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

The Long Road Of Repentance

Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he.

That’s the little ditty that you’ve heard if you have a background in church, particularly VBS or Sunday School. I grew up singing that song or at least hearing it often. This weekend, I was led to give it a lot more thought than I typically do.

You see, growing up, my knowledge of Zacchaeus was that he was a man who abruptly changed his life in response to the welcoming and receptive love of Jesus. If anything he was the epitome of rapid repentance, of going from being a tax collector who stole to a man who wanted to restore funds to all the people who he stole from. You can read all about his story in Luke 19.

But if I’m being honest, I don’t see that type of repentance happening very often in the ministries I’m a part of. I don’t see 180 degree turns from vice to virtue. Now, obviously, when it comes to salvation itself, we know that that truly is an instantaneous change from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light.

I’m thinking more along the lines of habits being changed from sinful to sanctified. Gossips and slanderers becoming kind and encouraging. Cheaters and liars becoming men and women of integrity. The sexually immoral changing their ways.

I don’t see those in a moment changes.

I don’t see those changes in me. Oh how I wish I could be sanctified in certain areas of my life with the snap of my fingers. It would certainly be a lot easier that way.

But life with Christ is generally not like that.

It’s a journey.

A process.

So let me propose (my words, but the ideas of Marlena Graves in her book The Way Up Is Down) another angle to the Zacchaeus story. This angle is just an interpretation. It is by no means the right one. Just something to consider.

What if the process of repentance with Zacchaeus was a lot longer than we think?

You see, in the Gospel of Luke’s account of the teachings of John the Baptist, we see him address tax collectors in this way:

Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." - Luke 3:12-13

These were Kingdom ethics. And the reality is, where John the Baptist was preaching was likely only six miles from Jericho. Zacchaeus may have been in the crowd that listened to John the Baptist preach. If he wasn’t there personally, his tax collector buddies may have shared that teaching.

Take no more than you are supposed to.

Maybe that was something he mulled over when he went to bed at night. What kind of teaching is that?

John also spoke of one to come, one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, one who would come as the Christ.

As time passed, the city of Jericho was abuzz with knowledge of Jesus, son of Joseph.

Zacchaeus may have remembered what he saw with his own eyes or heard with his own ears. He may have come with that in mind, trying to push through the crowd to see this one that was to come.

Upon his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaimed that he would pay back fourfold what he had taken.

Repentance.

Life change.

A new way of living in the world.

Maybe it wasn’t instantaneous (although God has the power to bring that about). Maybe it was a long journey of submissive listening and learning, leading to Jesus.

I see that to be the case more often in my life.

I didn’t wake up one day and say “I don’t want an impatient and frustrated disposition” and then boom it came about. God has in the past year refined me, pained me, challenged me, convicted me. And I can now look back to where I was a year ago and see the change. Do I still get impatient and frustrated? You betcha. But I’ve seen change in my life. Painful, slow, hard change.

Brother or sister in Christ, if you’re praying for change in your life or in the life of someone you love, it’s a journey. You may not be seeing it. But it’s happening. Slowly. Oh so slowly.

You don’t know how many seeds will be planted via conversations, Scriptures, moments, and experiences before the life-altering encounter with Jesus takes place. I am prone to think that Zacchaeus had been worked on for a long time. Your loved one, or yourself for that matter, have been worked on for a long time too.

Repentance is slow.

But when we can look back and see the journey we’ve taken, it’s oh so beautiful.

In His Name,

Nate Roach