In this series, we ask each of our editors to look more carefully at the Bible and offer up their favourite book, extracting what it is about that particular book...
Roundtable: Week Two - Our Favourite Books of the Bible
This week Steve Maltz chooses Genesis. In this series, we ask each of our editors to look more carefully at the Bible and offer up their favourite book, extracting what it is about that particular book that makes it so real in their own lives. At the end of the series we will then recount what we have found out and offer up the floor for you to get involved and tell us which book really inspires you.
Steve Maltz - Genesis
Call me lazy or predictable, but I’m plumping for the Book of Genesis as my favourite Bible book. I am doing so both because it is absolutely foundational for my faith, and because every time I read it, new nuggets of wisdom or revelation present themselves.
Where do I start? I could linger over the first seven (Hebrew) words, which simply pour out revelation and information about God. I have a book in my possession that has been written just about those seven words and it’s just a primer on the subject. Jesus himself is hidden in plain view within those seven words, something that I have written about in my Yeshua Explored blog and so is the whole Trinity, in all its glory.
We see the serious side of God through the Great Flood and the destruction of a people whose every intent of the thoughts of their heart was evil continually
The first twelve chapters in Genesis set the scene for the rest of the Bible. God interacts with mankind here as Creator, Judge, Destroyer and Covenant-maker - providing a tantalising glimpse of His character and ways through the events described in those pages.
We first see Him as Creator. Six days of activity, followed by a day of rest, setting an example and model for a working week. Adam is created, then Eve manufactured, and both of them given an extended glimpse of Paradise in the Garden of Delights. We are also given the basic model of marriage, God’s chosen way for life and the propagation of the species. It could have been plain sailing if they hadn’t eaten forbidden fruit, demonstrating that very human failing of willful disobedience, followed by a curse and exile. God had flexed His muscles and announced the impossibility of a sinful being walking and talking with Him. But He also set the sacrificial system into motion, a temporary solution to begin with, but with a promise of eventual redemption, when the Promised one would come and live with mankind. But there was much that was to happen before that time.
Exile is followed by the expansion of the human race and we see Adam’s seed dividing into two bloodlines; a troublesome one through Cain the murderer, but the other one carrying a seed of promise, leading to Noah, the last righteous man on Earth (Genesis 6:9). We see the serious side of God through the Great Flood and the destruction of a people whose every intent of the thoughts of their heart was evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Only Noah’s family survive and mankind gets a second chance.
Noah demonstrates his allegiance to God through the sacrificial altar and God provides him with a promise that never again will a flood destroy all life. Then his three sons start the task of replenishing the World with people and mankind grows. But it stalls at Babel, deciding defiantly to build a city and a tower. They had forgotten the events of just a few hundred years earlier and were intent on reaching heaven and making a name for themselves. This was unacceptable to God who thwarts their plans, confuses their language and scattered them abroad over the face of all the Earth. (Genesis 11:9)
The focus now shifts to a single city, a single family. We meet Terah, who takes his family from Ur in Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan, but doesn’t complete the journey, leaving that to his son, Abram, who had a message from God.
“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great Nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:1-2 NKJV)
One significant influence, not just on how we view the Bible, but also the World around us, is Greek philosophy, particularly the writings of Plato and Aristotle.
And so the story really begins. God creates a covenant people out of Abram and his descendants, the Jews, a people who were to inhabit the pages of the Old Testament and the New, and a people who are going to give us our Saviour, the Messiah Jesus - the greatest blessing of all.
For me those opening chapters are a plumb-line for how seriously you take the Word of God, because the Church has created a battleground out of these foundational Scriptures. How easy it would be if we took those twelve Chapters at face value, rather than spiritualising much of it and adapting it to the ebb and flow of our humanistic culture. What do I mean by this, please qualify!?
In a nutshell, although God and the Bible hasn’t changed in the last two millennia, we have. Many influences have entered our lives over that period and we’ve come a long way from those people who inhabited the pages of the Bible. One significant influence, not just on how we view the Bible, but also the World around us, is Greek philosophy, particularly the writings of Plato and Aristotle. This has supplanted the original mindset of those earliest Christians, whose lives were totally immersed in Holy Scripture. What has happened since is that we have been furnished with a myriad of new tools for interpreting the Bible, tools that were birthed in minds that did not know God. These tools have been used along with the progress of Science to produce an environment where, frankly, many Christians are torn and confused. Did God really create everything in six days? Did Adam and Eve really exist? Is marriage between man and woman really the given norm? Are we really living under a curse in need of a saviour? Was there really a Flood? Does the promise given to Abram still hold?
What a fascinating situation. We all read the Bible through a cultural lens. Yet, surely there can only be one truth. This is especially relevant when we read the Book of Genesis, because within those pages we see so much that is foundational for the rest of the Bible and for the lives we lead today. This is why it is my favourite book, because it is so flipping important.