In Genesis 26, we continue to see the story of Abraham continued through Isaac. Just as God was with Abraham and blessed him – even in spite of his behavior at times, we see that He was also with Isaac and blessed him – even in spite of his behavior at times. Again, the biographical details of Isaac’s life serve to reveal to us the character of God.
Beginning in Genesis 25:19, the focus of the story shifts from Abraham to his son, Isaac and Isaac’s children, Jacob and Esau. Over the next several chapters, we see the promises of God transferred from Abraham to Isaac and then from Isaac to Jacob. In the initial section – Gen. 25:19-34 – we see God miraculously provide children to Isaac and Rebekah while also declaring their futures in advance. Much like the stories involving Abraham, we see the truth about God revealed through “normal”, “everyday” life situations.
At first glance, the beginning of Genesis 25 seems very similar to Genesis 5 and the last part of Genesis 11. It is a section full of strange names and little action and details that seem relatively unimportant. However, recognizing that all Scripture is breathed out by God and useful (2 Tim. 3:16) helps us slow down in passages like this so we can see the reason for which the words were spoken. In the case of Genesis 25:1-18, the information about the rest of Abraham’s family reminds us both of God’s faithfulness and of the nature of true faith.
Genesis 24 represents a critical turning point in the history of God’s people. As we have seen, God chose Abraham and promised to make him into a great nation. And yet, even after the miraculous birth of Isaac (Gen. 21), Abraham is still far from having offspring as numerous as the stars in the heaven like God promised (Gen. 15:5). How is this promise going to be carried out? And when? This chapter begins to show us the answer. The same God who called Abraham and made sure that he was protected and blessed also made sure that the promised line would continue so that the promises could be fulfilled. God keeps His promises and carries out His plans – even when we do not understand how it can happen.
After the intensity of Genesis 22:1-19, the events described in Genesis 22:20-23:20 seem rather benign. In fact, if we are honest, we might even call them boring because they seem so “ordinary”. Sadly, we might interpret such “boring” events as being unimportant. However, it actually seems like the main point of this section is found in the very “ordinariness” of the situation. In these verses (Gen. 22:20-23:20), we see God working out His plan and purposes even in the midst of “ordinary” life – achieving and accomplishing things even as no one really seems to take notice.
Genesis 22 is one of most well-known and – if we are honest – strangest stories in the book of Genesis. After the joy and blessing that runs through chapter 21, the text tells us of an instance in which God commanded Abraham to sacrifice the promised son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. The story is one of intense emotion and suspense, but that is not its main purpose. Ultimately, it is a story about faith, obedience, and salvation.
Genesis 21 contains three very different stories. One of the three is clearly significant if we are familiar with the larger story, but the others seem relatively unconnected. And yet – like many of the stories in Genesis, they find a place when we remember that the central character is God and not Abraham or anyone else. This chapter and these stories – like the chapters and stories nearby – reveal God to us. They demonstrate His faithfulness as well as His compassion. They do so in order to call us to trust Him and live lives that demonstrate that trust.
After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis provides us with a couple of small stories that seem relatively unimportant – or at least “off topic” a bit. In chapter 21, we will finally see the promised child, Isaac, born, but before that wonderful story, we are told about the bizarre episode involving Lot and his daughters on the hills outside of Zoar (19:23-29) as well as the disagreement between Abraham and Abimelech (20:1-18). Why are these stories included? At first glance, they seem irrelevant and yet, when seen as “chapters” in the larger story, they begin to make sense because they – like the stories around them – serve to show the character of God while also showing how we should respond to Him. In short, God is gracious and kind to His people – even when they don’t deserve it. And the purposes of God are certain, so we do not have to resort to our own desperate scheming. We can simply trust Him.
After repeating His promises to grant Abraham and Sarah a son, the Bible’s story shifts to focus on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible is not simply a “feel-good” story of happiness. It also contains demonstrations of God’s holy and righteous judgment. That said, even in the midst of judgment, the kindness and mercy of God are put on display. This story – much like the story of the Flood in Genesis 6-9 – reveals both the righteous wrath of God against sinners and the inconceivable grace of God toward His people.
As we read Genesis 17, it is easy to “tune out” because it sounds like simple repetition of things we have read before. However, as with much of Scripture, we need to take a moment to consider this chapter in the scope of the larger story. The first verse of the chapter actually shows us that almost 25 years have passed since the promises were first given! Seen in that light, this chapter stands as a clear reminder that nothing will thwart the plans and purposes of God. He does not grow forgetful or change His mind. Even the weaknesses and shortcomings of His people cannot thwart Him. Genesis 17:1-18:15 reminds us of these things.