We are doing an 8 month study on Genesis at theStory. This is the first time I have spent this much time in any book (or probably the Bible) fueled by my own personal desire and not by due dates and mandatory readings or guilt trips. I’ve only read one entire book on Genesis so far (besides Genesis itself) but it has been enough to keep me turning the pages of more books and keep me hooked on Genesis for a long time coming. The book I read was Genesis by Laurence Turner and its out of print so it cost us around $80.00. I will admit though, I’d pay double for it. It changed the way I look at Genesis. I’m excited we are taking the time to walk step by step, theme by theme, story by story through Genesis with our community because the book is so full of truth and beauty.
Genesis is also filled with so much heart break; which is what this post is about. I never really realized until a few weeks ago how inappropriate Genesis is. I’m not even talking about the mass murders, crazy sex stories, incest and lies. All these things are quite scary and uncomfortable in themselves, but what sits wrong with me on top of all that is how God seems to ask for it.
After reading through Genesis a couple of times, I can’t help but notice how God seems to take the side of the sinful one over and over again and leaves the better/righteous one out to dry. All my life I’ve been accustomed to read Genesis as if the good guys win and to think I know who the good guys are. I heard the nice stories; you know the ones where the giraffes are sticking their heads out the ark (as Darryl puts it) as Noah and his family float away on a log water ride forgetting all along that the rest of the world just drowned a violent death. This sort of view of Genesis is strongly one-sided and is in desperate need of some balance and reality.
For example, let’s take Cain and Abel’s story; one that most of us are familiar with. In this story, Abel is the good guy. God finds favour in his offering, and that’s about all the details we get of him. Then the rest of the chapter is dedicated to his brother who decides to kill him. So Abel gets killed off and his story ends, so what is to come of Cain? It must be a lot worse you think, right? Well he gets the rest of the chapter to whine about his punishment of having a hard time harvesting some crops and to be a wanderer. Poor guy. Well God seems to think so cause then he marks Cain so that he won’t be killed and then states that if anyone does kill Cain that they will suffer vengeance seven times over. So not only does he assure that no one will kill him, he throws out a warning anyway that if anyone does kill him well then they’ll be sorry. To bad Abel, didn’t get that sort of protection. He should have brought the crappy flock. Then probably just to piss God off, Cain goes against his curse of being a wanderer and decides to build a city and stay put. Nice choice God, way to protect the one who’s really making you proud.
Let’s think about some of the other people God seems to be with. Jacob, well now there is a messed up character. Sleeping around with whoever is thrown in front of him, getting into wrestling matches, screwing his brother over. Really if God was thinking straight he should have picked Enoch. He’s the forgiving and loving one and he is just as successful all without his father’s blessing, imagine if he had it. Then there is Joseph. He’s the one we all want to love. The despised one by his brothers and then the whole Potifer incident just makes our heart really go out to him. Well if Joseph was so innocent and was such a great God follower I wonder why he tried so hard to fulfill his dreams on his own or why he decided to reek havoc on his family by tormenting him with his games or why he made so much profit on his ‘intelligence’ of saving up the grain? I’d probably choose Benjamin or Reuben.
The stories are endless in Genesis of God constantly taking the side of the most messed up, and sinful ones. These are not stories of great men who do great things and make us proud. These are stories of miserable failures who none of us should want to mimic and follow in their paths. Yet we constantly put them on pedestals and tell our children these stories as if something in their lives is leading us in the right direction. I’m tired of looking at Genesis through this filter of retribution theology where God blesses the good and curses the bad. It’s just not like that. I’m tired of looking at the Bible as if the good guys win and the bad guys lose and then the credits start rolling.
If anything I’m starting to see more and more that Genesis is not a book of heroes meant to inspire and urge us on to have more faith in God. Instead Genesis is a book about God, who decides to take the pedafiles, murderers, drunks, liars, rapists, faithless and thief’s (yes they are all in Genesis) and use them to tell us more about himself. It’s way to easy to love Abel in that story. It’s impossible to love Cain. Yet God takes Cain and protects him, and uses him to start a nation. It’s impossible to really love Lot throughout Genesis, he’s a selfish bad father who has no problem handing his girls over to be raped. Yet God saves and protects him and has no problem calling him just and righteous. Genesis is a book about a God who loves those that are impossible to love and who are undeserving of it. I have so much to learn from a God like that.
Still to come…when God decides its time to drown everyone he created.