Genesis: A Promise-Making & Promise-Keeping God

This summer, we’ll walk through important stories in Genesis. While we may be familiar with some of them, there is great value in attending to each one – and the larger narrative arc – more carefully.

Read ahead and spend time with the Scriptures below before worship.

  • June 11 (Trinity Sunday) – Gen. 1:1-5, The first creation story
  • June 18 – Gen. 18:1-15 (21:1-7), A son is promised to Abraham and Sarah
  • June 25 – Gen. 21:8-21, Hagar and Ishmael are sent away
  • July 2 – Gen. 22:1-14, The binding of Isaac
  • July 9 – Gen 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Isaac marries Rebekah
  • July 16 – Gen. 25:19-34, The birth of Jacob and Esau, Esau sells his birthright
  • July 23 – Gen. 28:10-19a, Jacob’s ladder
  • July 30 – Gen. 29:15-28, Jacob marries Rachel and Leah
  • August 6 – Gen. 32:22-31, Jacob wrestles with God
  • August 13 (Summer Youth Sunday) – Gen. 37:1-4, 12-28, Joseph’s dream, Joseph sold into slavery
  • August 20 – Gen. 45:1-15, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers
  • August 27 (Ordination and Installation of Officers) – Ex. 1:8-2:10, Israelites in Egypt, Moses born and taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter

Background on Genesis

Chapters 1-11 of Genesis are called the prehistory, holding the stories of creation, the garden and the fall, the first family, the flood, and the Tower of Babel. After chapter 11 the focus shifts from the roots of all creation and humanity to the roots of a particular people, the Israelites.

The narrative materials of Genesis 12-50 present the tradition of the earliest ancestors of Israel. According to Walter Brueggemann,

“In an earlier generation of scholarship, it was thought that the narratives, on the basis of cultural and archaeological evidence, could be well situated in the culture of the Near East in the second millennium, so that they could be regarded as historically rooted. Current scholarship, however, regards such historical data as doubtful at best, so that we must treat the materials as a product of traditional communal remembering, whatever may have been the actual ‘facts’ behind the memory.”

It is not possible to know the “facts” of these stories, of what actually happened when. But that isn’t the point. The point is the power of the stories to speak to us about who God is, and how God is at work among God’s people. These stories, again from Brueggemann, “do not exist by themselves nor for themselves. They exist as they are told and valued, transmitted and remembered by a community which is seriously engaged in a life and ministry of faith.”

Much of Genesis comes in a four-generation account of the origins of the community that became Israel:

  • Abraham and Sarah (Gen 12-25)
  • Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25-27)
  • Jacob and Rachel (Gen 25-36)
  • Joseph (Gen 37-50)

The beginnings of this family, prior to Abraham, are traced in a traditional form in Geneses 11:10-32, all the way back to Shem, son of Noah (see 1 Chr 1:1-27; Luke 3:34-38, where the family is traced back to “Adam, son of God”).

These stories are filled with the stuff that makes up most families: love and betrayal, confusion, grief, hope. The characters, quite literally our mothers and fathers in the faith, are both deeply flawed and deeply faithful people. It is in their wrestling with God that we learn much about the nature of humanity. But, even more so, we learn of the God who reaches out to God’s people to make covenant. God promised to be with the people, to bless them so that they may be a blessing, and to never leave them. A God who makes promises, and keeps them, is the central character in the story. Despite the many ways we fall short, God is faithful to us. God keeps God’s own promises.