One of my goals for 2016 was to read the entire Bible, chronologically. I am using the YouVersion app and so far it's been a success (meaning I am reading every day and am caught up on the plan - which is rare for this far into the new year). For Christmas my parents gave me a notetakers Bible and reading it front to cover seemed like a great way to break it in.
Until a few days ago I was making my way through Genesis. I know the beginning: Adam and Eve, the snake, the fall, the loss of Eden. I know the end - the childhood story of Joseph and his multi coloured robe. In fact one of my favourite verses comes from that story when Joseph tells his brothers: "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). I know the stories of Noah, Abraham, and Jacob. I grew up with these in Sunday school as a child.
To be honest, I was dreading the beginning of this reading plan because the Old Testament can be so dry - and because we've heard these stories so many times. It doesn't directly offer the encouragement and exhortation of the New Testament. In fact most of the Old Testament is God becoming angry with His people.
But when I stopped to consider the cycle of Genesis I realized how beautiful this book truly is.
Every character descended from Abraham is promised the same covenant God made with Abraham: I will make you into a great nation. These men were righteous in God's eyes. God chose them, made promises to them, helped to extend their lineage. Why?
Because the New Testament wouldn't exist without Jesus, who descended from Abraham 2000 years later.
But this insight still doesn't make the Old Testament exciting to read. Until I recognized a pattern shared by Abraham and his descendants. God made beautiful promises to them, and yet their faith still wavered. They tried to control the promise, change the outcome, and rush the final product. They doubted, they ran, they went places and did things they were not supposed to do.
They intended for evil.
God still intended for good. To do what is now being done. The saving of many lives.
These righteous men continued to doubt the God who promised (and fulfilled) wonderful things to them. And yet God kept His promises. Over and over again in my notes from Genesis I rewrote "He is a good, good Father".
There was a point when I wondered why bother with the Old Testament at all. Why not jump straight from the Fall to Jesus - why inflict all the suffering in between? (Expect a post on suffering in a few weeks - Job is the next book in the reading plan).
I read a commentary by John Piper about the covenant God made with Abraham. He writes: "He [God] could have designed redemptive history anyway He pleased". He could have sent Jesus in Genesis 12, but He deliberately chose Abraham.
Why? I don't know. Matthew Henry gave me a small piece of consolation for my curious brain in his commentary from Genesis 34: "When the mystery of God is finished we shall see that all was for the best".
He intends good. He promised goodness. That is what Genesis taught me this month.