Framing using Bible stories
An important part of the key tool of framing is using Bible stories to frame life spiritually for our kids – in other words, to show them ways God relates to us by exploring how he did that with people in the Bible.
There are two ways to do this.
The first is to retell the story from God’s point of view, so that it highlights the relationship between God and his people by emphasising what he is doing and why he is doing it – things that are often just assumed in the Bible text itself or retellings.
The second is to use the story as it is written but stopping to ask questions that prompt your child to think more deeply about God’s role.
Here we share examples of what both methods might look like. These are probably more detailed than you might use but will give you ideas for how to do it yourself. You can use the stories straight from the Bible, but the same methods work using informal retellings or Bible story books.
Baby Moses is saved – Exodus 2 – a story told from God’s point of view
This is an example of the first method. Everything that is included in this story about God is either derived directly from the story or is known about God from scripture. Just to give you an idea of how this works, we have inserted Bible references where you can read this about God.
This method works both very informally – as you tell a Bible story to your kids at bedtime, for example – and in a more formal setting, such as children’s church or even a Bible study with adults! Our example is very comprehensive but you don’t have to be. Simply add in what you know about God as you go. Asking yourself questions such as ‘what would God be doing now?’ or ‘why would God do that?’ will help prompt you.
God’s heart was breaking for his people [Exodus 3:7]. When they’d arrived in Egypt, it had been such a joyous time! The Pharaoh had welcomed them and they had lived there peacefully. But now? The new Pharaoh was scared of them and had enslaved them, forcing them to build his great new cities. He had thought of an even crueller plan – to kill all the Hebrew baby boys so God’s people would be no more.
But God had a plan too [John 3:16–17]. His people were precious and important to him [Deuteronomy 7:6]. And it was through his people that he was going to save the world [Romans 9:4– 5] – and he was going to save his people! God watched [Psalm 33:13–15], and waited for exactly the right moment [Isaiah 16:22].
And he was watching a lady called Jochabed, who had just given birth to a son. A son! How wonderful, Jochabed thought, as she showed him to her daughter Miriam – but then her heart froze as she remembered the new Pharaoh’s plan. For three whole months, she hid her baby. And for three whole months, God waited. He had great plans for this child and he needed Jochabed and Miriam to play their parts [1 Corinthians 3:9].
As the baby grew it became harder and harder to keep him hidden and one day, through her tears, Jochabed placed her baby in a watertight basket and covered him over carefully. She walked quickly down to the river with big sister, Miriam, and slipped the basket onto the water, pushing it into the reeds so it couldn’t be seen. ‘Stay here’, she told Miriam quietly, ‘and watch to see what happens.’ As she walked back to the house, tears running down her face, God whispered [I Kings 19:12] to Jochabed, comforting her [2 Corinthians 1:3–4]. Jochabed knew she had to trust God [Psalm 9:10].
The princess walked along the river bank, looking for a private place to bathe. Her gaze wandered across the water, and she spotted a basket bobbing among the reeds. ‘Fetch me that basket!’ she demanded. Her slave splashed through the water to pull the basket out and as she lifted it out of the water, the baby started to cry.
Crouched by the reeds, Miriam’s heart missed a beat and she froze with fear. An Egyptian princess! Surely… reaching into the basket, the princess uncovered her baby brother and smiled. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she announced, and to Miriam’s astonishment, started to rock and comfort him.
‘Go on,’ nudged God, ‘go on Miriam! You’ve heard me right and I’m with you all the way’ [Psalm 16:7]. Miriam took a deep breath and stepped out of the reeds and timidly approached the princess. ‘Your highness,’ she said, ‘errr… would you like me to go and find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for you?’
As the princess nodded, Miriam turned and sprinted home. ‘Mum! Mum! God’s done the most amazing thing! The baby’s going to be okay! Come with me!’ Jochabed hurried down to the river and bowed to the princess.
‘Take this baby and nurse him for me,’ the princess said, ‘and I will pay you. And when he is older, bring him to the palace, and I will adopt him.’
And God’s heart was filled with joy [Jeremiah 32:41]. Part 1 of the rescue plan? Tick. Thanks to the obedience of Jochabed and Miriam.
The fiery furnace – Daniel 3 – asking what God might be doing/feeling/thinking
This is an example of the second method of helping children see God’s relationship with people through Bible stories by stopping to ask ‘wondering’ questions about what God might be doing, thinking or feeling as you go. This isn’t about right or wrong answers (most of the time we won’t know if they are right or wrong!) but about helping people to think more widely about God and to link what they know about God with their real life circumstances. This example uses the biblical text but it would work equally well with a version from a Bible story book.
Again, this can be used informally at home as well as with children in a teaching setting or even adults. You don’t need to ask these exact questions, but this example will give you an idea of what it might look like.
Daniel chapter 3
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. [What might God be thinking about this image?] He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
Then the herald loudly proclaimed, ‘Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: as soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’
Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshipped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. [What might God be feeling when he saw all those people worshipping a statue?]
At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.’ [What do you think God was doing when he saw what hadrach, Meshach and Abednego were doing?]
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?’ [What might God be feeling now?]
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’ [What might God be thinking now?]
Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude towards them changed. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisors, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’
They replied, ‘Certainly, Your Majesty.’
He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ [What do you think God might be doing?]
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisors crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’ [What might God be feeling about this?]
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon. [What might God be doing?]