Put Away The Felt Boards

Murder. Sex. Betrayals. Deception. Intrigue. Death. Destruction. Wrath. Incest. Sexual Brokenness.

Welcome to the book of Genesis.

When I have read Genesis up close and personal, I’ve seen how dark and dreary much of the story of God’s people really is, from page one.

We tend to stay above the mess when we discuss this book. We talk about (and bicker about) the creation narrative, we discuss the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, and Joseph.

There is a place for that. Absolutely. I don’t believe young children need to be immersed in the chaos.

That being said, there is a place for slowing down and sitting in the darkness of these narratives.

Have you ever read through the book of Genesis slowly? Have you ever studied it with the help of a commentary or Bible study guide? Or is your familiarity with Genesis limited to the Sunday school stories you heard growing up?

I want to encourage you and invite you to look closely at this beginning book of the Bible.

The first thing you need to grasp when you read the book of Genesis is that this is not a history textbook. If you read the book of Genesis like a history textbook, you will be confused and asking a thousand questions about the text. The book of Genesis leads to a whole litany of questions that it doesn’t answer.

The book of Genesis is not primarily telling history in regards to facts and figures, dates and locations.

Rather the book of Genesis is inviting you to encounter God.

Genesis is inviting you the modern Christian to find yourself in the story of God’s people and to encounter the God who made everything, who gave grace in the midst of disgusting sin, who called and chose a family to be His own.

Genesis is inviting you the modern Christian to find yourself in the story of God’s people and to encounter the God who made everything, who gave grace in the midst of disgusting sin, who called and chose a family to be His own.

The book of Genesis is not to be read like a modern novel either. Genesis is full of drastically different genres. There are genealogical lists, prayers and petitions, poems, and copious amounts of stories focused on particular people in specific circumstances (see Basic Bible Commentary: Genesis).

We also have to remember that the contents of Genesis were likely passed down from generation to generation orally before they ever came to be written down.

That being said, we see in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) itself acknowledgments that Moses wrote down certain laws, as well as the existence of historical accounts (again, Genesis is not one):

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.” – Exodus 17:14

That is why the Book of the Wars of the Lord says: “. . . Zahab in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon – Numbers 21:14

I would love to read the Book of the Wars of the Lord. That would be such an interesting history book.

We don’t have that though.

What we do have is a theology book, a family history, a story of God and His people.

The book of Genesis is all about God’s relationship with His people. See more on this below:

My blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page and podcast will all have material out of the book of Genesis in the coming months (with more personal lessons and thoughts interspersed).

I encourage you again to put away the felt board Sunday school stories and instead dive deep into the dark narrative that is the book of Genesis, the story of God and His people.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Running For The Shadows

A few nights ago I went to my room and got ready to go to bed. Right as I turned on the light, I looked in the corner and saw a cockroach the size of South Carolina (rough estimate) scurrying for the nearest shadow. As soon as light flooded into the room, this tiny vermin sprinted for the darkness. It wanted nothing to do with the light that I had just brought cascading into the room. cockroach

In the Gospel of John, one of the recurring themes is that of light and darkness. In the opening to the book, we see a description of Jesus that brings this theme to the forefront.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:4-5

Jesus is referred to here in this short passage as the light of men. Light does a myriad of things. It reveals, it warms, it guides, and it conveys/stimulates life.

Light reveals. When I turn on the light in my room, it reveals where my furniture is located, where I’ve left my dirty clothes on the floor, where I need to sweep or dust, and where to find the creepy crawlies that have wandered in from the desert.

In a more profound and unbelievable way, Jesus as the light comes onto the scene of my life, illuminating and revealing the dark and inner recesses of my heart and soul, revealing the sin that I cling to and the idolatry that is present in the depths of my being.

I, like the cockroach (ironic due to my last name), scurry for the shadows and the safety from the light that they promise. Having my heart revealed for what it is is not pleasant or fun.

If I’m being honest, there have been periods of my life where I avoid spiritual disciplines such as meditation or private prayer because I don’t want to have my sins or my darkness confronted with the light of the gospel of Jesus. It’s safer in the shadows, or at least that’s what I convince myself of.

In Richard Phillip’s commentary on John, he speaks about it like this:

This is why people are unnerved to face the light of Jesus as it shines in Scripture, and why they flee his light for the more comfortable darkness. His light shows our darkness for what it is. Will you turn away from that light, scurrying into spiritual shadows? Or will you worship the glory it reveals, humbly confess the darkness it exposes in you, and come into the light of Christ to receive life and salvation? – Richard Phillips 

People are unnerved to face the light of Christ. I am at times unnerved to face the light of Christ. Phillips is right. The darkness is more comfortable. At least at first. But as time goes by when we are still languishing in our sin, we realize that we aren’t truly living. We aren’t living in the fullness of life that Christ has to offer. We aren’t experiencing in our day to day lives the wonders of our salvation.

Coming to the light of Jesus through prayer, Bible reading, or meditation leads us to worship. Yes, oftentimes it hurts to be made aware of our darkness, but ultimately it leads us to glory in the light that is Jesus Christ. It takes humility to confess our darkness, but it is through this humble confession that we can receive life and fully walk in our salvation.

This immediately brings to my mind a well-known passage from the book of Psalms, in which David prays for God to do such an illuminating work in his heart.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:23-24

Not only is this idea of asking for illumination Scriptural, it is also historical.

Just this very morning I was reading a devotion that included a prayer from a 9th century book of prayers and liturgies called ‘The Gelasian Sacramentary’. This prayer was as follows:

Incline, O Lord, thy merciful ears, and illuminate the darkness of our hearts by the light of thy visitation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The author of this book of ancient Christian prayers asks the Lord to illuminate the darkness of our hearts by the light of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Even though some of the language is old-school, I immediately wrote this prayer on the whiteboard in my room. Oh what a wonderful prayer that it is.

In mercy, God will illuminate the parts of our lives and hearts that need to be confronted with the gospel. He will do this through Jesus. Oh how wonderful and beautiful. Oh how painful but oh how necessary.

When confronted with the light of Jesus, will you run to the shadows like the cockroach? Or will you humbly run towards the light and receive fullness of life and experience your salvation?

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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