I think when our kids start reading for the Bible for themselves, I’m going to suggest they start with John and not Genesis….at least until they’re a little older.
I finished reading Genesis last week as part of the “Read with Me” challenge that I’m doing with some friends. Because I’ve started Read-the-Bible-Through programs many, many times, I’ve read Genesis so many times I should have it memorized. Although the stories are very familiar, every time I read Genesis, I find something new that I didn’t see before. This time I’ve been focused on God’s plan and how people and circumstances can not thwart it.
The characters in the Bible are, well, they’re really characters. But they’re not merely one-dimensional fictional beings in a book, they’re flesh and blood people who really lived and were far from perfect. Several times as I was reading I wondered, “Really, God? He was the best you had to work with there? I’m not sure I would have gone with that choice.” Remembering that these were real people like me instead of supersized cartoon characters helps me see life from their perspectives. This time around I hurt for Leah and Rachel, imagining how painful it would be to compete with your own sister for the affections of the man you love. It’s changed my perspective on some of the more familiar stories.
Several months ago, I started an amazing online study of the Old Testament. It’s part of an incredible series that my friend Jim’s church does a couple of times a year called Secret Church. In the study, David Platt reminded me that the characters in the Bible were not given to us so that we would necessarily emulate them, but they all point to one character. He said that the insufficiency of man points to the sufficiency of God. He continued to say that the purposes and plans of God continue despite man’s flaws. God works in spite of our weaknesses and He will accomplish His purpose.
I saw this to be true throughout all of Genesis. Sometimes His people made dumb choices. For example, Judah slept with his daughter-in-law. But he didn’t know she was his daughter-in-law at the time. No, he thought she was a prostitute, so cut him some slack. Seriously? Tamar became pregnant and consequently became part of Matthew 1 as part of the genealogy of Jesus. Sometimes, bad things happened to good people. Joseph’s brothers threw him a pit and sold him as a slave. Joseph caught a break and found a good job working for Potiphar. But then Potiphar’s wife made a move on Joseph and when he refused, she accused him of attacking her and had him thrown in jail. I think maybe the “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” quote originated with Mrs. Potiphar. You know the rest of the story. Joseph ended up with power and money and fame, but it was a long, treacherous road.
The whole book of Genesis is full of stories just like that. Sometimes God used flawed people to accomplish His purposes. Sometimes even their mistakes became the very way God continued His plan. Other times, by no fault of their own, bad things happened to good people but God’s will still triumphed. And every now and then, God’s people would do what He asked them to do the first time without question and they were blessed for their obedience. It’s easy to get caught up in their stories but then we can forget that Genesis isn’t about those characters, it’s God’s story.
Just like the people in the Bible, we have been chosen to be part of God’s story. We are the Bible’s sequel, if you will. We are a continuation of what He started in Genesis. And just like those characters, sometimes we choose wisely, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes bad things happen that we didn’t cause. But God will accomplish His purposes.
So then why does it matter what we do or don’t do? I mean, if God’s going to do whatever He wants why don’t we just do whatever we want? Well, I think that’s a very good question, because I’ve asked it myself. One of the things that I’ve learned since I turned 40 is that the more I think I know, the more I need to know. I’m wrestling through quite a few questions these days. At this point in my journey I would say that it certainly matters what we do or don’t do. Yes, this is God’s story, not ours. But He wants to include us. He wants us to play specific roles in His story. I think I sometimes forget what an amazing privilege that is. And as I play my role, I am becoming the person He created me to be. His plan is bigger than me, but because He loves me, He will use His plan to build character in me. I want to be a character of great character.
I always wanted to be an actress. Well, I have the opportunity to play myself in the greatest story ever written. Unlike any other acting gig, in this movie, I don’t have to pretend to be someone else. Instead of winning an Oscar, I want to live my life so that one day I’ll win beautiful crowns that I can lay at the feet of my Director, Screenwriter, Producer, and Leading Man. It’s the role of a lifetime.
I want to teach my children that from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is God’s story. One of the best tools I’ve found to help me in that goal is The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones.
Meredith recommended it and it quickly became my favorite Bible story book of all time. The writing is excellent, the illustrations are beautiful.
What I love most about this book is that every story is about God’s plan to redeem His people. Children are taught to look for God’s plan. Jesus is just as big a part of the Old Testament stories in this book as He is in the New Testament ones. Even if you don’t have kids, I think you’d love this book.
I hope you have a great weekend. Read With Me buddies? I’m actually already behind for February so I’m hoping to play catch-up this weekend. If you’ve fallen behind schedule, don’t give up! Just jump back in where you stopped! Keep reading and I’ll see you next week!