This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 17th February 2018.
In this session we will get to grips with the Book of Genesis, following God’s interaction with his people from Creation to the death of Joseph.
Speaker: Andy Johnston
Andy is one of the leaders at Kings Community Church Southampton and head of the Catalyst Leadership Training Program.
1. Beginnings of the world – “pre-history” of “our” story – historical narrative
2. Assume Moses is behind the text even if he did not write every word (see Numbers 12:3 and Deuteronomy 34:5). Final arrangement by scribes at a later date. Jesus is clear about authorship (John 5:46 – simply assumed by Jesus).
Historical Narrative (Genesis 12-50)
Family Tree outlining Genesis 12-50
The story starts and finishes with grace and election and with faith and obedience. Terah, Abraham’s father is an idol worshipper from modern day Iraq (see Joshua 24:2-3).
Having begun with the “big picture” story in chapters 1-11 we now drill down into the story of one family.
Lots of contemporary film, TV and literature uses a similar device (e.g. Ben Elton, Two Brothers or Schindler’s List).
Covenant made and renewed
1. The original promise – Genesis 12:1-3
2. The promise renewed – justification by faith and the promise of the land – Genesis 15:1-2. N.B. First reference to the “seed” (see Galatians 3:16)
3. The promise renewed and the mark of covenant (circumcision) – Genesis 17:1-21
4. The promise renewed to Abraham and Sarah – Genesis 22:15-18
5. The promise renewed to Isaac – Genesis 26:2-4 – clearest cross-reference to Galatians 3:13-16
6. The promise renewed to Jacob – Genesis 28:10-22
Again and again God’s promises are renewed through supernatural revelation – why?
a) Melchizedek to Abraham (Genesis 14)
b) Revelation as El-Shaddai (Genesis 17)
c) Angelic visitors (Genesis 18)
d) Jacob’s dream at Bethel (Genesis 28)
e) Jacob wrestles with God (Genesis 32)
In the story of sin and redemption Genesis pulls no punches about the homer of sin. Murder (the Cain and Abel story) occurs only one chapter after the Fall, thus illustrating the devastating consequences of sin.
From here things go from bad to worse: –
• Incest (19:30-38, 20:12 and 38:13-26)
• Slavery (16:1)
• Rape (19:1-9)
• Child sacrifices (22:1-14)
• Polygamy (16:3, 29:16-30)
• Prostitution (38:14-3)
Often the narrative does not condemn these actions/behaviours and some of the “heroes” are the main culprits. This leads some people to conclude that the Bible endorses such behaviour.
• The patriarchs are not depicted as “heroes” but as deeply flawed characters. God is the hero in the story!
• The narrator is often not telling the story in approval, but to show the full horror of sin and to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The disapproval is implicit rather than explicit (e.g. Schindler’s List)
• The narrator often highlights God’s anger at sin (e.g. Genesis 19)
• The exception is the command to sacrifice Isaac but God, of course, provides a substitute
Tracking the Seed
The promise of salvation through the seed means that the writer places a good deal of emphasis on “tracking the seed”
a) The seed cannot be manufactured by human effort and ingenuity – Genesis 16 (story of Hagar and Ishmael. Paul later uses this story as an allegory to contract Law and Grace.)
b) The seed in the product of God’s miraculous intervention – Genesis 21. Abraham is 100 and Sarah is a decidedly post-menopausal 90 (Genesis 17:17).
c) The death of the seed is pre-figured along with the whole idea of the substitution of the Lamb (Genesis 22).
d) The seed is not “carried” by the more impressive looking elder brother (Genesis 25:19-34 and 27). This is a story of grace – not of merit. (See also Malachi 1:2-3)
e) The biggest curveball of all is perhaps Judah
a) He is the fourth son of the unloved Leah (Genesis 29:31-35)
b) One might “reasonably” assume that Joseph as the central character of Genesis 37-50 would be the bearer of the seed.
c) Jacob focuses his blessing on the two sons of his favoured son Joseph, i.e. Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 48)
d) Judah does not cover himself in glory in the story of his relationship with Tamar (Genesis 38)
e) Nevertheless, Judah is key in the redemption story –
i) His “rescue” of Joseph (Genesis 37:26-28)
ii) His “rescue” of Benjamin (Genesis 44:18-33)
iii) He carried prophetic promises – Genesis 49:10 is, along with perhaps Genesis 15:6, the most important verse in the whole book
The theme of the coming King is continued through the rest of the Pentateuch (Numbers 24:17-18), the OT (e.g. Psalm 110) and the NT (e.g. Revelation 5:5)
What does Genesis 12-50 teach us about: –
a) God – His nature and character?
b) The Gospel – man’s problem and God’s solution?
c) God’s people – community and sacraments?
d) God’s mission – His purposes for Planet Earth?
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