We want to make sense of our lives and the world. So do our kids. What narrative helps us do that?

“Only the strong survive” shouts loudest—in the lunch hall, playground, or in a global pandemic. “You do you!” and a Disneyesque “Follow your heart!” are prevalent voices in our culture. But in the Bible, God speaks humbly through the din. Let’s help our kids hear.

Grab a napkin. Pick up a pen or your kid’s fat crayon. Then draw these designs on the napkin while explaining the Bible’s story, step by step. 

The King and His Kingdom

Ruling over everything is the king, full of glory and wisdom. God is in charge, and this is good. From beginning to end and all in between, he guides and cares for his creation. He knows best, and this never changes (Gen. 1; Ps. 47:1–4, 7; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 11:5). 

1. Genesis 1–11

The universe is God’s kingdom, but he focuses first on a garden. He often uses humble beginnings. God designed Adam and Eve to rule together as visible images of him (Gen. 1:26–28)—like living mirrors, flesh-and-blood portraits, royally reflecting God to his watching kingdom. 

But creation’s prince and princess say, “No, my way!” (Gen. 3:6), and their kids spiral into more evil and violence (Gen. 4:1–16; 6:5; 11:1–9). God washes the world and begins again with Noah (Gen. 6–8). But sinners remain (Gen. 8:21) and selfishly focus on their glory again. The kind king confuses and scatters them across the earth (Gen. 11:9).

2. Genesis 12–Deuteronomy

God then draws a sinner (Abram) into a loving relationship with him—a covenant. Starting small with Abraham and his family (Gen. 12–50), God saves their descendants from slavery and even lets them come into his presence by forgiving their sins (Exodus–Leviticus). Many continue to reject him (Numbers), but God keeps loving his people with covenant loyalty. He demands they love him wholly and love their neighbors (Ex. 20:1–17; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 6:5). His kingdom crawls forward.

3. Joshua–Esther

God helps Israel conquer the land he promised Abraham, expanding his visible kingdom (Joshua). He provides judges, prophets, and kings to guide and guard his stiff-necked people who keep breaking his covenant of love (Judges–2 Chronicles). God justly kicks them out (exiles them) from the land because of their constant turning away, but he preserves them while they’re in exile (Esther). He even graciously restores many of them to the promised land (Ezra–Nehemiah).

4. Job–Malachi

And God keeps providing! Regardless of their setting (in the promised land, in exile, back in the promised land), God gives his people songs and wisdom (Job–Song of Solomon) and prophecies (Isaiah–Malachi) to help them think hard about their covenant relationship with him and each other, in good times and bad. 

The King Comes

Before creation, God planned his Son’s arrival, and he prepared for Christ throughout the whole Old Testament. God always rules perfectly, so his Son, Jesus, arrives at exactly the right time. God then inspires the New Testament, and the New Testament unfolds quite like the Old Testament did! Notice the similarities and differences.

1. Matthew–John

God draws sinners who repent and trust Jesus into a loving relationship—the new covenant. (Remember how he did this in Genesis 12–Deuteronomy) Christ now fully shows God’s love for us by dying on the cross for our sins and rising in victory, freeing us from our slavery to sin. In this new covenant, we are still to love God wholly and love our neighbors (Luke 6:27–36; Matt. 22:37–39). But in the new covenant, there is resurrection life and power for us to do that once Christ sends his Spirit (John 7:37–39).

2. Acts

King Jesus extends God’s visible kingdom by drawing more and more people to himself—a people called the church. Remember how he did this in Judges–Esther. This time his kingdom is meant to spread across the whole earth, not just a garden or the promised land. And instead of accomplishing this through fighting, Jesus fills his followers with his Holy Spirit and sends them with the good news of his kingdom to their neighbors and people from all nations.

3. Romans–Revelation 18

And God keeps providing! Remember Job–Malachi. Regardless of his people’s situation (in peace or pain), God sends letters (Romans–Revelation) to help them think hard about who they are in Christ and how to live together in this new covenant relationship with the Father by the Spirit.

4. Revelation 19–22

God will complete his kingdom! And the end will be even better than the garden—a whole new creation. God will conquer his enemies (Rev. 20:10, 15). He will dwell among those from every ethnicity, whom King Jesus purchased with his blood (Rev. 21:3; cf. 5:9). And we will enjoy and glorify him together forever, with Jesus giving us authority to rule with him on his throne (Rev. 20:4; cf. Rev. 2:26–27; 3:21)!

Into the Beyond

What story will help the children in our life survive, even thrive, in this broken world? 

From beginning to end and for his glory, God is bringing the world to peace with himself under King Jesus. From small beginnings, wisely worked over time, he is achieving kingdom peace and covenant love through both beauty and pain. Every ethnicity, status, and age is included—all focused on Jesus, the Good King. 

Tell this story to your children. Draw it on a napkin. Slip these images as bookmarks into their Bibles at the proper places. Help them navigate the Bible by God’s major themes made prominent.

And who says this can only be used for kids? Guide people from all ages, cultures, and walks through the glories and grace of our great God in Christ by the Spirit through Scripture. 

Editors’ note: 

The designs in this article are by Joel M. Dougherty (MDiv, Bethlehem College & Seminary), director of curriculum development at Training Leaders International. His designs appear in What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About and How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament.