Jesus taught us


Jesus taught us using three main methods


  • with parables

  • by his actions

  • through short, enigmatic sayings.


Parables are essentially stories with a point.


Bible Stories


The bible is packed full of stories of people’s lives and their relationship with God. As we read of their experiences, we can learn so much. The Holy Bible is an Eastern book, with a holistic view of the world.


Westerners need to analyse and explain everything. We are always looking for the concept the God is ‘trying to’ make clear to us. The Lord is quite capable of speaking for himself. His word reaches to where spirit and soul divide, to the very marrow in our bones. We might struggle to listen above the noise, or to accept the implications, but Our God doesn’t struggle to talk.


Maybe we should just let the story stand by itself.


Because bible stories are great for children in Sunday school, we seem to think they are not appropriate for us as we grow up.


However, around the world, traditional stories and fables have always been used to impart wisdom. They are told to the whole community, including adults. In parts of Africa and India you can still find captivating storytellers. Traditional proverbs are also valued.


Westerners like stories too. Even in the developed world, the journey of contestants on TV shows have become very popular. They are interesting and memorable. In the place of traditional stories, the modern world has embraced films, TV dramas and plays.


One way to tell a story is to act it out.

Although it takes more effort, it is actually more rewarding, to act it out ourselves.


A Story from Israel's history


So let's look at a story from 1 Kings 18 v 20 - 24


So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.
Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.
Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.
Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.” Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

We need to understand something of the background to a story, so I will briefly introduce it.


Nowadays if we have a religious dispute, we wouldn’t approach it in this way or end it by slaughtering our opponents. Jesus taught us to love our enemies, not to kill them.


But this is a true story that happened at a particular point in the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the ninth century BC.


Ahab was king of Israel. He married a Phoenician princess called Jezebel, who had grown up in modern-day Lebanon and who worshipped Baal. The Phoenician word baal meant lord or owner, but one of the gods of the Phoenician pantheon was also called Baal. He was the god of thunder, rain, dew and fertility. He was given the title Prince, Lord of the Earth.


Ahab was a weak king, married to a powerful woman. Jezebel started to have the prophets of the Lord killed. Although Obadiah was Ahab’s servant, he hid and fed a hundred prophets in caves, to save them from this pogrom. Elijah, one of the prophets of the Lord, prophesied that there would be a drought. This was a direct challenge to the power of Baal, as he was the god of rain.


King Ahab searched in vain for Elijah.

Then one day Elijah found Obadiah and gave him a message for his master, the king.

Read the story in the passage in 1 Kings 18 v 16 - 40


We can learn so much from this passage, but before you ask yourself 3 questions, or look for the moral of the story, stop to reflect on the story in its entirety. Don't ignore the things you notice first. They are like the headlines. However, as you reflect on the story, you will see more - the small print. Ask God to speak to you through it.


Allow the story itself to speak to you.

Mull it over in your mind.

Read it again. Chew on it.

Read on to see what happens next, if you want to.


This not about giving the correct answers in an exam.


The best stories live with us and give up their secrets slowly.


Gotta Serve Somebody - Bob Dylan


As a poet or wordsmith there are few modern songwriters to rival Bob Dylan. The message of this song, which was written in the 1970’s is the same as Elijah’s, which was preached in the ninth century BC, almost 3000 years earlier.


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