This is my two-year old son's latest expression. When he really likes something, he will pipe up with "That's my favourite!" He's a positive child; has a good confession, even at a tender age! :-)
When we were at the Ministries Without Borders Bible week, we were given a Children's Illustrated Bible Story book. He loves it. Most mornings after he wakes up, he comes and sits on our bed, while Dada drinks his coffee and slowly rejoins the land of the living, and asks to read his "Special Book."
Can you guess what his favourite stories are? It's no great surprise: "Big Boat" (Noah), "Big Fish" (Jonah) and "Lions' Den" (Daniel) — that's ma boy!
This got me thinking. Jesus loved Children. You see that clearly in the Gospels. He didn't have much time for religious people, with their pretence and their hypocrisy, their legalism and their somber piety, but he loved the simple, real, down to earth, fun-loving children.
So, I don't think it is any coincidence that these three stories, the ones that most Children are immediately drawn too, are three of the most significant illustrations of Christ in the Old Testament.
At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." (Lk 10:21)
In the story of Noah, we have a great picture of what it means to be shielded from God's wrath by being in Christ. Just as only Noah and his family, those who were in the ark, were saved, so too, only those who are in Christ can be saved from God's righteous judgement on sin. Just as it didn't matter how good a swimmer you were when the floods came, so too, it doesn't matter how good a person you think you are, or how many good deeds you have done. No-one can be saved by their own efforts; Jesus is the only way. The great news is that while only 8 people were saved in the ark, in Christ there is room for all who will respond. He will never turn anyone away.
Jonah too is an amazing book. I don't think many Christians realise just how remarkable the book of Jonah really is. It is listed among the prophets and yet we don't have recorded a single word of Jonah's prophetic utterance! This is because Jonah himself, and his life were the prophetic message. In the four short chapters of Jonah we have an entire summary, a succinct representation, of the whole divine will of God for man! Man was purposed to serve God, that was his calling and his commission, yet he rebelled and turned the other way, choosing instead to turn his back on God. Yet God desires to take hold of man, and through a powerful identification with Christ's death and resurrection, give him a second chance to serve him in newness of life, and give him a part to play in the proclamation of a message that will bring salvation to the multitudes.
And Daniel... what can I say about Daniel... I could preach a whole series on Daniel!... oh yeah! I already did! ;-) If you are looking for Christ, revealed in the pages of the Old Testament, there isn't a better book! Jesus himself chose his messianic title "Son of Man", from the pages of this book. Daniel was a man before his time; he lived full of the Spirit before Pentecost, and met Christ himself prior to the incarnation. He saw things that even the great prophets like Isaiah didn't see. He saw the coming of the messiah, as they did; he saw the suffering and death of Christ as they did; but he saw even further to Christ's second coming, the final judgement of the living and the dead. Did you know that the only clear reference to the resurrection of the dead in the Old Testament is found in this book? But Daniel himself is also a "type" of Christ. As an exercise just read again the passage of Daniel in the lions' den, and compare it to the Gospel accounts of Christ in the tomb...
So never underestimate the truth contained in these "Children's Stories." Jesus loves the children. And as for Daniel... to quote my little boy.... "That's my favourite!"