The Bible is a book written by, about, and for people. God intends for us to get to know ourselves better, and Him, by connecting with those people and using their examples (good and bad) to be a good friend to all of the people we know in our own lives.
The other day my son was looking through a Bible. He kept flipping to the front of the book and looking at the first few pages, then going to the middle of the book and finding things. Here...let me show you what he was doing.
[Using a Bible, flip to the Table of Contents or a list of books of the Bible in the front of the book. Show another Bible and how it might look a little different, but has the same information. Tip: Don't show any more than 3 different books. The children will lose interest.]
He would find a book of the Bible in the Front, here, and then look for the page number of that book. Then he would go to that page number and look to see if it was the right book of the Bible. I asked him what he was doing? He said "I'm finding my friends in the Bible."[Text Wrapping Break]
My son's favorite book of the Bible is Luke. Do you know why? ...of course, it's because his name is Luke. The book of Luke is named after the man who wrote the book. He also was looking up his friend, James (show the book of James), his cousin, Esther (show book of Esther), Pastor John (show the book of John) then he got stuck "Where is Joseph?" he asked. "I know Joseph is in the Bible, but I can't find him."
Is there a Joseph in the Bible? Do you know where there is a Joseph in the Bible? Joseph and his coat of many colors in Genesis 37-50 and Joseph in the Christmas story Matthew 1:18-2:23 or Luke 2:1-2:20. Joseph didn't have any books of the Bible named after him, but there are obviously a couple of important people named "Joseph" in the Bible. Then next, we looked up our friend, Andrew. There are several people in our church with the name Andrew, aren't there?
Can you think of any other names of people you know that are in the Bible? Maybe some of the people with those names are sitting right here? Jacob, Nathanael, David, Bethany, John, Sam (Samuel), Sarah...Lots of grown-ups at our church have first names from the Bible, but you might now know their first names, because you call them Mr. or Mrs. someone. Give a couple of examples of adults with Bible names. I'll bet some of your friends at school or in sports or other activities have names that are in the Bible too.
Part of the reason parents name their children after people who are in the Bible, is because they admire and look up to lots of characters who are in the stories in the Bible. For example, my husband's name is "David", because his mother named him after "David" in the Bible, who wrote all of the Psalms and who fought Goliath and won and who became a great king. She wanted to name him after a person who did lots of admirable things. David in the Bible was not perfect, but he was a strong, creative person, who was a good example of how to have a close relationship with God. He would be a good person to have as a friend.
Many of the people in the Bible can be like friends to us. A true friend will be a good influence on us. Friends encourage us to do what's right and be our best. They forgive us when we make mistakes and ask us to forgive them when they make mistakes.
[Maybe have quick story that has a friend and not a friend in it. Have them pick out the friend in the story.]
Some characters in the Bible are characters in a made up story written to teach a lesson. Other characters are real people, like the two Joseph's we just talked about. All of the characters in the Bible teach us lessons, whether they are "good" characters or "bad" characters. The next time you listen to a Bible story, I want you to look for the "friends" in the story. The people who would be a good example for you to follow and the people in the story who would make good friends if you knew them in real life. If you talk to grown-ups in our church, I think they would tell you that they have friends in the Bible too. Many of them "met" those friends when they were your age, hearing Bible stories for the first time. You can read about them again and again during your life and continue to be helped by their good examples, even when you are all grown up.
Lord, thank you for friends in all of their many forms. Teach us to recognize them, whether they come to us in our daily lives or in stories from the Bible. Inspire us to be like them toward everyone we know and encourage us to spend time in Your Word, so that we may connect with our past and the examples of true love that live there. In your name we pray, Amen.