The Bible in 10 Weeks – Week 2 Review

“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

“Look toward heaven … So shall your offspring be.”

Having established that God does have a plan that we can find and trust within his word, week two brought us along to Abram/Abraham. To Abram God made promises that would drive much of the story of the Old Testament. He would make Abram into a people as numerous as the stars and he would give them a land, and all the blessings God would give would also being a blessing to the whole world.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1–3

These and all promises of God ultimately find their fulfillment of Jesus Christ.

Children of the Promise and Vehicles for God’s Blessing

We’ve had several reasons to reflect on history this week. I already mentioned the anniversary of the protests at Tiananmen Square and today is the 70th anniversary of the invasion at Normandy.

We’ve read through a great history of people like Abraham and Joseph, and one emphasis this week was to recognize that the history we read in Genesis is our history. We are children of Abraham because we are children of the promise by faith. So when we read of God’s promises to Israel, we stand under those promises, too.

But remember the promise God makes to Abraham. It is a promise for blessing, but God also notes that through Abraham’s family will all the families of the earth be blessed. If we are children of Abraham, we cannot merely celebrate that blessed status. We need to remember both that we receive a blessing as part of the promise, and we are to also be a blessing for all the world.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

When God makes promises the timing is not always what we’d want. Abraham is promised that he will have descendants whose number will be like the stars in the sky. But then Abraham waits. He waits for a long time. And still he has no children. The promise of God was not for the next day–it was years later. It was to be fulfilled in old age, when he thought it was impossible. In the meantime Abraham took matters into his own hands and deviates from the will of God.

It seems that the trust is not always the hardest part. It is the trust carried out over time. It is the patience. Can we trust God for more than a moment? Can we trust when something promised is on the horizon or out of sight? Faith requires that we place our trust in God and then have the patience to endure.

What can help is knowing that God alone is the one who can really keep his promise. Only he is in complete control of all circumstances. So when he makes us a promise, he is always faithful. He is faithful to Abraham, and now we the descendants of Abraham can trust that he will be faithful to us.

Patience is hard, so we all probably need to pray for patience. (Although I hear that when we pray for patience, God doesn’t just make it appear. What does he do? He gives us practice. So be warned!)


I can’t help but link to this video. When I think of patience I think of the Tom Petty song, The Waiting, from which I took the title of this post. And when I think of that song, I think of this scene from The Simpsons. It’s not the best clip and leaves off the final punchline at the end–but it still gives me a chuckle.

Promises Made to Abram that Will Carry On Throughout the Bible

Last week we saw how Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out of the garden. But this was not the end of hope. Humans were not then left to fend for themselves never to enjoy fellowship with God again. We saw in Ephesians 1 that God has always had a plan and eating the fruit of the tree did not thwart God.

As we continue in Genesis we see the revealing of God’s plan as he chooses Abram (later Abraham) in chapter 12 and makes promises to him. It is not a promise for Abram alone, but the great blessings that God will provide will be blessings for the whole world through Abram’s line.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1–3

Too often the Bible is read simply as a reference book. You pick it up, look up a topic in the concordance in the back of the book (if your version has one), and then go off and read on that subject. Or maybe we’re intimidated by the Old Testament because of its foreign places, unknown people, and strange religious practices and go straight for the New Testament. I’m not saying you need to read the Bible as if it were a novel, start to finish. This 10 week plan doesn’t even do that. But we miss out on the plan of God, a plan based in God’s promise, if we only read piecemeal. There is a continuing story that develops and all the promises of God to Abram will carry on throughout the marvelous book that is the Bible.

An Assault on a Promise to Abraham

For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. (Jeremiah 7:30-31)

Reading through the prophets you come across a long list of the sins of God’s people, a people who are called to be set apart from their neighbors, who are supposed to be a holy nation. To me, this one stands out among the rest. They have not only been guilty of evil, but they have done their evil in the house of God. They have built up Topheth for a horrifying practice, sacrificing their sons and daughters. These “sons of Judah” have sacrificed their own flesh in pagan practices by throwing their children into the flames.

Michelangelo’s depiction of Jeremiah from the Sistine Chapel.

How much sorrow must this cause our God? He has many times seen his people turn away from him, which causes him grief. But here the sin of the parents is to destroy their own children. Judah is taking the lives of God’s people and in so doing, upending the promises of God. They are no longer cherishing the promise of God to Abraham and his descendants. Instead they cast the promised children into this Valley of Slaughter.

God promised Abraham offspring so numerous they’d be impossible to count and Abraham longed for a child. Children were an honor and a blessing. But here in Jeremiah as descendants of Abraham receive this promise, they mock God and his promises. It is evil in God’s sight as they slaughter their own kin–something so far from God’s mind.

This is a clear reason why Jeremiah comes to preach judgment, and good reason that he is known as the weeping prophet (Jer 9).

Introduction to Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book the Pentateuch, so well done at making it this far. As you begin reading it, I thought I’d give you a bit of background.

Deuteronomy tells us in the opening line of its author, Moses. These first books are commonly called the Law of Moses and are attributed to him (eg. Matthew 19:7-8, Acts 3:22-23), but there is debate as to what exactly this includes. Due to some of the literary formatting and content such as an account of Moses’ own death, it is thought there is additional help from editors or authors to take the words of Moses and fit them into a greater narrative.

The book begins where the previous left off, and ends there as well, on the plains of Moab (Dt. 34). It is a time for Israel to prepare itself for what will come in Joshua, the delayed conquest of the land that God had promised them, and for Moses to transfer leadership and give his parting words. We find in Deuteronomy another instance of the Ten Commandments and a renewal of the covenant with God.

Moses empfängt die Gesetzestafeln, c. 840

Think about the overall story we’ve seen so far. God has made a world for us to live in and it was good. But we sinned. We disobeyed and turned from God, bringing sin into creation. Having been cast out of the garden, you’d think the people would be alone. Yet God does not forget humanity. He chooses for himself a people and calls Abraham out to be the father of many nations. As we read, it isn’t because he was a perfect man–nor was Isaac or Jacob, or the other so-called patriarchs. God chose us and he remains perfectly faithful as we are too often faithless.

God promises a land to his people, but there is an interlude in Egypt during which the Israelites are slaves. By God’s strong hand he delivers them from bondage, showing his might to Israel’s enemies. He guides them out of oppression toward a promise of a land to call their own. All along the way the people grumble and complain, looking back favorably on Egypt. Working through his servant, Moses, God disciplines his people, but never leaves us. He gives us laws to guide us and sets up camp right in the midst of the people.

He actively guides them to the doorstep of the promised land, a land the scouts see is full of milk and honey, but also of formidable enemies. So even though God has been with them from the time of Abraham and literally camps with them in the tabernacle, their fear overwhelms them and they reject God’s will. So the promised land remains for God’s people a promise, but for a new generation. They wander one year for every day the scouts were in Canaan. For forty years they continue in the wilderness until, at the end of Numbers, their great numbers camp again at the doorstep.

Moses knows he will not enter with them, only Joshua and Caleb have that privilege from the generation that disobeyed. Deuteronomy is the book that further sets the scene for the final transition that began with Abraham and will come to fruition with Joshua. Israel are a people of the promise. God told Abraham to leave the land he knew and follow, and the people have been following with the hope of a land to call their own. And now in Deuteronomy, they are almost there.

Grace Precedes Law

We finally come to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, a codified law for God’s people. To many, the law characterizes the Old Testament and the old covenant, and given its prominence not only here, but throughout the many books of the Old Testament, it isn’t hard to understand that view. But do not forget the preceding chapters and stories in Exodus and Genesis.

God graciously created this world and placed us in it. God has provided for a people that he chose for himself, not based on their superiority as a people, but because of his grace. God called Abraham out to be the father of many nations, made a covenant with him, and while Abraham struggles in his faith, God remains ever faithful. He protects his people, provides for them, and in Exodus we see how God set them free from the oppression in Egypt.

God did not come to Moses and deliver two tablets of stone and say, “Moses, deliver these to the people. Gather all the elders and proclaim this law to them, and let it be known that whoever keeps it perfectly will be rewarded. In five years, I’ll be back, and if you were good, I’ll have a chat with Pharaoh about letting you go.”

Instead God hears the cries of his people and frees them from Egypt. He sets them free, parts waters, gives manna from Heaven, and also as an act of grace, he then gives them this law. Grace precedes the law. The Israelites were never a people who earned or deserved God’s favor. They did not merit it. God chose them for himself, and in his grace saves them. The law follows as a way to live as God’s people, and a way to live well.

Be careful when simplistically dividing the Old and New Testaments as though one were law and the other grace, as though grace were absent in the beginning. The Bible is a book that reveals to us who our God is, and we see he is and always has been a God of grace.

Look Out for Joseph

We finish Genesis reading about Joseph and we learn that he was more than just a stylish dresser. Pay close attention to him and how he differs from previous characters of the book. Whereas Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel were blessed in many ways, but continued to mix their faithfulness with sin, Joseph’s situation is very different. He is hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold to slavery, and labors in a foreign land, and how does he respond?

Others couple God’s explicit blessings with their own mistakes. Abraham is concerned for his safety so he lies about Sarah, multiple times. Jacob is characterized by his trickery in order to receive further blessings. But, Joseph in the midst of trials and difficulties exhibits strong character.

He brings in a different pattern, so pay attention to him and how he acts, regardless of the circumstances, as we finish Genesis.