In the last post we looked at why we should study Genesis. In this post, I want to look at: HOW?
The way to study the scriptures: How do you know that your reading is a right reading when you hear a lot of different opinions on what the texts mean?
Contrary to what many fear, you don’t have to have a commentary by your side or be seminary trained (not that there is anything wrong with either of these) to read the Scriptures with integrity and richness. Here are a few basic tools that will help:
– Bring with you to the text a basic understanding of literature and grammar– Notice when there is a song or poem…this may be important. Notice repetition of key words or phrases. By repeating something you remember it. Also notice in Genesis 1:3-6-9-11-14- you see over and over “And God said”. It is a chain of thought. Then notice when the chain changes or is broken- “THEN God said”. Many times the break or change is either for background information or for a key thought to be revealed.
– Think of the text as you would film a movie – Take for instance Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22- The chapter begins with a word from the Lord, then a lot of action takes place with only a few words. You can picture the two journeying together as a camera films them from a high distance above the desert. Then we get to the phrase: “And then the two of them walked together”. The story then slows down and there is a conversation. Then we see the phrase again: “And then the two of them walked together”. Then the action picks up again. When action slows down and you see conversation nestled in the midst of broader general action…that shows it is important, there is usually a key idea being communicated.
– Look at the scriptures with a historical lens first – Many times when applying God’s word, we make the jump from the author to us. However, look at it how the original audience would have heard it back then. This can help clear up a lot of misunderstandings. Think of Jonah- He is still sad at the end that Nineveh has repented. The original audience of his book was exiles and it was teaching them to work for their captor’s salvation and pray for them so that they can turn to God as well. It was showing them not to be like Jonah. What about the history of Genesis? Moses wrote to slaves coming out of Egypt. He was reintroducing the people of Israel who had been in slavery for generations (400 yrs) to their Creator. They had adopted the thinking of their captors (Egyptians) & needed correction.
– Learn to hear the echo of Christ: Sometimes it is plain and vivid…other times it is a whisper, but everything in scripture is written to address real life situations where sin is at the root and then where hope is provided. We can, with integrity, read even Old Testament texts in the context of the coming of Jesus. Scriptures tell us he is involved in all aspects of the Biblical Narrative…Creation, Redemption and Consummation…so every passage finds its foundation in Him, it’s provision in Him, or it’s fulfillment in Him!
What can we learn from Genesis 1-2 at face value using the few tools above?
– Everything starts with God- In the beginning, GOD… Eternity goes both ways. He has always been there and he always will be.
– God works from formless and empty (thesis verse of chapter in 1:2) to structure and fullness (See form in v 3 – 10 and fullness in 11-31). He brings sense out of senselessness.
– God is intimately involved in every aspect. He is never detached from on high (1:2b) in light of Deuteronomy 32: “Like an eagle stirring her young for flight”.
– Man is the focus and high point of God’s creation (1:26 ..Then God..). God created man in his image. God says it is GOOD (waters, light, and animals) but then God says it is VERY GOOD (mankind). He cares about mankind.
– The purpose of Genesis is “Slaves, know your God”. We are slaves as well (to sin). We can read this passage and we hear the same way the freed Israelite slaves did. We hear that this sin-sick world is not what we are designed for. We are designed to obey perfectly and enjoy creator God in a world (and with hearts) free from the devastation of sin!