God of Promise
“‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (Genesis 3:15).
The book of Genesis is full of exciting moments, revealing glimpses of the world’s first several hundred years. Stories of the fall of mankind, the worldwide flood, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, and Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt are common in Sunday Schools. It’s a fun book to read, packed with intriguing tales. But one thread that masterfully weaves its way through the entire book is that of God’s faithfulness. At its core, the book of Genesis is a relation of God keeping promise after impossible promise.
The first promise made in the Bible is God’s declaration to the serpent in the garden that a descendant of Eve would one day crush his head. Everything after that is a narrative working it’s way toward that ultimately climax. For the central characters in this story, God chose the family of a man named Abraham. When Abraham, then called Abram, was seventy-five years old, God called him to leave his homeland and go to a place He would show him, promising to make him into a great nation and a blessing to all the earth. After many years—twenty-five, to be exact—the promise was officially set in motion with the birth of Abraham’s son, Isaac.
It seemed for a while that the promise might end with Isaac. He married Rebekah when he was forty years old, but it was twenty years before his barren wife finally conceived and gave birth to twins. Those twins, Jacob and Esau, were rivals even in the womb, and their struggles only increased as they grew. Eventually, after stealing both his brother’s birthright and his blessing, Jacob was forced to flee from Esau for his life.
But it just so happened that Jacob ran to his mother’s family, where he married the sisters Rachel and Leah and eventually had twelve sons. God appeared to him multiple times during this phase of his life, promising to bless him and make his offspring like the dust of the earth, spreading all across the world. Eventually, Jacob was able to return home, and his family grew in prosperity.
One would have expected the promise to continue through Jacob’s eldest son. But instead it was Joseph, the elder son of the once-barren Rachel, whom God chose to be taken to Egypt, thrown into prison, and eventually elevated to a position of authority in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Through this impossible set of circumstances, Egypt and the surrounding countries were saved from a terrible family, and Jacob’s family was reunited at last. When they came to Egypt, there were seventy of them. Abraham’s son Isaac had 58 grandchildren.
None of these occurrences should have been possible. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born; his wife, Sarah, was 90. Rebekah was barren for twenty years; Rachel also thought she would never have children. But God had promised He would make Abraham into a great nation, and that was exactly what He was doing. By fulfilling these impossible promises, He was teaching these children of Adam and Eve an important lesson: He is faithful to His word. Immediately after the Fall, He had warned the serpent of one who would come from woman, one who would crush his head. That promised one is Jesus Christ, offspring according to the flesh of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Genesis sets the stage for God’s ultimate promise: to deliver His people from their sins and defeat death once and for all.