Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Good News from Genesis

Turns out this semester is going to be a lot of papers and reading and whatnot. Lots and lots of both on a weekly basis. And classroom presentations and such. So not a ton of time for me to make pictures and post them to the blog. But I will post a paper from time to time. So you don't forget about me.

Something to listen to while you read my paper for my Bible and Mission class (sorry for the formatting...or lack thereof).

In reading through the book of Genesis in a short amount of time, I noticed a few patterns that were evident throughout: “be fruitful and multiply,” sibling rivalry, the ways that God spoke to people, and God’s hand and presence in the lives of His people. In the lecture, it is apparent that the book of Genesis is the beginning of a grand story of God’s mission that began even before the fall of man: a “God with us” mission story that has three of its acts in the book of Genesis (creation, fall, and the beginning of the story of Israel). In this essay, I will look at the patterns that were evident to me in the book of Genesis, the lecture’s look at Genesis being the beginning of the story of God’s mission, and answer the question, “If the book of Genesis was the only book of the Bible that we had, what good news would we have about the relationship between God and His World?”

The blessing to “be fruitful and multiply” is given by God many times throughout the book of Genesis: once to His creatures in the sea and in the air, once to Adam and Eve, twice to Noah and his family, once to Abraham and Sarah in reference to Ishmael, and three times to Jacob (once via Isaac, and another time Jacob is recalling the story to Joseph). Two of these blessings were before the fall, and the rest after. God called His creation “good,” and blessed them to be able to multiply. It is evident that God has wanted to be in relationship with His creation, and for them to also be in good relationship with each other. In the lecture it says, “Mission is a part of the nature of God. We might say (as God later says of Adam) that it is not good for God “to be alone.” Mission should not be limited to fixing what is broken, because God’s mission of community and relationship was around long before the fall. In the lecture, Grant talks about how we were created in God’s image, and how it is our job to “to be God’s image in the world; [we are not to] abandon this representative mission to God’s creation.”

So while God’s (and our) mission is not first and foremost a fix-up mission, there are definitely elements of that when we consider the brokenness of relationships that occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. I was struck by how many instances of sibling rivalry are documented throughout Genesis (Cain/Abel, Jacob/Esau, Perez/Zerah, Rachel/Leah, Joseph/his name a few!). The closest relative one has, and one of the first communities a person is a part of, is a sibling. Throughout Genesis, we see how broken these relationships (and others) can be, but we also see a glimpse of God’s mission when they are redeemed (most touching for me were Jacob/Esau in Genesis 33 and Joseph/his brothers in 45).

More ways that we can see God’s desire of relationship with His people in Genesis is in how he interacts with them, and how his hand and presence are evident in their life. If Genesis were the only book of the Bible that we had available to us, we might not know the good news of how God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to save it. Grant put it so nicely in the lecture when he said, “God so loved the world that he did not remain aloof, but God himself came in the person of the Jesus...God is the missionary, the one who crosses cultures, giving up all the privileges of Godhead and becoming a servant (Phil 2:5–11).”

In Genesis, we might not know about Jesus, but we can see how much God loves His people, in the way that he speaks directly to them (either they hear His voice, or He sends a messenger, or He speaks to them in a dream, etc). Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden and Jacob wrestled with God. God even spoke to people in dreams that did not necessarily know him (Pharaoh). Even though the folks in Genesis did not have the man, Jesus, to be in close relationship with, they had a God who was very present in their lives. God’s hand is evident throughout the course of Joseph’s life, from allowing his mother to be pregnant with him, to keeping him safe in prison, to putting him the position to help his long-lost family during the great famine. In Genesis 45:4b-8 Joseph acknowledges this:
“And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t  be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me  here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will  last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of  you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent  me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his  entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.”

Even through all this brokenness, God works to keep Joseph’s family alive, to help preserve them, so that they can be fruitful and multiply, and know God’s presence in their lives, and His love for them.
So back to the question at hand, “If the book of Genesis was the only book of the Bible that we had, what good news would we have about the relationship between God and His World?” The good news about the relationship between God and His World is that God created the world so that we could be in relationship with Him. Even after sin entered the scene, and relationships across the board were broken, God still actively participates in the lives of His beloved people, continually bringing them back to Himself and each other. And we can see all of this happening in the book of Genesis.

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