I am a passionate student of the Pentateuch, so I enjoy Genesis. However, for the first few years after meeting the Lord, I only knew about Genesis debates about Genesis 1-11. Exposure to certain apologists alerted me that there was an attack on Genesis 1-11, with atheists claiming it could not be trusted after Darwin. Some liberal Christians gave in to try and find a middle way.
In later years, I realized that while apologetics certainly is essential and the trustworthiness of the Bible should be defended, there is more to reading Genesis. The Bible was not written for atheists; it was written for believers. After Darwin has been silenced, what then? Should we move on to Exodus? Naturally, this is not the answer. But what then? The rest of Genesis forms part of God’s revealed Word and so “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16, NIV).
However, with stories, we must ask, “how does this speak to us?” I don’t mean “what does it mean to you personally.” I mean, how does it address you, personally? How does it shine God’s light on your life? Stories are compelling because life has a narrative quality, with pace, high points, low points, protagonists, antagonists, etc. Stories are a powerful source of knowledge of life in that it provides the ability of right seeing. Narratives portray universal experiences, so they can move your emotions, win you over to their opinion, or make you question yourself.
Like the rest of Genesis, Bible stories are the same, except that they are preoccupied with history and have religious and moral points to make. Put another way; they tell of past events to shine God’s light on our lives and drive us to live lives that are pleasing to him.
The life of Joseph recently addressed me. The basic story is that I was once caught up in a situation where there was a misunderstanding. This led to me neglecting specific duties I had to take care of, and so I ended up in trouble because of what I had ignorantly, if not innocently, done. I felt hurt by the situation at the time, but a happy outcome was that I became much better at the duty that I had neglected. I could feel proud of my contribution and believe that I was indeed glorifying God through it.
The sting of unfairness subsided over time, but there was one part that lay hidden until I revisited the Joseph narratives recently. After Jacob’s death, Joseph’s ten older brothers were afraid Joseph would take revenge. They lied and said that Jacob left a message saying Joseph should forgive his brothers. At this Joseph burst out in tears, which frightened his brothers even more, but then he says 19 “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (NIV).
All of a sudden, the light of God shined in the dark corners of my heart. Joseph had been treated much, much worse than I had, and he pointed to the good God brought out of it. The “darkness” that lay hidden in me was that I would often think back on how much of a big boy I was that I did not make more of a fuss, or that despite how I was treated, I will always soldier on because that is my duty as a servant of God.
But then I realized that my attitude had been relatively poor. I realized that instead of mulling over the past thinking, “though I was treated quite bad, I’ll just soldier on,” I should be praising God for the good he accomplished. I should be thankful to God that in His mercy, he let the error of my way be brought to light, leading to me being “a worker who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Tim 2:15) even in the literal work I do for God.
In this way, the story of Joseph “read” me recently. I want to invite you, whether in Genesis or elsewhere, to let the biblical narratives shine their light on your life and lead you to a life that is (even more) glorifying to God.
Short bio: Izaak holds an MTh from SATS, where he has been lecturing in biblical studies since 2015. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Old Testament with a focus on Deuteronomy at SATS. Izaak is passionate about helping believers delighting in the beautiful things that the Old Testament reveals about the character of God. Izaak is married to Karien, and they live in Stellenbosch where they fellowship at the local Joshua Generation Church.