Genesis 12 to 50 – Introduction
“In my minds eye I often wander out with Abraham to stand and stare at the starlit skies over ancient Palestine. I feel his doubts and fears, but then I see him turn his eyes heavenward at the command of God. In my imagination the tears in his eyes sparkle with the reflection of millions of stars as God promises yet again to fulfil his word. Like Abraham, I get a glimpse of God again – he who is the star maker and promise giver, the One who can turn barrenness into a great nation and who can turn sinful humans into those who are righteous in his sight.
In page after page of Genesis I see this man and his descendants struggling with the same God and with the same issues as I do. From this book their examples creep into my soul to teach, rebuke, correct and train me in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). From this book, world-changing ideas spring with both ferocity and gentleness.
In Genesis 12 God calls one man – Abram – and gives him great promises. These promises of land, descendants and blessing have in mind the world spoken about in Genesis 1-11. Through this man and his descendants, God will bring redemption from the situation created in Genesis 1-3. While humans are unable to rescue themselves from their predicament, God seeks their rescue.
From this point on, the focus is on the promises and their fulfilment. Because the impetus for these promises comes from the God who created the world, we know that he is a God who is able. Genesis and the books that follow are therefore imbued with hope and anticipation based on the promises and ability of God. They look forward to the day when God might indeed bring about the fullness of the promises to Abraham and thereby bless the world. At the same time, the books that follow also have frustration embedded in them, for the people God chooses to deal with are built of the same stock as the original humans.
The Christian reader knows, however, that despite the Creator’s ability, the promises given in Genesis are never fully fulfilled within Genesis. The Christian reader knows that these hopes are met in Jesus. These great and glorious promises have their ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:20). In him, and for those in him, the promises to Abraham are finally assured.
In one sense, then, Genesis is a start waiting for a finish, a beginning waiting for an end. It tells us of a Creator and his plan for redemption. It sets an agenda, outlines the issues, graphically gives them human form, and proposes a solution, but never quite gets to its end. It therefore thoroughly prepares the Christian for Christ, and enriches our understanding of his work and of God’s great purpose. Moreover, in its method of presentation – the narrative of people’s lives – it lets us into the dynamic of what it means to be a people of faith, hope and love. It is truly a book for today.”
(From ‘Why Read Genesis?’, pages xi-xv, in Genesis: Salvation Begins, by Andrew Reid.)