For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about God’s character as He reveals Himself in Genesis. I’ve started teaching a series at Agnes Scott on the story of the Bible from beginning to end, and I’ve realized as I’ve put the talks together just how rich God’s nature and character is.
When I started in Genesis 1, with the creation of the world, I was reminded that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all partake in the creation. What a mysterious, joyful thing that must have been – creating life out of nothing.
Then, as I thought more about the beauty of the Garden of Eden, of the relationship that Adam had with God, and of the sweetness of life before the Fall, I realized that this was what God created the world to be. The lush beauty, the intimacy between man and woman and between humans and God, the delight of work, the harmony of all things – this is the pattern of God’s Kingdom. This world was the reflection of His character and nature.
And suddenly some of the things we might otherwise have a hard time understanding about God’s character became much clearer. How could God allow the nasty things that intrude on His beauty to grow or flourish? No, He must do whatever is possible to get rid of them – including punishing the offenders.
Yet even in the midst of judgment and deserved curse, God shows grace, and even compassion. Right there in the middle of the curse, God gives a veiled hint to the redemption that will come by His own hand to set right the things that others had done to His lovely world.
Genesis 3:15 says, “he [the woman’s offspring] will crush your head, and you [Satan] will strike his heel.” The Lord then clothes the nakedness that Adam and Eve are suddenly painfully aware of – He clothes them with garments of skin. Does this mean that blood had to be shed to cover their sin?
Fast forward to the time of Abraham. God makes a covenant with Abraham, and unlike our human promises that we make and all too often fail to keep, God’s promises are sure to be kept. So God tells Abraham, “I will make you, one person, into a great nation. Not only that, but you will be a blessing to all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 12:2-3). Abraham’s end of the covenant is simple. God says, “Walk before me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). Ha. Simple, right?
To seal the deal, God has Abraham prepare a typical covenant ceremony (Genesis 15). Animals are sacrificed, with their blood running into a river between them. The ceremony was supposed to include both parties walking the “bloodpath,” symbolically saying “so be it to me if I don’t keep up my end of this covenant.”
But then God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep, and only God Himself walked the bloodpath – taking the responsibility for both parties. So when Abraham (and you, and I) fail to be blameless, God takes the punishment. That’s what Jesus’ death on the cross was all about. Restoring blamelessness, restoring harmony, restoring peace to bring some semblance of the world God created to begin with.
I have been astounded and refreshed by seeing God’s character and nature as I’ve looked into these beginnings more deeply. What an incredible God!