The Bible is a progressive account of the revelation of God and his work in the world. A study of the major movements in the Bible, the eras as they unfold, helps our understanding of who God is, what God has done, how we can know God, and how we can live for God.
Genesis 1-2 Creation
Genesis 3-5 The Fall
Genesis 6-9 The Flood
Genesis 10-11 The Tower of Babel & Table of Nations
Genesis 12-50 Patriarchs
We will consider examples today from the lives of four men in Genesis. Each example, which is a biographical story, will teach us a lesson about the human experience with God,and a truth about the character of God.
All four men were human; all four men were sinners. They all got off track and lost focus from time to time. Yet God was faithful, and he used ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary purposes.
Ordinary=no special distinctive features, normal, common
Extraordinary=very unusual or remarkable, great
The first example is from the life of Abraham in Genesis 12.
The Lesson: We are called to live by faith and follow God’s purposes.
Abraham’s father, Terah, lived in Ur. Ur was an important city in Mesopotamia on the Euphrates River halfway between the Persian Gulf and modern Baghdad. The people in that region worshipped a Babylonian pantheon of gods and were steeped in a pagan culture. God called Abraham from that context, as a very ordinary man, to do extraordinary things in his life.
Genesis 12:1 The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Genesis 11highlights the plans of man. Genesis 12 highlights the plans of God.God says “I will” repeatedly in this section. God promised Abram a land, a nation, and a blessing. Abram was to leave his country and his relatives. Israel was the great nation through whom the Messiah, the Son of God would come. God would make his name great. God would curse those who cursed Israel, and he would bless those who bless Israel.
Donald Grey Barnhouse-“When the Greeks overran Palestine and desecrated the altar in the Jewish temple, they were soon conquered by Rome. When Rome killed Paul and many others, and destroyed Jerusalem under Titus, Rome soon fell. Spain was reduced to a fifth-rate nation after the Inquisiton against the Jews; Poland fell after the pogroms; Hitler’s Germany went down after its orgies of anti-Semitism; Britain lost her empire when she broke her faith with Israel.
This is also one reason why the United States has been blessed. The United States was one of the first modern nations to grant full citizenship and protection to Jewish people.
In Abram all the nations of the earth would be blessed. All the nations would know that God is Savior and King through Jesus Christ which is the missionary vision. Abram means “exalted Father” and Abraham means “the Father of many.”
Galatians 3:8-9 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
Listen to the call of God.
Believe the Word of God.
Romans 4:3-5 For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Do the will of God.
God calls us out of darkness and into light, rescues us from lostness and saves us by faith, and directs our lives according to his purposes.
The second example is from the life of Isaac in Genesis 22.
We are expected to follow in obedience and trust God’s promises.
Abraham and his wife Sarah got up into old age and were childless yet God promised them a son. Abraham doubted God and had the son Ishmael with his servant Hagar, and yet God still fulfilled his promise of a son in Isaac. Isaac was the son of promise. When the boy got up in age, God gave Abraham the command to sacrifice his son. Why would God do such a thing?
God was not tempting Abraham but was testing him to see if he would do what was right. God was not condoning child sacrifice, which is horrific. God abhorred that and gave commandments against it. The point of the test was for Abraham to demonstrate complete obedience to God and show that he trusted God. God told Abraham to take Isaac and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on the mountain. Abraham got up, saddled his donkey and took two young men with him and his son Isaac. He split wood for a burnt offering and set out for Moriah. When they got to the base of the mountain they left the two young men behind and he said, “The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we will come back to you.
As they began the trek up the mountain Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” He arranged the wood, put his son on the altar.
Genesis 22:10 Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” He replied, “Here I am.” 12 Then He said, “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from Me.” 13 Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: “It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain. 15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, 17 I will indeed bless and make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.
There is a clear parallel between Isaac and Jesus. Isaac, like Christ, was a promised son and both births were miraculous. Isaac’s because his mother was old and well past childbearing age, and Christ because his mother Mary was a virgin. Isaac and Christ were named before their birth by God. God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and God spared him in the end, providing a ram, a lamb in the thicket, as a substitute. Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Isaac obeyed his father and in doing so yielded to the will of God. The remainder of his life is filled with narratives without a lot of lessons but his heart was one of obedience to God’s will. He was deceived by his son Jacob and even so accepted God’s will. Isaac died and was buried with his sons.
God demonstrated his faithfulness to keep his promise and he keeps his promises in our lives also.
The third example is from the life of Jacob in Genesis 32.
We will encounter struggles and must depend on God’s strength.
Jacob’s life began with a struggle. As an infant in the womb, he jockeyed for position with his brother Esau. God told his mother there were two nations in her womb who would become divided.
Jacob was a mama’s boy who turned out to be a scoundrel who deceived. There were themes of deceit, favoritism, family strife, and reconciliation. After essentially stealing his brother’s birthright, his inheritance, he decided to go make peace with Esau and go home.
Jacob was on his way back to Canaan with his family after 20 years in Paddan-Aram and he was scared. Esau vowed to kill him so Jacob sent the women and children ahead. He sent a gift on ahead of him and remained in camp the night before.
Genesis 32:24 Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not defeat him, he struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip. 26 Then he said to Jacob, Let me go, for it is daybreak. But Jacob said, I will not let you go unless you bless me. 27 What is your name? the man asked. Jacob, he replied. 28 Your name will no longer be Jacob, he said. It will be Israel because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed. 29 Then Jacob asked him, please tell me your name. But he answered, Why do you ask my name? And he blessed him there. 30 Jacob then named the place Peniel. For I have seen God face to face, he said, yet my life has been spared. 31 The sun shone on him as he passed by Penuel—limping because of his hip. 32 That is why, still today, the Israelites don’t eat the thigh muscle that is at the hip socket: because he struck Jacob’s hip socket at the thigh muscle.
Jacob spent the night alone. Likely he spent the night in prayer. God got Jacob alone so he could deal with him. God often does that. When he gets us alone he has our undivided attention. Perhaps he was thanking God, remembering his blessings, praying for help as the meeting with Esau loomed. This was a turning point in his life. We all have significant turning points in life when God meets us.
A man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. God knew about Jacob’s self-reliance and scheming and God came to get ahold of him. The figure was no mere man, it was a theophany, an earthly appearance of God himself. Maybe this was an early version of MMA.
James Montgomery Boice- How did Jacob ever manage to keep up his struggle throughout the entire night? I do not know. But I do know that his determination to hang in there was no greater than our frequent determination to have our own way and eventually win out over God. God overcame Jacob, and he knew he was defeated but he wanted a blessing from God. God blessed him and changed his name to Israel.
What happened there by the river was the defeat of a man who submitted to the greatness of God.
Have you wrestled with God?
We wrestle with God in the times of trials and testing.
We wrestle with God in intense pleading before him.
We wrestle with God and come to recognize our weakness.
God enters into the mess of our lives, and when we wrestle with him we recognize our weakness and God’s power. To be held in submission by our great God is a place of freedom where we can be prepared to do whatever he has for us to do.
The fourth example is from the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 and we will focus on a passage in Genesis 50.
We will experience suffering and can trust in God’s sovereignty.
Joseph was the beloved son of his father Jacob and was given the coat of many colors as an expression of his father’s favor. He had prophetic dreams about his exalted position in the family. As a result his brothers were jealous and plotted to kill him. Joseph’s brother Reuben objected so they hatched a plan to throw Joseph in a pit and they sold him to Ishmaelite traders. They dipped his coat of many colors in the blood of an animal and told ole Dad he was dead.
The Ishmaelite traders sold Joseph in Egypt, to Potiphar a high-ranking official who served the Pharaoh. From the start, Joseph excelled at his duties and rose to a position of prominence because God favored him. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and when he rejected her advances, she lied and Joseph ended up in prison as a result for attempted rape.
God gave him the ability to interpret dreams and brought him before the Pharaoh. A time of famine was coming and because of Joseph’s prophetic dreams the Pharaoh was able to store up sufficient food supplies and Joseph rose to a position second only to the Pharaoh in power. A famine set in and it greatly affected Canaan where Joseph’s family still was. So, the sons came down to Egypt and, through a series of events, Joseph realized who they were and what had happened and he revealed himself to them as their brother. He was broken and shed tears in their presence.
Genesis 50:18 His brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result- the survival of many people. 21 Therefore, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children. And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.
In the midst of suffering when we do not understand, we can trust God is Sovereign.
Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Arthur and Ethel Tylee were pioneer missionaries to the Nhambiquara peoples in Brazil in the first half of the twentieth-century. They made good progress in gaining the trust of the people, learning their language and building relationships, sharing Jesus’ love. In December of 1930 Arthur Tylee, Mildred Krantz a nurse who served with them, and Baby Tylee were killed by the people they came to serve. Mrs. Tylee was wounded but survived.
She wrote a letter back to the states on January 4, 1931 and thanked everyone who had prayed.
We must believe that all happened according to the plan of an all-wise, loving Heavenly Father, even to the smallest detail. I do not say we must understand, only believe.
She wrote further about the events that had taken place.
As I came back from the darkness of unconsciousness to find myself not only without my own family but to find my entire household gone, it was to know a Father’s care so tender, so gentle, that even the intense loneliness of the first days separate were made sacred and hallowed. This kindly light that never fails made even those days luminous with his presence. I ask you to believe with me that no accident has happened but only the working of our Father’s will. To you who knew and loved Arthur, I beg you not to mourn the dead, but to rejoice with me that he has been called to higher service.
Christians are ordinary people serving an extraordinary God.