Friday, August 04, 2006

The Story of Genesis

In the beginning of all things God creates the heavens and the earth, culminating in man – his signature on creation. The man and woman become suspicious of God’s intentions and believe he is withholding good from them. They acquire the knowledge of good and evil through disobedience, and subsequently find themselves to be on the wrong side of that distinction. They are then cast from the garden and put under the curse of death (along with the earth itself).

Man’s estrangement from God quickly blossoms into enmity toward his fellow man. An older brother becomes jealous of the younger and kills him. Soon the entire Earth is filled with violence, and God decides to wipe everything out. But, in the end, he spares Noah and the animals as representatives of what he still aims to accomplish in creation.

Man is still suspicious of God, building a tower toward heaven while making a name for himself. God foils man’s plans apparently to safeguard his power from usurpation. Yet he chooses a man named Abraham to bless with the very things he withheld from the builders of Babel. God intends to form a nation himself, and requires an attitude of trust not suspicion.

While he is grooming Abraham, he also must stop the spread of evil before it infects the entire project like before. Sodom and Gomorrah are desperately wicked (as shown by their lack of hospitality toward strangers), and he spares Lot and his family while annihilating the city.

Abraham achieves trust through his willingness to follow God and even sacrifice his son Isaac. In the end he is buried while still a sojourner in the land God promised, but he endured death in a posture of faith by buying a small plot of the land for a grave. God’s plan involves building a nation, so his son marries out of his own clan rather than intermingle with the inhabitants of Canaan.

Isaac has two sons – Jacob and Esau. There is again enmity between brothers (and even sisters), but in the end they are reconciled, in the context of Jacob’s wrestling with God himself. Jacob is renamed Israel – indicating both his feisty spirit that is willing to strive with God, and his faithful determination to grab hold of the blessings God will give. Israel does this in the spirit of trust that Abraham personifies.

Israel has twelve sons, ten of which nearly kill Joseph out of envy. In the end God both exalts Joseph above his brothers and reconciles him to them. He does it by using the very enmity (that is the embodiment of evil) as a building block for good. All while saving the earth from famine.

At the end of Genesis we have gone from a single man reconciled to God to an entire family of brothers reconciled to each other - with blessings spilling over to men and animals. The next step is to turn this family into a nation.

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