Why did God give us the book of Genesis?
So, we could know three things: God’s goodness in creation, our fall into sin, and the beginning of God’s plan to save.
Genesis is a book in two parts; the first eleven chapters show God’s perfect creation, our fall into sin, and God’s first great judgments on sin with Noah’s flood and the tower of Babel. Although God promised Adam and Eve that one day one of their descendants would crush the head of the serpent who tempted them to sin, the first part of the books shows sin and evil spreading and multiplying. Although you can see God’s mercy and grace in making a way of salvation, what’s striking about the beginning of Genesis is how people are bent on sin and how they resist grace: Cain doesn’t want to worship God; no one outside Noah’s family wants to be saved in the ark.
But the second part of the book begins to show God’s plan for salvation to keep the promise he first made to Adam and Eve. God calls Abram and promises to bless him and the entire world through his family. Not only that, God’s promise is a gift that Abram receives by faith; he does nothing to merit God’s blessing. The Scripture says, “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6 ESV).
The rest of the book shows Abraham’s children and grandchildren learning to walk by faith in those promises. Every generation learns to trust God and rest in his promises; but every generation is tested and tried. The book ends with the story of Joseph, one of Abraham’s great grandsons. Instead of enjoying the blessings promised to Abraham, Joseph is sold into slavery, thrown into prison, and for a while it seems the family God was supposed to bless was going to destroy itself. But the Bible says, “God was with him” (Acts 7:9 ESV). When things were at their worst, God caused Joseph to rise to second in command in Egypt, and he was able to save the lives of his family and all of Egypt by providing food for them in a horrific famine. When Joseph’s brothers see him again, they’re afraid, because they sold him into slavery. But Joseph assures them, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).
That phrase turns out to be a key for understanding the whole book. The book ends displaying God’s awesome power to take terrible things and turn them into blessings for people who rest in his promises by faith. It’s a good and encouraging end for the book that shows how humankind fell into evil and sin. God can take any evil, and turn it into good. He can do that in your life.
As Christians reading Genesis we can be encouraged by seeing God’s faithfulness to his promises. We can be strengthened by seeing the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. In the book of Acts, Peter makes it clear that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the same God who sent Jesus, who died for our sins, and God raised him from the dead (Acts 3:11-26). As Christians we can look back and know that Jesus is the seed of the woman and the savior of the entire world—Genesis helps us see who exactly Jesus is, and understand what he came to do. By reading this history, we can learn what it means to live by faith. And we can see the heart of God for the entire world, and our prayer should be that the good news of Jesus would continue to spread so that the whole world would experience the blessings of knowing God, just like he promised to Abraham thousands of years ago.