Phew! Genesis read in four days. I’m enjoying the grand overview of God’s story and the small connections I may not have made over a longer time period. Usually I love getting stuck into the details. Now, I’m noting a few things to get stuck into later, while immersing myself in the big picture.
I must admit I’ve found the Genesis story odd and confusing at times. So many deceitful actions. So many uncomfortable family and sexual relationships. Not always any judgement by God on these things. And giving up one’s birthright for stew? Ludicrous! There must be something I’m missing here. I know someone who makes a mean lentil stew, but if I had a birthright I doubt I’d give that up for it!
Of course, I’m sure these people’s stories are similar to the stories of other people who lived at the same time, and let’s be honest, they’re not very far removed from the stories of people today. I suppose they seem unsettling to me because they happen among the people God has chosen for himself.
Certainly, that God uses these flawed characters to bring about his purposes highlights that it is he who is really doing the good work here. And could it be that the things I consider important are not the things God considers important? I would not rule that out; why read Bible if I’m not prepared to have my preconceived ideas challenged? And perhaps, as I have often thought, God reveals himself progressively over time, working out his plans within human cultures and not stretching people’s imaginations too far beyond what their understanding of the world allows. He reveals his ways to our hearts and minds a little at a time, as a teacher would challenge a student towards ever greater understanding.
But God never completely stays within the box. He does the improbable, even the impossible. A baby for Sarah in her old age. A despised brother, sold as a slave, put in charge of a nation so he can save his family (and many more). And God does require righteousness of those who have the knowledge of good and evil.
Being one who likes to ‘pull things apart’, I’m sure that my lifetime won’t be long enough to investigate all the threads that intrigue me. And not all of them will have answers available. What did people understand righteousness and blamelessness before the Lord to mean, before the Law was given? Why did God test Abraham after he had already made the covenant (17:1-8, 22:15-18)? How does Genesis compare and contrast with documents of other nations of the time? How did the Genesis document come to be? (Is it a blending of sources, as some suggest? I noted that the name Yahweh first appears in chapter two but is absent from the ‘first’ creation story, as if they are two separate stories that have been glued together.) And my list goes on!
But having read Genesis, this is what I can say for sure of its message: Yahweh God brought the world into being, he is in charge of and personally involved in its goings on, he desires righteousness and blamelessness before him, he listens when his people speak earnestly to him and he is at work to make a himself a nation and give them a home.
Now onto Exodus!