The Book of Beginnings
“Then Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith
as proof of genuine loyalty (evidence of steadfast commitment, righteousness).” (Genesis 15:6)
Genesis provides the historical foundation for the entire Bible and the basis for the Pentateuch. Moses, the author (Matthew 19:8; Mark 7:10), traces the history of the universe from God’s perspective. The account is selective according to Moses’ purpose to encourage the Israelites assembled on the Plains of Moab to trust in their faithful and omnipotent God enough to conquer the Promised Land.
The events Moses records in Genesis take the reader from Eden to Egypt and cover thousands of years from Creation to Abram’s family (1-11) and then the 300 years from Abram’s covenant with God to the death of Joseph (12-50).
Moses moves the story forward through the phrase “the generations of” (toledot in Hebew, and translated “the account” or “record). It divides the book 10 times (36:9 repeats 36:1) beginning with the person named, who may not be the primary character of the section, and closes with that persons death (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 37:1).
Genesis introduces the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) as God’s solution to a self-destructing humanity bent on devastating destruction. The first eleven chapters surface the desperate need of the Covenant. The remaining chapters unfold the outworking of the covenant through the lives of the four Patriarchs of the Hebrew faith—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
God is the luminary of Genesis as the narrative reveals His place in the origin of the universe and the birth and life of the believing community He powerfully and faithfully delivers. Of His own choice and due only to His love and mercy, He established Israel as the means of blessing the undeserving families of the earth in response to Abrahams’ faith.
Imagine the impact this view of history had on the children of the generation that refused to believe God at Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 14). Far more than a gaggle of slaves slinking back home. Moses wanted them to see themselves as the chosen people of the living God with a glorious and eternal destiny! Genesis, the book of beginnings, has encouraged believers since the post-Exodus generation by providing God’s exciting perspective on their role in history:
Genesis is a theological presentation of selected facts and stories from history to expose humanity’s disastrous revolt against our Creator and His merciful response.
I. Genesis provides the historical basis for God’s covenant with His people and reveals the basic principles involved in God’s relationship with all people of all time.
A. HUMAN HISTORY: Genesis 1-11 proves the necessity for the covenant setting apart a special people, Israel, in a special land, Canaan, to worship Him. Two antithetical dynamics of God’s gracious provision for humanity and humanity’s totally rebellious and disastrous response are demonstrated in four primeval events, leaving humanity hopelessly enslaved to sin.
1. CREATION: God, seeking relationship with man, graciously and lovingly provides everything he needs for intimacy with Him—paradise, partner, and purpose (1-2).
2. FALL: Man and woman, seeking independence and rejecting God’s love and care, sin and die spiritually, separating the race from God as sin’s destructive power rapidly pollutes every aspect of life (3-5).
Messiah: A glimmer of light, a thread of hope. In spite of the curse of the Fall, God promises hope for redemption through the seed of the woman (3:15).
3. FLOOD: Sin’s exponential and cancerous growth brings a cleansing judgment to save humanity—a new beginning with a righteous man, Noah, and his family (6-9).
4. NATIONS: At the Fall, one couple rebelled against God. The fresh start fails as now the entire world civilization rebels against God’s love and care at the Tower of Babel. To throttle evil God fragments the single culture and language of the world and scatters people over the face of the earth (10-11).
B. HEBREW HISTORY: The decadence of humanity led to a necessary election of a people descended from one man of faith—Abraham. He would be the first of four great men (Patriarchs) who trust God. God promises to build a nation by faith, a nation through whom He will redeem the world from sin and bless all nations (12-50).
1. ABRAHAM: God calls Abraham; Abraham believes God; God makes covenant promises to Abraham (land, descendants, and blessings). The faith and covenants of Abraham form the foundation to God’s program of bringing salvation upon the earth (12-25).
2. ISAAC: God establishes His covenant with the son of promise—Isaac not Ishmael. Isaac would be the child of faith and blessing (25-26).
3. JACOB: God establishes His covenant with the second, ambitious son of Isaac—Jacob, not Esau. He transforms this man from selfishness to servanthood and his name to Israel, the father of twelve tribes. Every descendant of Jacob would inherit the promises to Abraham and Isaac (27-36).
4. JOSEPH: God protects His covenant people through the faith of Jacob’s favorite son—Joseph. A type of Christ, loved by the father and rejected by his brethren, Joseph becomes their deliverer. His brothers deliver him to slavery in Egypt. After his dramatic rise to rulership of Egypt, Joseph delivers his family from famine and brings them out of Canaan to Goshen (37-50).
Messiah: A glimmer of light, a thread of hope. In spite of the miserable failure of Jacob’s sons, Shiloh, the One who brings peace to the world and before whom the entire world will bow, will be a descendant of Judah (49:10).
“In the unfolding of this grand program of God, Genesis introduces the reader to the nature of God as the sovereign Lord over the universe who will move heaven and earth to establish His will. He seeks to bless mankind, but does not tolerate disobedience and unbelief. Throughout His revelation the reader learns that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Hebews 11:6).” Allen P. Ross, Genesis, p. 21
II. The God of the Bible moved heaven and earth so that He could relate to those who believe in Him—to love them and care for them as their omnipotent God.
A. Genesis records how God called Abram out of a godless culture and made wonderful promises to him (Genesis 12:1-3) that God guaranteed by an unconditional covenant (Genesis 15). Abraham is the model of faith according to New Testament authors. He trusted God’s promise to rescue him (Romans 4:1-3, 16-24; Galatians 3:6-9). And then, after entering into relationship with God due solely to his faith (Genesis 12:1-3; 15), Abraham trusted Him enough to follow and became God’s friend (Hebrews 11:8-19; James 2:21-23)
Have you trusted in the promises of God to this generation of seekers—“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
B. If you have been rescued from sin by faith, what is He asking you to trust Him for right now?
C. How does the big picture of the Book of Genesis help you trust Him enough to do what He’s asking you to do?