The Big Story of the Bible, Part 4 - Chapter 3: Promises

September 23, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

Chapter 3 of the Big Story of the Bible, perhaps, is the most important chapter of the story. Anyone who thinks the Bible is just a collection of rules to follow totally misunderstands Chapter 3. This third of twelve chapters is called Promises. While chapters 1 & 2, Creation and Fall, are found in Genesis 1-3, Promises covers the rest of Genesis. In this Chapter God begins to reveal his redemption plan (made before creation) through the promises he makes to people. All of our hope of rescue from the devastating effects of the Fall rest in God keeping his promises.

The first promise actually comes in the context of the Fall in Genesis 3. In verse 15, God speaks to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” At first glance, this doesn’t sound too much like a hope-filled promise. Enmity? Bruising? What we learn, however, that God is speaking of is his only begotten Son becoming a descendant of Eve in order to crush the work of Satan. What Satan had meant to be the destruction of God’s good creation, God will work out to be the gloriously good redemption of his people through Christ. 

The rest of Genesis really is a story about the descendant of Eve. Who is he? From what family line will he come? Will the foolish actions of people threaten the descendent? On what basis does God choose the family line? Three things stand out in Genesis about how God will fulfill this promise.

First, God is playing the long game. The one to crush the head of the serpent does not immediately show up. It’s not Cain or Abel. It’s not Seth or Noah. It’s not Abraham or any of his kids, grandkids, or great-grandkids. God’s plan of redemption involves the formation of a nation, the giving of the Law, countless failings of his people, all before the Promised One would come at the fullness of time. This is all in the wisdom of God to make known the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7). This is God’s end goal, and he works all things in the Big Story toward that end. 

Second, God adds more and more details to his promise. When God calls Abram in Genesis 12, he reveals that the Promised One would be one of his descendants and that in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3). Again, in Genesis 15, after Abram and Sarai struggled with barrenness, God promises that he will not only have a son, but also that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars (15:5). Then in Genesis 17, God adds circumcision as a sign of his covenant promises. This pattern continues through Genesis, with God restricting the descendant line in each generation (Isaac, not Ishmael; Jacob, not Esau; Judah, not the other eleven brothers). In fact, the promises continue throughout the Old Testament, all pointing ahead to the coming of Christ. 

Third, the fulfillment of the promise rests solely on God and not on the actions of people. The tension of Genesis always is around whether the family line will be lost. It’s almost as if Satan wants to destroy the family line so that the descendant of Eve never comes to crush his head. Cain murders Abel and is sent away in exile; God provides another son in Seth. All of the people of earth fall into sinful, rebellious living; God preserves Noah and his family on an ark in the midst of judgment. Abram and Sarai use human ingenuity to get a son to be the heir of the promise; God miraculously enables Sarah to conceive and bear Isaac as the heir. Isaac’s wife also is barren; God enables Rebekah to conceive and give birth to the twins Esau and Jacob. Jacob is a conniving, deceptive little brother who finds himself in bind after bind; God blesses and protects him immensely. Jacob’s family is threatened to be destroyed by inner jealousy and outer famine; God raises up Joseph out of prison to protect the family. Time and time again the people of promise seem like they will undermine any hope of the promise being fulfilled, but again and again God graciously upholds the promise. 

The lesson is clear. The promise is as good as God is faithful, and God cannot change; he will always be faithful. Those who learn to trust in God’s promise-keeping enjoy the goodness of the redemption accomplished through fulfilled promises. We must read the Bible not as a rule book, but as a promise book. The same promises made to Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, and to Jacob are made to us. Let’s rest and delight in our promise-keeping God.



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