The first book of the Bible is called, “Genesis,” which means, “Beginning.” This profound book charts the very beginning of history from the creation of the world to the Israelites descent into Egypt over 2000 years later. Perhaps the most helpful way to remember the events of Genesis is to break the book into two parts: four great events, followed by four great men of faith.
Event #1: Creation — The Bible clearly teaches that God created the world in six literal days. Moreover, God had a definite plan concerning how He was going to accomplish this creation. For example, God created light, water, and dry land before He ever created plant life (Gen. 1:1-12). Next He created the sun, moon, and stars, followed by the birds and fish. On the sixth day, when everything else was in place, God created land animals and man. God is wise indeed concerning the intricate relationships among His creation, and His wisdom is clearly seen in its order. He is the Great Creator, and is worthy of our praise because He made us (Psalm 148). Have you ever considered the arrogance of one who would enjoy the benefits of God’s creation without being grateful to the Creator?
Event #2: Fall — God created man, “in our image” (Genesis 1:26) so that man could have a relationship with Him. Adam, the first man, and Eve, the first woman were placed in a beautiful garden where there seems to have been only one law: “Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). From the beginning, Satan was allowed to tempt God’s creation, and Eve chose to disobey God by eating the fruit. Later, she offered the fruit to Adam, who willingly ate as well (Gen. 3:6). Thus was sin (transgression of God’s law) brought into God’s world by the willful disobedience of human beings. The Bible teaches that each person is responsible for his own sin (Ezekiel 18:1-20), but it also teaches that every person of a responsible age chooses to sin (Romans 3:10, 23). Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden was just the first in a long series of violations of God’s will in this world. What tremendous love God shows, however, by alluding to the coming of One who will, “crush the serpent’s head” (Genesis 3:15). Despite our disobedience, God has made a way for our guilt to be passed on to Another.
Event #3: Flood — As time went on from those early days in the garden, men continually sinned to the point that, “God was sorry that He had made man, and grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). Friends, from the very beginning the Bible wants us to have a clear picture of the ugliness of sin. God was so offended by man’s actions that He determined to destroy the world in a flood (Genesis 6:7), but one righteous man, Noah, was found. Noah was told to build an ark of gopher wood with specific dimensions (Genesis 6:10-22), and by his faithful obedience Noah and his family was delivered from the destruction of the world (Gen. 6:22). Never underestimate the power of faithful obedience to God’s word. Such faith changes the very course of world history!
Event #4: Babel — Following the flood, God allowed the earth to once again be repopulated with Noah’s descendants. As the people became more numerous, they once again determined to exalt themselves before God by building a massive tower (Gen. 11:1-9). God once again judged mankind in history by scattering the people and confusing their language. Thus were the “nations” of the earth born. God has not ceased to judge nations within history (Dan. 4:17; Prov. 14:34). Though God will never again destroy the world with a flood (Gen. 9:8-17), He can and does destroy wicked nations to accomplish His purposes (Deut. 28:64ff). He is Sovereign in the kingdoms of men!
Abraham — Abram was a very wealthy man living in the land of Ur when God called him (Gen. 11:31-32). Incredibly, Abram left his homeland without even knowing where he was headed (Heb. 11:8-9). Abraham becomes a model of faithfulness in the New Testament because he consistently believes God’s word and acts accordingly (cf. Rom. 4; James 2; Gal. 3). Saving faith is always depicted in Scripture as trust in God’s word conjoined with obedience. God made a promise to Abram that, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Thus, God “chose” the nation of Israel to bring Jesus into the world (Galatians 3:15-18). What an amazing promise to a man of tremendous faith (Hebrews 11:8-12)!
Isaac — When God told Abraham and Sarah they would bear a son, they laughed (Gen. 17:17; 18:12). When their son was born, they named him “Isaac,” which means, “Laughter” (Gen. 21:1-7). Growing up, Isaac must have learned tremendous lessons from the faith of his father, Abraham. It was Isaac who was nearly offered as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:9-14), and it was for Isaac that Abraham sent a servant into a far country to find a bride (Gen. 24:3-4). Abraham seemed genuinely concerned that his son learn the most important lessons of life: fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). Would to God that there were more fathers so dedicated today!
Jacob — Isaac was the son that God had promised all along, and thus Isaac became the father of twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Jacob deceived his brother and father into receiving the blessing and birthright, both of which had been Esau’s (Gen. 25:29-34; 27). Jacob fled his brother in fear, and thus began a journey that changed the world forever. His name was changed to, “Israel,” and he received a vision of the promise God had made to his grandfather, Abraham (Gen. 28:13-14). Jacob went to work for his uncle Laban and married his two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Through Jacob’s family came 12 sons and one daughter, Dinah. The 12 sons of Jacob became the families of the tribes of Israel.
Joseph — Because their mother was loved, Joseph and Benjamin became the “favorites” of their father Jacob. Whenever parents play favorites, bitterness and resentment are part of family life. Joseph was given a beautiful coat by his father, and his brothers despised him for it. Seeking to do him harm, they cast Joseph into a pit (Gen. 37:12ff), and later sold him into Egyptian slavery. Christians would do well to learn the lessons of Joseph’s brothers: the evil we wish on other people may soon return to become a snare for us as well! Joseph was a faithful man of God, however, and he acted with integrity when tempted to do evil (Gen. 39:7-15). For this, he was again cast into prison. From Joseph’s life we learn that faithfulness is not always easy, nor is obedience to God subject to situation ethics. On the contrary, Jesus called those “blessed” who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10-12). Joseph forgave his brothers and explained their misdeeds this way, “you meant it to me for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). May all Christians have faith like that!
We dare not overlook the fundamental teachings of Genesis. They were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4), and can build up those who live by faith (Hab. 2:4). — JB