Genesis 16 continues the story of Abraham by narrating another “crisis” point in Abraham’s life. Like most of us, Abram and Sarai continued to struggle with unbelief – despite the clear promises of God and despite past moments in which their faith was strong. Chapter 16 gives us a glimpse into a particular moment of weakness in the life of Abram and his wife. Clearly, this is intended to urge us away from such behavior and to encourage us to trust the Lord and His promises.
In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham and promises to bless Him abundantly. In chapters 13-14, we see that begin to come to pass. Despite Abram’s own sins and shortcomings, God preserves him and blesses him. In Genesis 15, then, God repeats the promises of blessing. Why the repetition? It highlights the faithfulness of God – even in times when it may seem (to us) like He has forgotten what He promised. And it provides a clearer glimpse of the details involved in relationship with God – details about both His character and the way in which we should respond to Him.
Immediately after the revelation of God’s plan to bless the nations through Abraham’s offspring in Genesis 12:1-9, we read of a series of episodes in which the promise seems to be put in danger by various situations and circumstances. At times, it appears as if the promised plan will be thwarted before it can even really begin. And yet, as we work through Genesis 12:10-14:24, we are reminded again and again that God’s plan is sure and certain. It cannot be thwarted by anyone or anything. Even so, we are also reminded that obedience is always best, because disobedience brings trial and difficulty and pain.
Genesis 1-11 tells us the story of this world’s beginnings. It tells of God’s good creation as well as man’s rebellion. It also demonstrates the effects of that rebellion. In reality, Genesis 4-11 serves as a clear demonstration that human beings are incapable of delivering themselves. The problems we have created are beyond our ability to fix. Understanding that helps us truly appreciate Genesis 12:1-9. In light of man’s inability to fix his own problems, God stepped in and initiated His own plan. After allowing humans to make very clear that they cannot succeed on their own, God stepped in to fix the problem Himself by choosing Abraham.
If we are honest, each of us would readily admit that certain parts of the Bible seem “less exciting” than others. In particular, genealogies and lists simply do not spark the fires of our hearts as readily as other portions of Scripture. However, all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16) which means all Scripture – including its genealogies and lists – is useful and necessary. This is good to remember as we come to Genesis 10-11. Though the story of the tower of Babel is well-known and full of action, it is surrounded by two genealogies that are more probably skipped on a regular basis. But God saw fit to include them, so we should see fit to consider them. As we do so, it becomes clear that God has a purpose and point – namely: He does what He says He will do, and nothing can thwart His purposes.
The story of the flood (Gen. 6-9) is a story about wrath. Because of the wickedness of human beings, God pours out His judgment on the whole earth. At the same time, though, the story of the flood is a story of mercy and deliverance. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord and was a righteous, blameless man, so the Lord delivered Him from the judgment that fell. Both aspects of this story are important. As we saw last week, there is much we learn from the reality of God’s wrath – which is the main focus of chapters 6-7. There is also much we learn from the reality of God’s deliverance and mercy – which is the central focus of chapters 8-9. This last half of the flood story teaches us a great deal about God’s character while also reminding us again about the reality of sin and its consequences.
Beginning in Genesis 6, we see just how far God’s good creation has fallen from its original state. The sin that caused Cain to kill his brother in Genesis 4 and that produced the universal death repeated so emphatically in Genesis 5 has clearly infected everything. And in the face of such blatant, rampant wickedness, God demonstrated His holiness by unleashing wrath on the entire created order. Genesis 6-7 show us the real – and frightening – fact of God’s hatred of sin. At the same time – just like the chapters before – these chapters also give us a glimpse of the mercy of God woven into the ferocious judgment.
At first glance, Genesis 5 can seem like a very boring – and unnecessary – chapter in the Bible. The entire chapter is a genealogy in which we are told: “When Person A lived a certain number of years, he fathered Person B. Person A then lived a certain number of years after he fathered Person B and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of person A were this many years.” While such information might seem mildly interesting to certain people, the majority of us probably will not be riveted by it. However, if we consider this chapter rightly, we will see that it proclaims some important truths about the world and about humans in particular. Put simply: Genesis 5 stands as a stark reminder of both the judgment and the mercy of God.
Genesis 1 and 2 tell us how the world was created. Genesis 3 shows us how the world was corrupted. Genesis 4, then, shows us the beginning of the “new normal”. After Adam and Eve’s sin, the world is a broken and cursed place, and human beings are sinful and corrupt. At the same time, however, this broken, cursed world is the stage on which the mercy and grace of God are working redemption. We see all of this on display in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
Genesis 1 and 2 give us a glimpse of the good world created in the beginning. Genesis 3, on the other hand, shows us the corruption of that good world. After the beauty and goodness of chapters 1 and 2, this chapter saddens us. It explains the many problems in our world and teaches us a number of lessons along the way.