Genesis (Chapter 12 – 25) – Be Obedient
Themes and Application
Running through Genesis, we can see that there are various themes. Some of these themes are:
• God ‘s creation of a perfect kingdom (Gen 1-2)
• God ‘s establishment of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen: 12-50)
• God’s redemption plan due to man’s sin (Gen 3:1-7)
• God’s provision of a Messiah – Jesus created the earth (Gen1:26) and will defeat Satan (Gen 3:15)
The themes of kingdom, redemption and Messianic are significant but we will not elaborate here as they are mostly in chapters other than Genesis 12-25 and beyond our scope.
Instead, we have chosen to focus our attention on the following 3 themes. They are:
1) The theme of Grace – The Abraham narrative makes it clear that God did not choose Abraham and his family because they are more righteous, more faithful, more pious or more deserving than any other family. His electing them was an act of grace. On several occasions, we see Abraham’s fear and lack of faith, eg he is not above lying about his wife on two separate occasions in order, so he thought, to preserve his life (Gen 12:11-20; 20:1-18). In spite of this, God does not reject him. Abraham might let go of God but God – out of grace – does not let go of him.
Application – Although we fail and fall – as we all do from day to day – God does not reject us. Rather, out of grace, He keeps hold of us. Abraham has many failings but God continues to have a use for him as His servant, friend and covenant partner. God also has a use for us as His covenant partners despite our many failings. Like Abraham, we are called to intercessory prayer. Like Abraham, we are called to be prophets. Out of grace, like Abraham, we are called to represent God before men.
We also see that God will accomplish salvation in spite of the sins and failings of His people out of grace from beginning to end.
In fact, if salvation were left up to someone like Abraham – fallen, sinful Abraham – it would never happen. What is true for Abraham is doubly true for us. If salvation were up to us it would never happen because it could never happen. We poor, sinful, fallen creatures simply do not have it within ourselves to make ourselves right with God. Not only that, but we are not even able of ourselves to come to God in Christ, to believe, to have faith, or to continue in the faith.
2) The theme of Eection
The Principle of Election:
- In Genesis 25:19-34, we find the account of the birth of Jacob and Esau. In this account, we find that God reveals himself to us as the God of election.
- The theme of election is so prominent in the account of the birth of Jacob and Esau that the apostle Paul refers to it in Romans 9 as a demonstration of the righteousness of God in electing whom he wills. This theme of election, however, does not appear for the first time in Genesis 25.
- From the very beginning of the history of revelation, God brings into prominence His electing love and power.
- God has promised Abraham that he shall be a father of all nations. The promise He gives is the promise He fulfils. The purpose of God cannot fail, it is fixed.
- In the life of Abraham, there were ample evidences of his repeated weaknesses and sins. God overturns and overcomes them all in the interests of the promise.
Evidence of Election in Genesis 12-25:
• God chose to make a covenant nation to bless the world through Abraham (Gen 12: 1-3)
• God chose to give certain boundaries to Abraham’s descendents (Gen 15:18)
• God chose to give the land of Israel to Abraham’s descendents forever (Gen 17:7-8)
• God’s choice of Jacob over Esau (Gen 25:21-26)
What is the Christian Doctrine of Election?
• Election, sometimes called predestination, teaches, that due to the corrupted nature and spiritual depravity of man,
• God according to His Sovereign Grace & Will, and for His own purposes, has chosen, elected, those who will receive salvation.
• Without Election, an act of Mercy and Love on God’s part, man will reap the fruits of his corruption and depravity, which is eternal damnation. Basically, it is the action of God, and God alone, which brings one to salvation, and this sovereign act is irresistible & irrevocable.
• God’s choice of Abraham and his descendents to be set apart as a special people is known as election. However, election of one person may result in the rejection of another (for example, the account of Jacob and Esau: Gen. 25:23), making election a difficult theme to engage. The nation of Israel became the instrument through which God would reveal his word and bring salvation to humankind, not because Israel was any better than any other group of people, but because God chose to use Israel to accomplish his purposes.
• We are told that election works for God’s glory (Rom 9:19-24), for it demonstrates divine sovereignty.
The Biblical basis for Election:
Some of the verses recorded in the Bible are:
• John 6:39– “And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day.”
• John 1:12-13- “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
• Rom 8:28-30– “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
Why is Election one of the most difficult doctrines of the Bible?
• To accept the Doctrine of Election you must acknowledge that man is a totally unrighteous being, who left on his own, will not seek out or accept the true God; and
• that man can do nothing of his own accord to obtain salvation, nor would he want to.
• Basically, it acknowledges that man’s fate is in the hands of his Creator; that God is all-sovereign; and that man cannot and does not have any control over his ultimate destiny.
• This admission grates on man’s pride; and his belief that he is basically good.
• It also contradicts man’s contention that through hard work, and doing the right things, he can earn what he needs.
• Divine grace and electing love is the source of transformed character.
• We read that Abraham’s father Terah served “other gods” (Josh 24:2) and Abraham might have done so as well for many years. Yet God’s divine favour and grace were upon Abraham.
• Throughout the Abraham narrative, on the one hand, we read of Abraham’s many weaknesses and failings. On the other hand, we also see how God has continued to preserve him and shape him into a noble character, such that his faith was counted as righteous before God.
• We see that the sovereign grace of God not only gives us eternal life, but it also transforms our lives and character to produce the righteousness befitting His name.
• Sometimes, the one elected by God possesses the worst possible character, as shown by Jacob’s unworthy and sinful life.
• Similarly God chose the nation of Israel as an instrument through which He would reveal his word and bring salvation to humankind, not because Israel was any better than any other group of people, but because God chose to use Israel to accomplish his purposes.
• Divine election demands a response. The response is not that since God’s work accounts for everything, then it does not matter what I do or how I conduct myself. The certainty of the promise does not lessen responsibility, but rather heightens it. Salvation is a gift of grace by God’s work alone, but if by grace you are made sons and daughters of God, then the obligation also comes that you live like it. As Paul puts it, “Walk worthy of your calling”.
3) The theme of Faith.
• Faith is the means of restoration to God. Abraham’s faith is certainly not perfect, not always strong, and sometimes borders on unbelief (Gen 15:2-3). Yet at the crucial times he takes God at his word and believes His promises Heb 11:8-10.
• The key is not the strength and perfection of Abraham’s faith, but the strength and perfection of the God he trusts.
• Abraham learns that God is utterly reliable and faithful to His Word.
• And since Abraham deserves nothing of what he is promised, it must be seen as pure and unmerited gift. That is why he is accounted as righteous before God by simply believing (Gen 15:6).
• If people asked the reason why Abram lived in Canaan, he would tell them that this was where God would give him a multitude of descendants. Let us look at Gen 15: 5-6 to examine Abraham’s faith in God:
• We should note that this promise of a child or many children was not immediately fulfilled. It wasn’t fulfilled in the following year. Basically, Abraham had to trust God to fulfil this aspect long after he was dead. The same was true about the land. He just didn’t see it. He was a nomad. He owned nothing.
• Abraham would face a stressful time. The lesson is most clear. God emphasized this promise to increase the tension in Abraham’s life. God was testing or proving Abraham’s faith. He does this in all of our lives.
• Similarly, God creates situations where we might gain more faith and sometimes,
• God uses different methods to make us more fruitful. God is totally concerned with the increase of our faith. If our faith doesn’t increase, then He cannot further bless us.