Saturday 6 October 2012

Genesis: The search for the son

Introduction to BibleCentral

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Hebrews 1:1-2

The author of Hebrews - in describing God’s relationship with his creation - separates all of history into two distinct periods: The past and the last. In the past, God spoke in many ways (“the prophet”), to many people (“our fathers”). Yet in the last - that is, in these last days - God has spoken to us through Jesus Christ, his Son.

God is a speaking God. He spoke the universe into being. He revealed his word to his servants. Christians believe that the bible is God’s spoken and sovereign word in written form.

But what the book of Hebrews teaches us in particular is that God’s word is understood not in many ways but just one - in his Son. In these last days, God speaks his full and final plan through Jesus Christ. The whole bible has one central message: Jesus Christ is Lord (Romans 1:4), or as Hebrews puts it, Christ is “heir of all things.”

The purpose of this course is to build our confidence in the bible as God’s word. Bible study leaders, preachers and Sunday School teachers regularly find themselves in the position of speaking and teaching from the bible, and they will want to do this faithfully and clearly. But any genuine follower of Christ will want to know and understand God’s word for themselves - this is evidence of true discipleship, it is a mark of genuine growth and an indicator of the Spirit’s work in life of the Christian believer.

How do we do this? Again, Hebrews gives us the answer. God has spoken in his Son. Our confidence in God’s word flows from our assurance in Jesus as God’s Son and our Saviour.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught his disciples that he came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). After his resurrection, he spent time with his followers interpreting all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Again and again, Jesus was keen to demonstrate how the bible had one central message pointing to one central person culminating in one central event: Jesus Christ crucified. As we open our bibles our prayer is that God would open our hearts to see Jesus in the fullness of his glory.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

Introduction to Genesis

We begin where the bible begins, with the book of Genesis. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This is an epic introduction to the sovereignty of God and the omnipotence of God. He exists apart from creation as he is before creation. He is the author of creation and therefore Lord over all of creation.

Make no mistake, God is the central character here in the biblical account of creation. To be sure, God is the main character of every book in the bible. Having said that, the bible never goes out of its way to prove the existence of God. Instead of answering the question, “Is there a God?” Genesis Chapter 1 immediately tells us who this God is - He is pre-existent. He is the author of creation. The rest of Genesis Chapter 1 is given to describing not how creation sees its creator, but how God defines his creation.

God speaks creation into being: “Let there be light,” says God, and there was light. God takes joy in his creation: In verse 31 we read, “God looked at everything he had made, and behold it was good.” God blesses his creation: All living creatures are commanded to “be fruitful and multiply.” God brings order out of chaos: he separates the waters above from the waters below; he separates light from dark. God establishes his authority over his creation - assigning each its function and identity: He names the Day and the Night, the Heavens and the Earth.

God imparts something of his character - his blessing and goodness - into his creation. (Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”) Yet God goes one step further by making man - a creature - is in his own image (Genesis 1:27). God goes as far as to entrust authority over his creation into the hands of human beings. “Subdue it, and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28).

Here at the beginning of Genesis - at the beginning of the universe - we find a glimpse of the end. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them.” (Genesis 2:1) God finishes his work of creating the world and rests on the seventh day. “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) The fulfilment of God’s work is his joy. The endpoint of God’s work is his rest.

Here, immediately at the end of the account of creation, we find a new beginning; another beginning.

These are the generations of the heavens of the earth...
Genesis 2:4

Genesis is a book of beginnings. The Hebrew word toledoth can mean birth or beginning, but it also refers to the written record of that beginning. Hence, our English translations use words like “generations,” or “genealogies,” because each time it occurs, Genesis is signalling the start of a new chapter.

Genesis 5:1 - This is the book of the generations of Adam.
Genesis 6:9 - These are the generations of Noah.
Genesis 11:27 - These are the generations of Terah (the father of Abraham).
Genesis 25:19 - These are the generations of Isaac.
Genesis 37:2 - These are the generations of Jacob.

Each occurrence of toledoth functions like a bookmark, introducing us to a new chapter and a new central character. At the same time, it reminds us that all the characters are related to one another - they are descendants from the same family. Each individual represents a whole new generation and each generation marks a whole new beginning.

The question is: The beginning of what? Are they beginnings of a new hope, of renewed blessings, of progress and advancement in humanity?

I suggest to you that each of these major characters - Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - marks the beginning of a new search; the search for a son. Each of these men were fathers. Each had many sons. But amongst all their children, amongst all of their sons, only one son was the son - Seth, not Cain; Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau.

With each generation, Genesis focuses all its attention on just one family, one individual, pointing us to just one son (another word the bible uses is “seed”) the one whom God promised would one day be his Son.

Adam: The promise of the son (Genesis 1-5)

In Genesis 1, God has already blessed mankind with the command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” (Genesis 1:28) but the promise of the son only comes to Adam in Chapter 3, not in words of blessing but in God’s words of judgement upon sin. Adam and his wife have rebelled against God’s word by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Even though God had solemnly warned them, “The day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” (Genesis 2:17), the man and his wife choose to ignore that warning, listening instead to the cunning words of the serpent, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4)

The serpent continues, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Friends, the serpent continues to tempt us today with the same lies. He denies the certainty of judgement. He causes us to doubt the goodness of God. But most of all, the serpent tempts us with the desire to be like God. This is the bible’s definition of sin. Sin is not breaking the rules but making the rules. Sin is rejecting God as king because I want to be king.

God’s judgment for sin is death. Yet it is precisely in God’s judgement of death that we find the promise of new life.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Theologians refer to this as the protoevangelium, or the first announcement of the good news. Notice that it is a direct announcement made by God to the serpent, “he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” But notice as well how it is a promise given for future generations - “I will put enmity between your offspring and her offspring.” In the midst of judgement and death, God points forward to a son - an offspring of the woman (some translations have “seed”) - who will destroy the curse of death by taking upon himself the penalty of death.

But who is this son? Adam and Eve had hoped it was their oldest son Cain, who, like his father, was a worker of the ground. Yet Cain ends up killing his younger brother, Abel, in cold blood out of jealousy and spite. When God confronts Cain with his sin, Cain is neither remorseful nor repentant. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” (Genesis 4:13)

No, Cain is not the promised son, but rather it is his younger brother, Seth. Chapter 5 opens with the family tree of Adam: “This is the book of the generations of Adam,” but leaves out any mention of Cain, the firstborn. Instead, “when Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own image, in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Genesis 5:3)

The search begins - down the line of Adam, to Seth, then Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, ending with Noah. Each lived a certain number of years and then each died. Each had many children (“other sons and daughters”) yet only one son is mentioned by name. With each generation, we are meant to ask, “Could this be the one?”

That was the hope of a man named Lamech, who, after fathering a son named Noah, says, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and the painful toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:29) Lamech looks forward to a new generation and immediately thinks back to God’s promise of hope and salvation.

He looks back to the promise of a son.

 Noah: The judgement of the sons (Genesis 6-11)

Even as a kid (and a non-Christian), I was taught about Noah’s ark in kindergarten and loved reading about his adventures in story books. I imagined the ark to be a gigantic floating petting zoo with jolly Noah as its captain and his sons and daughters as his shipmates, all on an exciting journey into the open sea.

In reality, the biblical account of the flood is one of the most devastating judgements of God in the history of all mankind. God wipes out the entire human race, together with all life on the earth, except for Noah and his family, together with the animals on the ark.

To give us some perspective on its magnitude, the apostle Peter sets the judgement of the flood right next to the final judgement at the end of time, “For they deliberately overlook this fact... the earth was formed out of water... was deluged with water and perished... are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Peter 3:5-7)

God looks upon mankind and grieves over their wickedness and corruption. It breaks his heart. “Every intention of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) Only Noah is found to be righteous and blameless before God. He is described as a man who walked with God.

Does this mean that God saved Noah because he was better than all his friends? No. The reason why Noah was chosen to be saved was because of God’s grace. “Noah found favour (grace) in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:8) Grace means Noah did not deserve God’s favour. Grace means Noah did not earn God’s salvation.

In fact, we only need to look to the events immediately after the flood to see how Noah was not unlike his sinful generation. He plants a vineyard, gets drunk on the wine and passes out naked in his tent. When his son, Ham, makes fun of his old man, Noah opens his mouth (for the first time in the bible) only to curse his grandchild, Canaan (Genesis 9:18-25).

Out of all possible candidates, out of every man and woman on the planet, God chooses Noah. Why? There are two parts to the answer. The first is grace. God’s judgement was deserved, his salvation is not. Noah found grace in God’s eyes; Noah was saved by God’s grace alone.

But the second part of the answer is covenant. Here at the beginning of Genesis Chapter 9, we find the first covenant that God makes with Noah to never again destroy the earth by a flood. A covenant is a one-sided contract -a one-sided agreement between two parties - that God makes and God honours and God fulfils. This covenant is sealed in blood - Noah sacrifices the clean animals on an altar (Genesis 8:20). This covenant is established and maintained by God - he says, “I establish... I have set... I will remember...” Finally, the covenant is extended to Noah’s sons and their families, “for all future generations.” (Genesis 9:12)

And so, the search for the son continues. “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth.” (Genesis 10:1) It is a new beginning and a fresh start. “From these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.” (Genesis 10:32)

Through the flood, what God has done is rebooted the earth. He wipes away all traces of sinful men. He starts anew with Noah and his sons. God even reissues the creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply on it.” (Genesis 9:7) The genealogies of Shem, Ham and Japheth are there in Chapter 10 to show us the results of that blessing - the earth is repopulated, nations are spread out across the lands, a multitude of cultures, languages and people-groups are established upon the earth. Life flourishes again.

...But so does sin and pride. That’s the account of the tower of Babel in Chapter 11. The men of Shinar say to one another, “Come let us make bricks... Come let us build ourselves a city... let us make a name for ourselves.” They weren’t simply trying to be famous. They wanted to establish their own identity and their own authority. They sought to achieve this through unity (“Come let us...”) but also through uniformity. They had one language and spoke one word. They made uniform and identical bricks instead of using roughly-shaped pieces of stone.

But notice as well that their actions were motivated out of a deep rejection of God’s blessing. “Lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4) Earlier on, the clans of Shem, Ham and Japheth were spread out “each with his own language, clans... nations.” The people of Babel were tired of fulfilling the creation mandate. They were tired of living under God.

God finally judges Babel in a very peculiar way - not by demolishing the tower of the city - but by dispersing its people. “The LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.” Curiously, God’s judgement over Babel’s unity results in diversity. From one nation, God creates many nations, peoples and languages.

Very soon, God is about to call a man from one of these nations - in fact, from this very region of Babel - giving him the spectacular promise that he would be the agent of God’s blessing to all the nations of the earth. God would even promise to give this man the very thing the people of Babel longed for - a name that would be great among the nations.

His name is Abram.

Abraham: The blessing of the son (Genesis 12-24)

Muslims, Jews and Christians look to him as the father of their faith. Their scriptures point to him as a man of God - the one who displayed true faith in God. All three claim to be descendants of this one man, children and heirs of the promises first given by God to this same one man. The Qur’an calls him Ibrahim. We know him better as Abraham.

The bible first introduces Abraham with a different name - Abram. For six chapters from Genesis 11 through 16, he is always referred to as Abram - a name which meant “Father”. God changed his name in Chapter 17 to Abraham - “Father of many”, or as I like to call him, “Big Daddy”. God promised Abraham that he would receive tremendous blessing, but they weren’t for him alone. God’s promise of blessing would pass down to his children, and to his children’s children. It was a three-fold promise of (1) land (specifically, the land of Canaan), (2) blessing (he would be successful) and (3) innumerable descendants (hence the name, Big Daddy).

The irony was: Abraham had no kids. His wife, Sarah, was barren (Genesis 11:30) and both of them were very old. He was 75 years-old when God first called him in Genesis 12. It was only 25 years later, when Abraham was a hundred years-old that Isaac was born to him and Sarah. The name Isaac means “he laughs”. Sarah says “God has brought me laughter” (Genesis 21:6). This baby boy meant everything to his elderly parents. Isaac was their joy and laughter.

Abraham’s greatest test of faith came the day that God called him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Genesis 22:1-2

Notice how God refers to Isaac. “Your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love”. What does God tell Abraham to do with this son whom he loves? “Offer him as a burnt offering.”

Abraham was a wealthy man by this point in his life. But nowhere in the bible does God test Abraham by asking him to give away his money. Neither was God telling Abraham to send his son away, the way he did with Ishmael and his mother Hagar just a few verses earlier in Genesis 21. No, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The Hebrew word ‘Ola is the same word used when describing how Noah offered up animals on the altar after the flood in Genesis 8. It was a whole burnt offering - all of Isaac was to be offered up and nothing held back. His life, his body, his blood - sacrificed on an altar to God.

Abraham obeyed. He takes Isaac alone with him on a three day journey up a mountain where he builds an altar, lays the wood and then binds his son on the altar. “Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.” Immediately, the angel of the LORD calls out to him, “Abraham, Abraham!” God provides a substitute for Isaac in the form of a ram caught in the bushes and says to him, “Now I know you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)

How could Abraham bear to sacrifice his one and only son? The New Testament points to Abraham’s faith in the promises of God. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son ...He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17,19)

Abraham trusted in God’s promises; that God was faithful and able to do all that he had said he would do, so much so that nothing - not even death - could hinder God from fulfilling every single one of his promises to Abraham.

This is why Jews, Christians and Muslims look back to Abraham as their father - he is the source of God’s blessing. The promises that were given to him were not for him alone, but for his children. Yet the New Testament maintains that “not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring.” (Romans 9:7) Jews trace their lineage back through Isaac while Muslims claim that the true son of Abraham was Ishmael. But Christians call Abraham their father because the bible insists that they are the true recipients of Abraham’s promise - a promise that is received by faith and not by flesh. It is the promise that Abraham treasured above all others - wealth, land, blessing - the promise of a son.

Jesus once said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56) The greatest blessing that Abraham rejoiced in back in his day - Isaac, the son whom he loved and treasured - pointed Abraham to an even greater blessing, to an even a greater son.

Abraham saw the day of Jesus Christ and he rejoiced. 

Jacob: The rejection of the son (Genesis 25-36)

The first eleven chapters of Genesis span vast periods of history - accounting for the creation of the world, the fall of man, the judgement of the flood and the covenant of God’s grace. One-fifth of Genesis fast forwards from generation to generation, tracing the descendants of Adam, down through Seth, pausing momentarily with Noah, then picking up the pace again with Noah’s sons and descendants occupying the entire planet.

But the remaining thirty-eight chapters and four-fifths of Genesis concentrate on just three generations - from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob. It is a story of God’s blessing passed down from father to son to grandson; the working out of God’s purposes for the entire world and for all mankind seen through the eyes of three individuals.

Externally, God’s blessing grows from generation to generation. Abraham is rich. Isaac inherits all his father’s riches. Jacob becomes father to the twelve tribes of Israel. Each generation grows in personal wealth, influence among their peers and significance within God’s cosmic plan.

Internally however, things are different. All three men experience marital strife, especially over the issue of children. Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel are barren and this gives rise to domestic situations of shame, rivalry and envy. Their own kids hate each others guts.

Most tragic of all is the break in relationship between father and son. Isaac was loved and treasured by his father; Jacob was overlooked in favour of his older brother, Esau. “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Genesis 25:28) This family played favourites - Esau was his father’s son, Jacob was a mommy’s boy - and it broke the family apart.

Twice while growing up at home, Jacob manipulates his way into being accepted, into being loved. First, with his brother, Esau who trades him his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34). And then with his own father, Isaac. Jacob pretends to be Esau by dressing up as his older brother and offering his dad his favourite dish. Isaac at this point in his life is too old to recognise the ruse (though he has his suspicions) and gives Jacob the blessing he had reserved for Esau - the blessing of the firstborn.

“Is he not rightly named Jacob?” says Esau (Genesis 27:26) Jacob lives up to the meaning behind his name - “Conman.” (If this were a Cantonese drama, he would be played by Chow Sing Chi, and the role of Esau by Ng Man Tat.)

Hence, when Jacob meets God for the first time, he thinks he has to work his way into God’s good books. “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Genesis 28:20-21) The same way he conned his old man, Jacob tries to pull a fast one with God, “If you do me a solid, God, then I’ll make it worth your while.”

But something unexpected happens: Jacob falls in love. He meets Rachel, falls head over heels in love with her, and asks her father Laban for her hand in marriage in exchange for seven years labour, which “seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (Genesis 29:20)

Laban turns out to be a bigger conman than Jacob. After seven years, Laban tricks Jacob into marrying the older sister, Leah (the one with “weak eyes”), instead, persuading Jacob to stay on for yet another seven years for the right to take Rachel as his wife. Jacob has no choice but to agree to Laban’s terms. In the process, Jacob learns a big life lesson the hard way: The conman finally gets conned.

Driven away from home, forced into fourteen years of hard labour, tricked into marrying his bride’s sister resulting in lifelong bitterness between his two wives, Jacob is humbled and cut down to size. Yet in such unexpected and humbling circumstances, God blesses Jacob. His flocks grow. He has many children. After fourteen years, he even manages to pull a fast one on Laban and ends up owning the best of his father-in-law’s flocks and herds. Jacob returns home with all that God had blessed him - a family and a tremendous fortune - but it is along the way home that Jacob finds renewed faith.

Jacob meets God in the middle of the night and wrestles with God. “Let me go,” God says to Jacob, “for the day has broken.” But Jacob replies, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” All his life, Jacob had been searching for approval - from his father, from his mother. All his life, Jacob had been searching for blessing - wealth, happiness, significance, love. But here, Jacob finally finds the true blessing he had been looking for all this while, God himself, and he is not about to let God go until he receives that blessing. Even if it weaken him, which it does; even if it paralyses him, which it does; Jacob will not let go of God.

In return, God gives Jacob a new name: Israel. “For you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28) It is a strange thing for God to say to a man, isn’t it? That this man struggled with God and prevailed against the Almighty.

Here is a God who reveals himself to man, not in strength but in weakness. The encounter weakens Jacob, yes - his hip is struck and Jacob is left limping the rest of his life - but the encounter simultaneously weakens God.

God chooses to reveal his blessing to us at times when we are most vulnerable, most dependant and most helpless - not simply to make us grateful and aware of our shortcomings - but so that we can recognise what kind of God we are dealing with. He is a God who understands weakness first-hand. He is a God who knows the pain of rejection first-hand.

He is the Son of God who is despised and rejected on the cross so that in him we might be accepted, so that in Christ we might be forgiven, so that in Jesus we might be fully loved by the Father.

Joseph: The salvation of the son (Genesis 37-50)

The key verse in the life of Joseph, and perhaps even, the whole book of Genesis is what Joseph says to his brothers in Chapter 50 and verse 20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

“I know that God is bringing good out of evil every day.” A Christian pastor said those words in the months leading up to his death. He had been struggling with a terminal illness. He didn’t like the idea of leaving his wife and family behind. But in Jesus, this pastor knew a God who works his good purposes out of any and every one of life’s circumstances - even the bad ones. Especially the painful ones.

Joseph looked straight at his brothers who betrayed him, who sold him into slavery, who left him for whatever ominous fate that lay ahead, and said this, “God meant it for good.” Thirteen years of his life had been spent as a slave and as a prisoner in the dungeons.

Thirteen years.

Was there any point in his life when Joseph might have been tempted to curse God? Perhaps when he had maintained his integrity in Potiphar’s house and refused the advances of his master’s wife, only to be maligned and thrown in jail - Might Joseph have said to God, “I don’t deserve this. God, this is unfair.”

Or perhaps when he had helped interpret the dream of the cupbearer, saying, “Remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house... I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit,” only to have two years pass by with no word from Pharaoh. Not even a word of thanks from the man whom he helped. “Yet the chief cupbearer... forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23) Might Joseph then have begun to doubt God’s goodness?

It would not be hard to imagine so. Stabbed in the back. Punished for doing the right thing. Forgotten by his friends. There would have been many an opportunity for Joseph to feel sorry for himself, to raise his fists and curse his maker, to abandon all hope and faith in the God of his fathers.

And yet, all evidence of Scripture points to the contrary. In his suffering, Joseph grew in his faith in God. In his captivity, Joseph grew in his faithfulness to God. God used these very trials to shape his character, his conduct and his resolve.

When he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph replied, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Day after day, it says, she tried to seduce him, yet day after day Joseph stood his ground. Why? Because sin is sin irrespective of our circumstance. Joseph could have just as easily justified taking advantage of his position, “Behold... my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.” (Genesis 39:8) Instead, Joseph would not sin against his master nor his God.

Or when Joseph was in prison and asked to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, he did not go, “Well, you’ve come to the right man. I’ve been interpreting dreams since I was a kid and have quite a knack for it. In fact, let me tell you about a series of books I have coming out which might help you understand this very topic you are concerned with.”

What does Joseph say? “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8) He says the same thing to Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer... God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.” (Genesis 41:16, 25) Joseph gives all glory to God.

If you read on, you find out that Joseph eventually becomes Prime Minister of Egypt and is put in charge of all state affairs. But the way in which God prepares Joseph for that responsibility was in these thirteen years of captivity, seclusion and suffering. It was this experience that enabled Joseph to forgive his brothers, more than that, to embrace them in love as his own flesh and blood.

And yet despite the stunning example that we see in Joseph character and conduct (which is second only to Daniel, and perhaps even, Jesus), the main character of this section of the book is actually Jacob. Chapter 37 opens with these words, “These are the generations of Jacob.” (Genesis 37:2) The climactic ending of Genesis is not the salvation that comes through the hands of Joseph, but the blessing that Jacob pronounces on his twelve sons. “All these are the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Genesis 50:28)

Furthermore, the whole occasion that gives rise to the events of Chapter 50 is the death of Jacob. He is buried in the cave of Machpelah, the same burial place of his father, Isaac, and his father’s father, Abraham. When Joseph himself dies, he says to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” (Genesis 50:24)

What is the point of all this? Even Joseph is not the son. Even Joseph looks forward to the fulfilment of God’s original promises.

It is therefore no coincidence that the second book of the Pentateuch, Exodus, opens with these words: “These are the names of the sons of Israel..”

The search for the son continues.

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