Genesis and Missions
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is a book of beginnings. Moses wrote Genesis for the Jews leaving Egypt as a historical narrative. Many have looked to this book for scientific details about how the world was created, but the purpose was to show the story of God’s work in the world and his desire to bless Abraham and his descendants so that they would be a blessing to all peoples.
Moses took all the oral histories circulating among the Jews and wrote them down, as led by the Spirit of God. There are similarities to stories of other nations at the time, but rather than see it as borrowing, most scholars see it as a common worldview for the times, and specifically written to address the concerns and difficulties that the Jews faced leaving a place they once knew as slaves.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
While most creation stories of the different Near East cultures at the time focused on how mankind was created to serve the gods, the creation narrative in Genesis was different. Here, God creates man in his own image and gives him a command: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28) The ultimate purpose inherent in this command would be that God’s image bearers would fill the whole earth with his glory. We see this idea is expanded throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57:5) Unfortunately, the couple in the garden famously disobeyed God and this began the pattern of rebellion throughout human history.
We see the same disobedience to this command later on when humans decide to gather together and make a great city with a tower that reaches toward the heavens. Instead of spreading God’s glory throughout the earth, they tried to “make a name for themselves.” (Genesis 11:4) The result is a God-ordained “quarantine of evil” as their language becomes mutually unintelligible at the tower of Babel. Today we see this curse being reversed as the Bible is translated into thousands of languages around the world.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
God chose Abraham to be the patriarch through whom the Messiah, Jesus, would enter the world, as he made a covenant in which Abraham would be blessed, and also be blessing to the ethnic groups of the world. God says to Abraham in Genesis 11:1-3, “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.” This blessing to the nations was to be Israel’s purpose throughout the Old Testament, yet they so often disobeyed. Jesus is the ultimate blessing that was promised, and now it is the purpose of his bride, the church, to see that this blessing extends to all people groups. The heart of missions is to see God’s glory multiplied throughout the earth.
“The heart of missions is to see God’s glory multiplied throughout the earth.”
Genesis ends with the amazing story of Joseph, rejected by his brothers who sold him into slavery, only to find years later, that he had become the Prince of Egypt. Joseph can be viewed as a foreshadowing of Jesus the Messiah, who was mistreated and ultimately crucified, but was raised to life and exalted. When he comes face-to-face with the brothers who tried to kill him, Joseph utters the well-known words of forgiveness, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Genesis 50:20) These words echo the words of Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
- Dave and Wendy H.