When my three children were very young, a friend in our church gifted us a new book from Crossway called The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm and illustrated by Gail Schoonmaker. Helm is currently senior pastor of Christ Church in Chicago, IL.
Upon receiving the book, I promptly shelved it. I had been exposed to countless children’s Bible story books, many of which contained suspect or at least watered down theology. And with this book being 450 pages long, I wasn’t too keen to dive in.
As a pastor, I love and collect good books. When my oldest turned seven, I purchased a commentary on 2 Peter by a pastor I’d never heard of, David Helm. Whoa! Was it ever helpful to me in clearly and forcefully expositing the apostle Peter’s teaching. So imagine my delight when I put it together that the author of this theologically precise and helpful commentary had written a children’s Bible book––and I actually owned it all this time!
The Big Story Won Me Over
Now I am a fan of The Big Picture. Written for children ages 2-7, it retells in breathtaking simplicity and complexity the big story (or, for all my theological nerds, “metanarrative”) of the Bible. Helm tells many of the little stories of the Bible, but he purposefully focuses on the BIG STORY. Each little story serves only to highlight the big thing God is doing at that point in redemption history. All you need to know about Helm’s understanding of the Bible’s"storyline" can be found in the acknowledgments at the beginning of the book. According to Helm, the focus of the Bible is “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.”
God had a people (Adam & Eve) in His place (Eden) under His rule. But they disobeyed God and were banished from God’s place. But on that very sad day, God promised a forever King who would create a new people for a new place under His new rule of grace and blessing.
This is the theme that continues throughout The Big Picture. Helm focuses on the Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants in his retelling of the Old Testament, culminating in the New covenant spoken of by Ezekiel. This is what I mean by the simplicity and complexity of theology in this thick children’s book. Children of all ages can easily grasp the flow of progressive revelation presented in this volume. And to be honest, teens and parents can also greatly benefit from this sweeping narrative. It shows how the stories of the Bible connect to tell one big story. And you can see it all from 30,000 feet.
As he arrives in the New Testament (fully half of his book), Helm puts the spotlight on Jesus. He is the forever King promised. He is the One who rescues His people. He is the One who has become God’s temple. He is the One who brings blessing to all the peoples of the earth. In telling the story of Jesus, Helm largely draws from John’s Gospel, highlighting the deity of Christ. After the resurrection, Jesus is creating a new people, bringing them to a new place, where they will forever live under His gracious, new rule.
In telling the story, Helm often asks questions of the child. These questions not only advance the story but also cause the reader to interact with the feelings and motivations of the characters. I found the questions helpful and engaging. Wise parents can use these questions for discussion as they read with their child.
I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge Schoonmaker’s beautiful artwork. She paints her characters and landscape in bold, vivid colors that are sure to arrest the attention of young children. Adults can discern little touches that add nuance to the story and make the picture pop. For example, in her illustration of Abraham and Sarah waiting long for the promised baby, Schoonmaker draws an elderly Sarah knitting baby clothes and socks as she sits by an empty bassinet. Emotions, fears, doubts, and the weariness of long anticipation with no baby color her face. Will God keep His promise? Schoonmaker’s paintings convey what words alone cannot say.
Of course, the Bible ends with Revelation, and so does The Big Picture. God’s people arrive in the New Jerusalem with Jesus. The whole story culminates in joy, peace, love, and satisfaction with our forever King. And as you turn to the last page, Helm asks all of us, “Can you believe it?” Here is his gospel invitation. Believe in Christ. Believe this story is true. Believe God. Will you do it now?
Don’t wait for your kids to grow up as I did before you have them read and re-read this excellent resource.
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Andy is a husband to beautiful Bryn, dad to 3 great kids, pastor, hymn writer, and church planter who enjoys preaching, baseball, and westerns. He lives with his family in Reno, NV.View all posts by Andy