Thursday, 2 January 2014

Genesis - A beginning

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

When we build a building, we start with a blueprint and do the earthworks and a foundation, for the stability of the construction depends upon its base. When we take a holiday, we do a bit of research first, costing the trip, reading guidebooks, learning a few phrases if necessary, studying maps to have an idea of how to move around the place. When we begin to read a book, we expect the first chapter to set the scene, give some indication of the plot, and introduce the main characters.

When a new Christian comes to faith in Christ and picks up his or her Bible for the first time, of the sixty-six books contained inside, it’s not a bad idea to have a read through Genesis, as well as one of the gospels, to get a little bit of an idea of what this Christianity thing is all about.

Genesis, after all, is not hard to locate, being the first book of the Bible. The word genesis is derived from the Greek, and the prefix gen has been used in many common English words to denote the production of something eg. generate, generic, gene. It’s delightful to think that the very genetic code of our bodies has a common language element with the first book of the Bible, which describes how God created the world.
Like any good foundation, Genesis has some pretty solid underpinnings for our Christian faith. It tells us a lot about the nature of God, and sets the scene for the whole gospel- the reason for God sending Jesus to earth.

Non-Christians often have the idea that Christians are paragons of virtue- the moral elite. Read Genesis and that idea will go out the window. Not so. Genesis puts modern-day soaps to shame. Its expansive cast of characters demonstrate all the failings, falls and foibles of humanity at its worst. We see the wicked, greedy, treacherous, deceitful, proud and sinful; yet also the repentant, courageous, merciful and generous.  

The creation of the world by God in six days is described in the first chapter of Genesis. The Hebrew words used for days here denote single, twenty four hour days, as we experience them. Later in the book of Genesis is the description of the destruction of the world by flood. In the last two hundred years the theory of evolution has been promoted by the scientific community; however there are many scientists who believe the Bible to be true and attest that the fossil record bears witness to the flood of Noah’s time. (Luke 19:40 “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”) For further information on the truth of Biblical creation I recommend Creation Ministries International, link on this page.

From the beginning God existed in the form of the Trinity- as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is indicated in 1:26, when He says “Let us make man in our image.” Man is uniquely created to be in relationship with God. God didn’t make robots, but people with free will, to freely choose to love and serve him, or to disobey and reject him.

The first thing which God declares not to be good is the fact that the man, Adam, whom God created, is alone. We are made to be in fellowship with God and others. God provides a woman, an ezer for the man, a term which is often translated as helper, but which in the original Hebrew refers to an indispensable part of a whole, and which does not imply subordination. Adam and Eve were created to be complementary partners, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

However, first Eve is tempted into sin by Satan and in turn leads Adam into sin. Believing they will become like God, they disobey His rules and are punished with eviction from Paradise, pain, suffering, dissent and hard work and finally death. The entire nature of all creation suffers with them from that point, and their fallen nature is doomed to be inherited by all their descendents “The whole creation has been groaning” (Romans 8:22). Pride, lust, greed, competing roles, exploitation and alienation flourish. From this point until the return of Christ, we see humanity’s desperate cycle of seeking after God and falling away from Him, our inability to atone for our sins, and need of a Saviour.

There are several foundational stories in Genesis. We read of the creation. We learn of Noah and the flood. Abraham’s life and covenant with God is described, as well as the establishment of the twelve tribes of Israel through Abraham’s line. The book concludes with the story of Joseph.

The portrayals of people in the Bible always highlight the character of people and their relationships with God. Joseph, for example is a man who follows closely after God and remains true to his values despite betrayal, persecution, false accusations and imprisonment. Because of his obedience, God uses him greatly and Joseph rises to positions of trust and honour, forever displaying grace and forgiveness to those who misused him. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20). God blesses those who honour Him. (There is little in the way of physical descriptions of Biblical people, perhaps a reminder to us who live in a culture besotted with the physical appearance.)

Conversely, we see the results of disobedience to God’s will.  A recurring theme throughout the bible is the impact of taking an easy option. Lot chooses to settle near the town of Sodom, and is drawn into its corrupt lifestyle. Sarah and Abraham produce a child by her concubine, circumventing God’s promises, with resulting fractured relationships and ongoing hostility between the offspring of Isaac and Ishmael. Nimrod’s pride and arrogance result in the division of people into different language groups. The lies and deception of one generation seem to be repeated by their offspring. Whole nations rise up who are disobedient to God, and God’s chosen people are warned not to intermarry with them, or they too will begin to worship other gods. Similarly today we are warned “Don't team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

We are made aware in Genesis of the presence of the forces of evil in this world. From the beginning Satan was around, lying and tempting humans to disobey God. They were tempted by the offer of becoming “like God” only to find that they were far from being like Him and could never be Him. In chapter six reference is made to the demonic realm, mysterious beings called the Nephilim, and the violence and corruption which rapidly became widespread after the fall. Evil is never a static thing- it increases. Satan’s objective is the destruction of lives and relationships and we live in a world where Satan and his demons are in a spiritual war with God and His people and godly angels. God does not stand idly by whilst evil reigns. He extends grace, but His character also requires justice. He destroyed the world with a global flood, and we are told in the book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, that the world will experience a time of unprecedented violence, turmoil and misery before the final return of Christ. It is a reminder today to stay completely away from all forms of the occult, which lead people into the satanic realm- witchcraft, astrology, tarot, readings and any forms of spiritualism which do not glorify God and proclaim Jesus Christ as His Son and our Saviour.

God’s patience and His continually extended grace to his rebellious people is evident throughout the Bible. He wants to bless, not curse, save and transform. Many concepts of the Old Testament are prophecies or precursors to the New Testament. The covenant with Abraham, where God provides a lamb to sacrifice for the sins of the Israelites, is a reflection of the Lamb of God, Jesus, who is sent to earth to honour His Father by becoming an eternal, complete sacrifice for the sins of mankind. It is through Christ alone that we come into relationship with God, not by anything that we have done ourselves. He is our hope.

Genesis is a book of foundation for our faith, made complete by Jesus, whose life is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Every day we seek to live a life pleasing to our Heavenly Father – to worship and honour God, to do His will, to resist temptation and to lovingly sow seeds of faith into the lives of others who do not yet know Him.

Praise God. 

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