In the beginning
The beginning of the Bible impacts everything that follows. It sets the context for the whole story. Try not to get bogged down in the ‘science’ or the ‘world-view’ of the passage, allowing yourself to rest in the text on its own terms. Ask yourself what God might be revealing to you about himself through this ancient narrative?
God has created a world filled with beauty and life. He placed people in the world to represent him and he deemed the world “good.” Humans, right from the beginning, were given the task of continuing the work God had begun, making all the world like the Garden of Eden— full of beauty and life and order. However, something goes terribly wrong. The very first people (Adam and Eve) sin; and so along with them, all of creation becomes subject to decay and death. The rest of the Bible goes on to answer the question posed by Genesis: How will God restore his creation and complete its purpose? God begins to reveal his response in Genesis 12 when Abraham and his descendants– one family — are to be a blessing and to restore blessing to the world.
This month, as you read through the first scenes of the Biblical narrative, reflect on what they are telling us about the type of story we are part of, what God’s plans are, and where our hope is. Ask yourself:
Why might God begin his self-disclosure with this particular narrative?
What does this part of the Bible tell me about my role in God’s creation?
How do the various passages shape my purpose in life?
Creation: Genesis 1 – 2 | Here we have the opening scene of the narrative of Scripture. The scene is set: a good creation. The key characters are introduced: God and humanity. Male and female together are created in God’s image, made for relationship with God and each other, and for a task—to continue God’s work of creation by loving the world, ordering it, and filling it with life.
The Fall: Genesis 3 | Genesis 3 introduces us to what gets called “the Fall” of humanity. Adam and Eve listen to a false story, and seek to become like gods themselves. Our first ancestors are then sent into exile—the state of separation from God, broken relationship with each other and with nature, thereby facing death. The great question of the Biblical narrative is set up: How will God redirect and restore his now broken and misdirected creation?
What do we learn about the human condition in this story? Do you find any hints of grace and hope?
The covenant with Abraham: Genesis 12:1-3 | God intervenes in history through Abraham and begins to answer the question of the Fall. God will bless Abraham, and through him, everyone on earth. Blessing is an idea that will come up again and again in the Story. A simple (and initial) way to think about it is in terms of welcoming people back into the way of life God had originally created humans for; a return from exile.
What do we learn in this scene about God’s plan to restore his world? What surprises you? What encourages you?
Shedding Light on the Scene
Cain and Abel: Genesis 4 | Things look to be back on track. Adam and Eve give birth to two children, Cain and Abel, and they begin to look after the land as God intended. But the problem of sin has not been dealt with and soon human disobedience escalates into the murder of Abel by Cain.
What picture of human life outside of Eden is the author trying to paint for us?
Noah and the Flood: Genesis 6-9 | The story of Noah building an ‘ark’ — a primitive container of life and a floating zoo– is well know. But is this narrative anymore than a children’s story? What clues do you find in the text to support your conclusions? What is revealed about God in this account?
Babel and the covenant with Abraham: Genesis 11:1 – 12:9 | God’s covenant with Abraham is an extraordinary promise that through his descendants God will create a blessed people through whom the whole world will be brought back to the life it was always supposed to have. Consider the connections between the problems of humanity as described by the account of Babel, and the hope and type of life offered to Abraham.
The family of Israel: Genesis 35 | The names of people and places in the Bible often carry deep significance. So, the re-naming of Jacob, who becomes Israel, is a significant moment.
As you read the passage, stop to consider where the covenant with Abraham has led over human history. What kind of people are carrying it today, and where does hope lie?
Joseph and the salvation of Egypt: Genesis 47 | Near the end of Genesis, the long account of Joseph is told. We read how he suffers slavery in Egypt, temptation to betray himself and others, and unjust imprisonment, before ultimately being given a break, serving Pharaoh as Prime Minister and through this role, saving Egypt from famine.
How does this story mirror what people and creation were supposed to be about, as set up in Genesis 1 and 2? How would Israel have understood this story during their time living in the wilderness without a land to call their own?
Looking Forward and Backward
The big themes of human life, Creation, Fall and Redemption run right through the Bible, not just in the opening scenes. The following passages each touch on one or more of them. As you read, ask yourself some questions: What do we learn about God’s intent for creation and humanity? What do we learn about what has gone wrong and what God is doing to put things right?
The glory of creation and humanity: Psalm 8 | The Psalmist considers the glories of God’s creation and the wonder of the human place within it.
“One like the son of man”: Daniel 7 | In Daniel’s strange vision, a series of empires that are cruel, brutish and beastly, are finally overcome by “one like a son of man.” With Genesis 1-2 in the background, the vision is one of restoration of God’s intended order, with a person bringing order to an otherwise “beastly” world. Many years later, Jesus significantly calls himself “the son of man.”
The family and fall of David: 2 Samuel 11-18 | When David’s kingdom is at its peak, we read striking similarities to the story of Adam and Eve’s fall. David takes something that was not his, and the consequences ripple outward. Sin remains a profound human problem.
Solomon and the promise to Abraham: 1Kings 4:20–34 | Compare this passage with God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22. With these echoes the author is telling us something about Israel in the early days of Solomon’s reign.
Prophesies of a new Heavens and new Earth: Isaiah 65:17 – 66:24 | After the exile, the prophets look for God to do something new, with the promise that was made to Abraham seemingly broken— the people who were nominated to be blessed are homeless and in misery. The prophet Isaiah’s vision looks beyond the restoration of Israel, to the restoration of all of creation.
Reading the whole Bible
January: Genesis, Job, Proverbs
Jan. 1: Gen. 1-4
Jan. 2: Gen. 5-8
Jan. 3: Gen. 9-12
Jan. 4: Gen. 13-16
Jan. 5: Gen. 17-20
Jan. 6: Gen. 21-24
Jan. 7: Gen. 25-28
Jan. 8: Gen. 29-32
Jan. 9: Gen. 33-36
Jan. 10: Gen. 37-40
Jan. 11: Gen. 41-44
Jan. 12: Gen. 45-48
Jan. 13: Gen. 49-50;
Jan. 14: Job 3-6
Jan. 15: Job 7-10
Jan. 16: Job 11-14
Jan. 17: Job 15-18
Jan. 18: Job 19-22
Jan. 19: Job 23-26
Jan. 20: Job 27-30
Jan. 21: Job 31-34
Jan. 22: Job 35-38
Jan. 23: Job 39-42
Jan. 26: Prov. 9-12
Jan. 27: Prov. 13-16
Jan. 28: Prov. 17-20
Jan. 29: Prov. 21-24
Jan. 30: Prov. 25-28
Jan. 31: Prov. 29-31