The prophets employed stories, images, and metaphors as their default apologetic. Nathan, for example, knew he wouldn’t have success confronting King David directly, so he told the King a parable about a wicked neighbor. Likewise, many preachers and writers use personal illustrations and anecdotes to make these presentations interesting. Why? Because our minds work primarily in images. Our thoughts are a complex activity “encompassing reasoning, intuiting, and feeling,” and if we want to go deep within the Story of God we have to work with images—both actual images like photographs, graphics, etc—and word-pictures, like metaphors, similes, and comparisons.

“The sensory dimension of the Scriptures, in which God’s self-revelation to us is expressed, is encompassed in the term ‘imagery.’ Imagery includes pictures and images, such as ‘God is my rock’, but also includes the sensory qualities of individuals and groups, the physical environment, comparisons, metaphors, and similes. Imagery is another dimension of the world of specific persons and events in which our faith is revealed to us.” -Patricia Wilson-Kastner

One of the least explored methods of studying the scripture is to look for imagery and trace it throughout as much of the biblical literature as possible. Something as simple as a seed, for example, could be used to talk about the lineage of God’s people (the seed of Abraham), the unbroken promise of God’s plan to heal the world (the seed of Promise), the faith required to become vested in Christ (faith like a mustard seed), and the ultimate connection we enjoy with the Father (the seed which grows into the vine and the branches).

When we trace these images throughout scripture, we begin to make connections between authors and genres that would not otherwise have been obvious or accessible. This way we can learn the Big Story of the Scripture.

Adapted from Then. Now. Next.: A Biblical vision of the church, the kingdom, and the future.