Know Your Bible
The Unfolding Of God's Plan
Reprinted By Permission From Bob Waldron
Even with this curse, God gave the first glimmer of hope of a day when one of the seed of woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Evil had triumphed on this day with Adam and Eve, but someday man would triumph through the One God would send to complete His plan.
God never for one moment forgot His purpose. Many, many years have passed since that day Adam sinned. The people who have lived cannot be counted. The Bible tells us about only a few of the vast multitude who have lived because those are the ones through whom He unfolded His plan.
Adam lived 930 years and had sons and daughters. The Bible tells a story about Cain and Abel, two of these sons. You remember how Cain became angry and killed his brother because Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God, and Cain's was not. Abel's death erased his name from further part in the unfolding of God's plan. God takes time in the last of Genesis 4 to tell briefly what happened to Cain - then his family is left.
Adam had another son, Seth. We are told nothing about him except that it is through his family that the story develops. About as many years pass during the first five chapters of Genesis as in all the rest of the Bible. God tells us practically nothing about this period because it is unimportant for His purpose to do so. The people typically lived 900 or more years. Among the ten generations named is a man named Enoch. He was righteous, and God highly blessed him by asking him to heaven without his dying.
As men spread over the earth, they practiced wickedness on every hand. Their thoughts were only evil continually. God decided to destroy mankind - except for faithful Noah and his family. Noah accepted God's grace and took the escape offered. He, his three sons, their wives, and two of each form of animal life survived in the ark.
Now we are back to one family, that of Noah's. But there are three sons, so no human historian could have known at this point which son to follow. But God guided the writer to follow the line through Shem, touching only briefly the descendants of Ham and Japheth. The writer deals with the nations which came through Ham and Japheth only as they touch Shem's descendants.
Many, many peoples came through Shem, but the divine record narrows the story still more. Years passed, and men no longer lived as long. Soon 200 or fewer years was a long life.
Some nine generations pass from Noah, and we come to a man named Terah living in Ur of the Chaldees. There were three sons in this family also: Nahor, Abram, and Haran. Haran died while they were still in Ur, and the story follows his son Lot for a while because he traveled with Abram, the more important character.
God called Abram (or Abraham as his name became) and told him to leave his family and to go to a land he should be shown. Abraham obeyed and was led to the little land of Canaan. A three-fold promise was made to him: he was told his descendants would be made a great nation, that nation would inherit the land of Canaan, and, through his seed, all families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-7). The rest of the Bible is the story of the fulfilling of these three promises.
Notice that God had unfolded only a small part of His plan for man's redemption by this point in history. We know that One will come from the nation composed of the descendants of Abraham, and that all nations will be blessed by His coming (Gen.
Abraham's wife was barren so she and Abraham tried to help God fulfill His promise by having a son through Hagar, the handmaiden. Ishmael was born. Abraham later had six other sons by Keturah, another handmaiden. They were blessed because
they were sons of Abraham, but these were not the promised seed. Finally, through a miracle, Isaac was born when his father was 100 years old.
When Isaac became head of his family, God repeated the three-fold promise to Isaac: Nation, Land, and Spiritual. Through his seed all nations would be blessed (Gen. 26:2-4).
Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Even before their birth, God said that Jacob would be the greater. Esau's descendants became the nation of the Edomites. But it was to Jacob that the three-fold promise was repeated. He would receive the land; his descendants would form a great nation; and through his seed all families of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 28:13-14).
Space does not allow us to tell the details of Jacob's life. Suffice to say that Jacob had twelve sons. He loved Joseph, next to the youngest, best, and showed his partiality. The other brothers were jealous and sold Joseph as a slave into Egypt. There he served as slave to Potiphar. He was lied about and was cast into prison. Time passed, and he interpreted Pharaoh's dreams and became ruler of all Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. As he himself said, he was in Egypt to help save life during a severe, seven-year famine (Gen. 45:4-8). You remember how the brothers came, were tested, and finally learned Joseph's identity. Joseph had all his family brought to Egypt. There were 75 people in the family at this point - still far short of a nation.
As Jacob lay on his death bed, he called his sons and gave each a blessing. These sons would form the tribes which would make up the nation of Israel (Jacob was given the name Israel the night he wrestled with an angel). It was to Judah, his fourth son, that he gave a special prophecy. The scepter (the sign of rulership) would not depart from Judah's family until Shiloh - this special One - should come (Gen. 49:10).
Now God has unfolded this much of His plan: One will come to triumph over Satan. He will bless all families of the earth. He will come through the seed of Abraham, through Isaac, through Jacob, and through Judah. He will reign. We know more than we did when Adam sinned, but we still understand very little about God's full purpose (see Gen. 3:15; 12:1-3; 26:2-4; 28:13,14; 49:10).
Genesis closes with Joseph's confident assurance to his brethren that the day would come when God would lead
the people back to Canaan. Many years passes before the curtain rises again. Has God forgotten?
The scene looks dark as Exodus begins. By now there are perhaps three million people called Israelites, or Hebrews (later called Jews). A Pharaoh has arisen who does not know Joseph. He feared this vast group of people in his land, so he afflicted them by making them his slaves. They multiplied faster. He tried to destroy potential soldiers by ordering the death of all baby boys.
At this very time a baby boy was born. His mother hid him three months and then placed him in the bulrushes at the edge of the Nile. He was found by Pharaoh's daughter, who named him Moses. For forty years he was trained as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. His own mother was hired to care for him, so he grew from babyhood knowing the plight of his people.
At age forty, Moses decided to rescue his people, but God was not ready. Moses killed an Egyptian and had to flee for his life. The next forty years he worked as a shepherd in Midian. Then one day God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and gave him his commission to go back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites.
Again, space forbids any details. As you remember, Pharaoh refused to let the people go. God showed His might over the most powerful nation of the day by sending ten terrible plagues until the Egyptians were actually begging the Israelites to leave.
Instead of leading the people directly to the land of Canaan, God directed them south-eastward to Mt. Sinai. There He made a covenant with them. He promised to be their God and to allow them to be His people if they would obey Him and keep His commandments. The people wanted God's blessings and were quick to agree to the covenant. God gave them a law that specified exactly how they were to live as His chosen people.
Until this time, God had spoken directly to the fathers of faithful families. That system (called the Patriarchal system) continued with all people except this special group assembled at Mt. Sinai. God was preparing a special people to be ready for the completion of His plan.
God showed His power and protection to His nation in every conceivable way. He fed them when they were hungry; He gave them water from stones. He fought their enemies and shielded them as a father shields his son (Hos. 11:1).
(Editor's Note: This series will be continued in next month's bulletin.)
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