FNG Friday, Jan 6, 2012 - GenesisSo here we are at the beginning of a new year, and the beginning of a new series. Thismonth we start our journey through the Bible, going through it book by book, asking thequestion: what does this tell us about God? What can we learn about God in this book?We proclaim that we are looking forward to spending an eternity with God, and sinceeternity is a rather long time, it seems prudent to study the evidence we have beenprovided with and see what exactly it is that we are signing up for.We have spent quite a bit of time looking at various aspects of the big picture of theBible in the past programs, and I am sure that as we read through the Bible we will seemore pieces fitting into that big picture. It is certainly my hope that keeping thatframework in the back of our minds will help make the Bible more of a whole rather thanjust a random collection of stories.And so we begin in Genesis. In preparation for this evening I borrowed from the library aBible recorded on a set of CD’s so that I can just listen right through Genesis as I wasdriving. When I was through, Kelley asked me what impression I came away with as towhat was the overarching theme in Genesis? I had two. The first one was that themajority of the characters in Genesis would feel right at home on the Jerry Springershow. But that is a reflection on the people of that day, and while it gives us great insightinto the circumstances in which God had to operate, it really does nothing to answer thequestion: what can we learn about God from the book of Genesis? So tonight I’ll focuson my second observation: God’s covenants.Covenant is an interesting word. It has a contractual feel to it. It is a promise to dosomething. Does anyone remember back in the day when computers were still a noveltyand we had the Atari’s and Commodore 64 where you had to type in a lot of theprogramming yourself? There was a common and pivotal line in the programming whichwas “If” “then”. “If” this action is performed or this result obtained “then” follow this courseof action. This is how we have come to view God’s covenants. “If” “then”. “If” you obeymy laws “then” you will be blessed, “If” you turn away from Me, “then” your life willbecome miserable. And we have come to call these blessings and curses, and the Bibleis full of them. But the interesting part about God’s covenants in Genesis is that they are
unilateral. Anyone know what “unilateral” means? It means that something is: “relatingto, occurring on, or involving one side only” or to put it in legalese: “pertaining to acontract in which obligation rests on only one party, as a binding promise to make a gift.”I believe there is a reason for this. God is trying to communicate something to us. As welooked at the big picture we have referred a number of times to the events in the firstpart of Genesis chapter 3, which describes the fall of mankind, so I’m not going to spendmuch time dwelling on it this evening. In essence, in eating the fruit, Adam and Eve weresaying to God: “we don’t trust You and we don’t need You”. The event was not so muchan act of disobedience, as it was a radical change in the relationship between Adam andEve and their Creator. They rejected the Lifegiver as a fraud, and whether intentional ornot, the consequence of this action was that Adam and Eve now felt more kinship to theSerpent than to God in whose image they were made. They both made a stand againstGod and they therefore now had a common enemy in God. And watch what God does.In Genesis 3:8 God shows up in the cool of the day looking for Adam and Eve who arenow hiding in fear. The passage doesn’t tell us, but some believe that it was God’s habitto meet with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. So God, knowing full well what hashappened, shows up as usual to meet with Adam and Eve. And guess who is missing?!Adam and Eve. So God says: “Where are you?” Would you hazard a guess as to whattone of voice God used when He said where are you? Was it a “come out or else” kind ofa “where are you?” or more of a playing hide and seek with your kids kind of “where areyou?”. Reading words off a page it is difficult to know what kind of a tone to read intosomeone else’s speech, but I will hazard a guess that it was the later, since Adam feltcomfortable enough to come out of hiding and confess his fear, rather than trying to dig adeeper hole to hide in.You see, right there immediately after the fall, I believe God was trying to communicatesomething. In asking “where are you” God was not seeking information. He knew theexact ZIP code of the bush Adam and Eve were hiding behind! What He wascommunicating to Adam and Eve, and even to us today is: I have not changed, I am stillhere wanting to be with you, to meet with you. There is a change that has taken place inyou - because you are the one missing from this meeting. But your problem is not withMe. When Adam mentions their nakedness, God’s question is: “Who told you that youwere naked?” In other words, this change that you perceive, this nakedness that you feel
has nothing to do with me, something else has gotten in between us, something haschanged in you, because I am still the same. And just to drive home the point, after a lotof finger pointing, God’s first words are to the Serpent and notice what He says in verse15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring andhers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Mankind will not be allied withthe Serpent having God as the common enemy. No, God puts enmity between mankindand the Serpent, making us allies with God and Satan as the common enemy. This, myfriends is a powerful message: God’s attitude towards us does not change and anyonewho would come between us and God and destroy the trusting relationship between us -God will consider them as the adversary. In fact, that is exactly what the name “Satan”means - the adversary. And here is also God’s first unilateral promise. Kinda cryptic andvery short on the details, but there it is none the less: I will fix this. I will restore ourbroken relationship.And so God continues to come and communicate with mankind. He is looking for allieswho are still willing to side with Him. In the antedeluvian world where the thoughts ofmen were always evil, He found Noah. Noah was willing to listen, build a boat and offersurvival to everyone. There was no test or background check to pass - all you had to doto survive the flood was to get on the boat! But only Noah and his family chose to do so.God came to Abram and said: “I’ll make you into a great nation, and through you all thepeople of the world will be blessed.” No “if” “then” - simply come with Me on this greatadventure, and I’ll just do it! Oh, and yes, all this land that I will show you - I’ll just givethat to your descendants! Just because… And this same promise was then repeated toIsaac and Jacob.But both Kelley’s and mine personal favorite one is found in Genesis 28. In a JerrySpringer like episode, Jacob stole the blessing of his brother Esau and was now on therun with nothing but the clothes on his back. He finally stopped for the night and using astone as a pillow went to sleep under the stars. We pick up the story in verse 12: “Hehad a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching toheaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above itstood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and theGod of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your
descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and tothe east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through youand your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I willbring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promisedyou.” (Genesis 28:12-15)Jacob is just trying to save his own skin and he’s catching a few z’s during his flight. Hehas neither talked to God nor asked for His help. But God just shows up and makes allthese wonderful promises. I will make you into a huge nation, all the peoples on theearth will be blessed through you, I will watch over you and I will bring you back here. Ijust will - this is My unilateral covenant with you. But here’s the funny part - it is Jacobwho now engages in the “if” “then” kind of bargaining! It’s Jacob! “If God will be with meand will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat andclothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will bemy God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all thatyou give me I will give you a tenth.” (Genesis 28:20-22). I mean, what is God supposedto do with that? He’s already promised to do all these things for Jacob regardless ofwhat Jacob did with it! But since Jacob feels the need to set some mutual terms here,God seems to just roll with it.Of course, as we have already seen, and will no doubt see a lot more of in the comingyear, people can promise you all kinds of wonderful things. To listen to them, man, it’slike milk and honey are practically flowing out of their mouth. So you vote for them,and….. nothing really happens. Or at least nothing that resembles the promised utopia.But in Genesis 35 we see that God did indeed keep His covenant and Jacob, now awealthy man with a large family is reconciled with Esau and safely returns to Bethel, theplace where God made the original covenant with him.So what does the book of Genesis tell us about God? This fascinating book that spanswell over 2000 years of history tells us so much about God that we will barely scratch thesurface tonight and tomorrow. But I believe that the primary message is that God is stilllooking to be a part of our lives. He is looking to be our parent, our friend. When ourattitude toward Him changed, He did not change, He still wanted to hang out with us.Our problem is not with God. And since we believed Satan’s lie that God cannot be
trusted, God set out to win our trust once again by voluntarily making promises,unilateral covenants that bound Him to deliver on His promises and prove to us Histrustworthiness. Covenants that could not only tangibly prove to us His trustworthiness,but would also be a showcase of the sheer generosity of our God. The individuals inGenesis didn’t have to do something or behave in a certain way to get their gifts. Like Isaid - many of them were ripe for an appearance on the Jerry Springer show! But allthey had to do was to open their hand and receive God’s generous gifts. And as a resultof their interactions with God, we see how their trust and relationship with Goddeepened. We see the changes in their lives that came from their continued interactionswith God, as over time they began acting in better and more mature ways. But ultimately,what the book of Genesis shows us, is that God really is the same yesterday, today andthroughout eternity, and He is here to stay, right by our side.