Sermon: An Introduction To Genesis: Various Texts

Sermon Text: Genesis 1:1, 2:3, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 37:2

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV)

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (Genesis 2:4, ESV)

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” (Genesis 5:1, ESV)

“These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9, ESV)

“These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood.” (Genesis 10:1, ESV)

“These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood.” (Genesis 11:10, ESV)

“Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot.” (Genesis 11:27, ESV)

“These are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham.” (Genesis 25:12, ESV)

“These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac,” (Genesis 25:19, ESV)

“These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom).” (Genesis 36:1, ESV)

“These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.” (Genesis 37:2, ESV)


Friends, there are only two things that I would like to accomplish this morning. First of all, I would like to make some introductory remarks about the Old Testament in general. And secondly, I would like to make some introductory remarks concerning the book of Genesis in particular.

Introduction to the Old Testament

First some introductory remarks about the Old Testament in general.

This sermon series through Genesis will be the first sermon series through an Old Testament book that I have I preached here at Emmaus. We’ve dabbled in the Old Testament, looking at a Psalm or some other well known text from time to time. Also, the Old Testament has been consistently read in our worship services prior to the preaching of the word.  And it has often been quoted in sermons to give support of or to help shine light upon the New Testament text under consideration. And so the Old Testament is not altogether unfamiliar to us. But the fact remains, never have I preached verse by verse through an Old Testament book before.

I am not saying that I regret this. I think it was necessary for us to  spend the bulk of our time in the New Testament in the early years of this church. This was especially important given that most of us came out of a dispensational background.

You heard me disagree rather strongly with dispensationalism throughout the Revelation sermon series. I respectfully disagree with the pre-millennial system, as you know. But I am wholeheartedly opposed to dispensationalism. I view that system of doctrine as being, not simply wrong on some minor points, but flawed to the core. It is fundamentally flawed. It is a distortion of the Holy Scriptures. Dispensationalism wrongly divides the word of truth when it makes such a sharp distinction between between the Old Testament and the New. I am speaking very generally here, but I speak truthfully when I say that dispensationalism (in its classical form) obliterates the continuity that exists between the Old Testament and the New when it claims that the Old Testament is lawand the New Testament is grace. I actually heard a dispensational preacher say that there was no grace under the Old Covenant, only law. Friends, this is not the New Testaments opinion of the Old. And it is not the teaching go the Old Testament itself. In fact both law and gospel are preset throughout the whole of the Old Testament and New. And so here is why we spent so much time in the New Testament . And here is why, in part, we studied covenant theology, eschatology, and the book of Revelation. How important it was for us to cast off altogether that dispensational system which, when believed, makes it nearly impossible to understand the Old Testament aright.

Over time we have come to see that it is the covenants which God has made with man that provide us with the major divisions of the history of redemption. We have also come to see that these covenants are not unrelated, but are organically connected to each other, one building off of and advancing another. Brothers and sisters, I so look forward to showing you these things in the Old Testament text as we encounter them. It will provide us with an opportunity to consider them very carefully.

For now it is enough to say, no, we are not leaving behind grace, nor are we leaving behind the gospel of Jesus the Christ when we close the New Testament and open the Old.As we will see, the grace of God was present and active in the world from the moment that Adam and Eve fell from their state of innocence and into sin. The gospel was preached to them. The Christ was present in the world then, not in bodily form, but in the form of promise and contained  within the seed of the woman from which he would emerge when the fulness of time had come.

And friends please understand thatwhenthe day come for us to close the Old Testament to open the New we will not leave behind the law of God. Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. His church is not lawless. True as it may be that we are not under the law as Israel was, and that we cannot be justified by the law, as no man after the fall ever could (with the exception of one), we are not lawless. God’s moral law is for the Christian. It drives us to Christ as the Spirit of God uses it to convict us of our sin. It also shows us how we are to walk as we sojourn in this world.

Brothers and sisters, as we give attention to the Old Testament we will find both law and gospel here. We will encounter Christ Jesus our Lord here in the pages of the Old Testament. He will be preached, therefore,  just as he is when we have the New Testament text open before us. We will do what the Apostles did in the earliest days of the church before the New Testament was even written. They, friends, picked up the Old Testament and they preached Christ from it! When Paul summarized his ministry to the Colossians saying, “[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28, ESV), we should remember that his Bible consisted of the Old Testament scriptures only!

Brothers and sisters, the radical dispensational division of the Old Testament from the New is to be disregarded. Instead we are to see that there is covenantal continuity that exists between the Old Testament and the New. The grace of God and the good news of the Christ are contained within the Old Testament in the form of promise. The same grace of God and the good news of Jesus the Christ are contained within the New Testament in the form of fulfillment. Indeed, the old saying holds true, that the “new [Testament] is in the old concealed; the old [Testament] is in the new revealed.” There is continuity, my friends.

Indeed, the focus of all of scripture, Old Testament and New is to give all glory to the God who “in the beginning created the heavens and the earth”, all the is seen and unseen.

The story that is told in the Bible from beginning to end is the story of creation, fall, and redemption. No, God did not begin his work of redemption in the moment that Jesus was born as recorded for us in the four gospels of the New Testament, but in Genesis 3.  God created all things seen and unseen, man fell from his upright state having broken the covenant of works, and God did immediately begin his work of redemption when he clothed the man and the women who were then naked and ashamed, and promised to send one who would defeat the serpent through whom the temptation to sin did come. Creation, fall and redemption – this is the story of the Bible, Old Testament and New.

The climax of this story was the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Christ. It was there that the victory was won. It was there that the head of the serpent was crushed.

The central figure or hero of this story of redemption is Christ. He did not arrived on the scene until the time was right, but he was known even to Adam and Eve. And he was known by some of their descendants. By faith they believed in the promises of God concerning the arrival of a Savior. They looked forward to him. They anticipated his arrival. The understood that God would one day accomplish redemption through the seed of the woman.

The Christ was revealed to the elect of God in those days through promises, types and shadows.

It is not difficult to understand what “promises” are. They are those direct and strait forward words from God in which he did vow to send the Savior, to accomplish redemption, to inaugurate a New Covenant, and to make all things new. The first promise of God concerning the Savior is found in Genesis 3:15, as you know. The Old Testament is filled with promises and prophesies concerning the Christ who was to come.

“Types and shadows” are bit more difficult to understand. They are historical events, people, paces, institutions and things which do, to one degree or another, reveal something about the Christ and the redemption that would be accomplished through him.   

After Adam and Eve sinned God covered their shameful nakedness with animal skins. This was an historical event; it is not allegory. But in the event of God himself clothing the couple by shedding the blood of another we learn something about the way that God would accomplish our redemption.

Think also of the story of the sacrifice of Isaac on the mountain. Abraham went up on the mountain with his son of promise by faith fully intending to return with the boy. But he took his knife, and wood for the fire and he lifted up his hand when the angel of the Lord retained him. And there was a ram caught in the the thicket. The Lord provided a substitute to be sacrificed. Again, this story is presented as real history, and not as allegory, but there is symbolism embedded in the event. The event was both real to Abraham and to Issac, and it did also point forward to the great act of redemption that would be accomplished by the Christ who would die as the lamb of God who takes away the sins  of the world.

In Romans 5:14 Paul explicitly identifies Adam as a “type” of Christ, and he does in that place show how Adam and Christ do correspond to one another. Both were federal heads. They represented others in their obedience or disobedience. The one brought death to all who are under him, the other brought life to all who are in him, etc.

The Old Testament is made up of 39 books written by many different authors and over a very long period of time. The earliest books were probably written in the 15th century B.C. (some 1,400 years prior to the birth of Christ). And the last books to be written were written some 400 years prior to the birth of Christ.

Although there are a couple of sections in Daniel and in Ezra, along with one verse in Jeremiah, that were written in Aramaic, The Old Testament was written primarily in the Hebrew language. The whole of the Old Testament was translated into Greek by the end of the second century B.C. This Greek translation of the Old Testament is called the Septuagint, and it was widely used by the early church in the days of the apostles.

The Old Testament is put together like this:

  1. The Pentateuch: The first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses at around 1,400 B.C . These books are often referred to as the “Pentateuch”, meaning “five books”.
    1. Genesis:The book of beginnings: creation, man, sin, redemption, God’s Old Covenant people.
    2. Exodus: God’s deliverance of his people out of bondage from Egypt.
    3. Leviticus: Laws concerning atonement, worship, and holy living for the Old Covenant people of God.
    4. Numbers: God’s people wander in the wilderness for 40 years because of disobedience and faithlessness.
    5. Deuteronomy: Second law. Moses reiterates the law and prepares the Old Covenant people for life in the land promised to them.
  2. Historical Books: There are 12 historical books which were written from 1,400 B.C. to 450 B.C. These books describe God’s dealings with Old Covenant Israel from the death of Moses and the conquest of Canaan onward.
    1. Joshua
    2. Judges
    3. Ruth
    4. 1 Samuel
    5. 2 Samuel
    6. 1 Kings
    7. 2 Kings
    8. 1 Chronicles
    9. 2 Chronicles
    10. Ezra
    11. Nehemiah
    12. Esther
  3. Poetry: There are 5 books of poetry which reflect upon God’s greatness and his dealings with men.
    1. Job: The question of suffering as it relates to the sovereignty of God.
    2. Psalms: Songs that give praise to God and instruct.
    3. Proverbs: Practical wisdom for daily living.
    4. Ecclesiastes: Highlights the emptiness of a life lived  apart from God.
    5. Song of Solomon: A celebration of marital joy.
  4. Major Prophets: There are 5 major prophets. A prophet was one who was called by God to speak his words to man. These books are called major because they are longer than the minor prophets. These prophets ministered from about 740 – 550 B.C.
    1. Isaiah
    2. Jeremiah
    3. Lamentations
    4. Ezekiel
    5. Daniel
  5. Minor Prophets: There are 12 minor prophets. These prophets ministered from approximately 840 – 400 B.C.
    1. Hosea
    2. Joel
    3. Amos
    4. Obadiah
    5. Jonah
    6. Micah
    7. Nahum
    8. Habakkuk
    9. Zephaniah
    10. Haggai
    11. Zechariah
    12. Malachi

I think it is interesting and significant that the New Testament is structured in a similar way. First the gospels, which tell of the redemption accomplished by Christ, which is a new creation. Then Acts, which tells of the history of the church. After that we have the letters of Paul and then then the general epistles, which give instruction to the New Convent people of God based upon the redemption accomplished by Christ (these correspond to the prophets of old). And is only fitting the New Testament concludes with the book of Revelation, which looks to the consummation.

Friends, I’m happy to be in the Old Testament and to have the opportunity to preach Christ from it.

Introduction to the Book of  Genesis

Let me now say a few introductory remarks about the book of Genesis.

The title, Genesis, means “beginnings” or “origins”. It comes from the first word of the book which, in English, says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, ESV).

It would be a mistake to assume that this “book of beginnings” is only concerned to reveal to us the beginning of creation. It is well and good that when we hear the words, “in the beginning” or minds go to the first verse of Genesis one where we are told of the creation of the heavens and the earth. But do you see how quickly the attention turns to other “beginnings”.

In 2:4 the focus shifts to the beginning of humanity and God’s purpose for the man and woman who were together made in the image of God.

In 3:1 we are told of the beginning of sin.

In 3:15 we are told of the beginning of redemption.

In 4:1 the beginning of the development of human culture outside of Eden is described.

In chapter 7 we are told of the flood, which was a new beginning.

In chapter 12 we are told of the call of Abram, which marks the beginning of God’s Old Covenant people. It is there and in the chapters that follow that the beginning of the Old Covenant is revealed to us. And so the story develops.

The scripture reading at the start of the sermon might have seemed odd to you. But I chose to read those texts to demonstrate to you that the book of Genesis is truly a book concerned with beginnings or origins.

1:1-2:3 functions as a prologue. It tells us of the beginning of the heavens and earth.

From there the book is divided into ten parts. Each section begins with the heading: “These are the generations of…” And so the source, or beginning , is named, followed by those who descend from that source.

In 2:4 we read, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth…“ And what follows except a close up description of the creation of Adam and Eve. Where did Adam and Eve come from, my friends? What was their origin? The man was formed by the God of heaven from the dust of the earth. These are the generations (descendants) of the “heavens and the earth.” The God of the heavenly realm used the dust of the earthly realm to generate the first man, and from the man the woman was formed.

The same pattern then repeats nine more times in the book of Genesis.  “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1, ESV), and then his descendants are named. “These are the generations of Noah” (Genesis 6:9, ESV), and then his descendants are named. “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 10:1, ESV), and then their descendants are named. “These are the generations of Shem” (Genesis 11:10, ESV). “Now these are the generations of Terah” (Genesis 11:27, ESV). “These are the generations of Ishmael…” (Genesis 25:12, ESV). “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son…” (Genesis 25:19, ESV). “These are the generations of Esau” (Genesis 36:1, ESV). “These are the generations of Jacob” (Genesis 37:2, ESV). In each instance this phrase functions as a heading after which the descendants of the person are names. Clearly, the book of Genesis is all about “beginnings” or “origins”.

What we will find is that these genealogies are designed to, in part, show the development of gospel promise that was delivered in Genesis 3:15, where God spoke to the serpent saying,   “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” (Genesis 3:15, ESV). These genealogies show there are two lines of decent in the world. There are those who belong to the evil one and there are those who belong to God. They are children of promise. The genealogies of Genesis show the beginning stages of God’s calling of a people for himself out of this world.   

Who wrote the book of Genesis? The answer is that Moses wrote the book of Genesis. Moses himself will not enter into the Biblical narrative until Exodus 2 when he is called by God to deliver his people from out of Egypt, but he is the one who wrote Genesis along with Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus.

When did Moses write Genesis? Friends, I’ll ask that you pay careful attention here. Far from being mere Bible trivia, the details are crucial to our handling of the book of Genesis. The answer is that Moses wrote the book of Genesis in the 15th century B.C. – that is,  some 1,400 years prior to the birth of Christ, and approximately 3,400 years in past from our vantage point.

This means that Moses was writing history when he wrote Genesis. When he wrote of creation, the fall and the beginning of God’s redemptive work he was writing of things that happened a long time in the past from his perspective – thousands upon thousands of years in the past.

When wrote of the call of Abram (Abraham) and the covenant that God made with him, for example, he was writing of something that happened some 500 years before he was born.

A  question that we should ask is, how did Moses know about these things? Of course we believe that God inspired Moses to write what he wrote. For “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV). Our believe is that Spirit of God did move him to write what he wrote, for “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20–21, ESV). But we should also take into account the presence of oral tradition.

The facts of creation were revealed by God to Adam and Eve. They were not there to witness it, but they knew that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days and did rest on the seventh, for they were to mimic God in this pattern of sabbath keeping. The account of creation, for example, along with the account of the fall and of God’s curse upon the serpent, the man and the women, along with the first articulation of the gospel was undoubtably preserved by the righteous line that did come from Adam and Eve.

It is interesting to note that ancient pagan cultures – the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, etc. – have their own myths which explain the creation of the world, the presence of sin and suffering and the ongoing struggle between good and evil. What is intriguing is that these myths share some striking similarities with the Biblical story as found in Genesis 1 through 3. How are we to account for this? Without a doubt these pagan creation myths existed prior to Moses’ writing of the Pentateuch. Did Moses steal from them? Did he take their stories and then alter them to make Genesis 1 through 3?

It is a question that we must answer and we will return to it in future sermons. For now I will say that the best explanation is that in the beginning God really did create the heavens and the earth as the scriptures say he did. Adam and Eve really lived in covenant with their creator. They were truly tempted as the scriptures say they were. They really fell and were given over to death. The reason that many cultures have accounts of creation that are similar (though they do differ significantly) is because they have actual historical events as their starting point. But here is what pagans do: they take what is true and they alter it to suit their desires. They are idolaters by nature. They have a habit of making gods for themselves  in their own image.  They do not submit to God’s revealed word, but rebel against it, twisting and distorting it at every turn. This explains the similarities that exists between Genesis 1 through 3 and the ancient near eastern cosmogonies, and also the radical differences.

But what do we fins in Moses? We find true history as preserved by God’s elect. We find the true word of God as it came from Moses’ hand as he was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The miraculous deeds that he preformed and the act of deliverance that was accomplished through him did prove that indeed he was a prophet of God, just as the miraculous deeds preformed by Jesus and the great act of deliverance accomplished by him proved that he was the eternal word of God come in the flesh.

So Moses lived in the 15th century B.C. And when he wrote Genesis he was writing, in some places, ancient history.

To whom was Moses writing? The answer is that he was writing to the Israelite people who had not long ago been rescued from slavery in Egypt. They were wandering in the wilderness, and were sojourning towards Canaan, the land that God had promised to them.

Friends, this is a very important observation. Do you remember how important it was for us to keep in mind that the book of Revelation was written, not first of all to us, but to seven churches in Asia Minor in the fist century A.D.? That fact had a very significant impact upon our interpretation of that book. And the same will be true for the book of Genesis.

Moses did note write what he wrote to respond to the claims of of Charles Darwin.

Moses did note write what he wrote to answer the question, “how old is the earth?”

Moses did note write what he wrote to satisfy our model scientific curiosity.

I am not saying that the book of Genesis has nothing at all to say about those questions, but that he was addressing questions that are different than the questions that we often bring to the text of Genesis, particularly chapters 1 and 2.

The Israelites, remember, had been in bondage in Egypt for hundreds of years. They were now wandering amongst pagan people. And they would eventually enter into the land of promise to take possession of it from a people steeped in idolatry. Earlier I said that some oral tradition must have been preserved concerning the creation of the heavens and earth, God’s covenant with Adam, the fall, and God’s redemptive activities amongst the patriarch, but I didn’t mean to suggest that that oral tradition was kept pure amongst all Isrealites. Far from it! The evidence point in the other direction. Even the Israelites had been corrupted by the paganism of the Egyptians, for what was their impulse when Moses left them to go up on the mountain? They hurried to erect for themselves a golden calf to worship. Even Aaron went along with it!

Why then did Moses write what he wrote? It was to say to the Israelites freshly redeemed, and also to us, “behold, your God”.

The book of Genesis contains true history. What it says about creation, life in the garden, etc. is true. But it is not bear history. Do you remember me using that phrase in our study of the Gospel of John? The Gospels are also true history. What they say about the life of Christ is true. But they are not bear history. What the Gospel writers say, they say for a reason. They are selective in what they say because they are trying to make some theological point. The same is true with the book of Genesis. What it says is true. It written as true history. The rest of the scripture look back upon it as if it were true history. But it is not exhaustive or bear history. It is history with an agenda.

If you were asked “what did you do yesterday?” you might answer that equation truthfully in many different ways. If you just got done saying to a friend, “boy, I’m really tired”, and he asks “what did you do yesterday?”, then you would probably answer giving special attention only to those aspects of the day which contributed to your being tired. By if you are being interrogated by a Detective and she says, “what did you do yesterday?”, you’ll probably provide a more thorough answer to the same question. Both answers would be equally true, though they might be different.

We get into trouble with the book of Genesis when come to it asking questions of it that it was not written to answer. The book is designed to provide us with a proper view of the world. It is answering questions such as, who is God? Who are we? What was the purpose for which we were created? Why sin, suffering and death? Is there hope for us and where is it found? What has God been doing in the world? What is he doing in the world even now?


Brothers and sisters, we are going to move very slowly through the book of Genesis. I anticipate that we will be in the first section, 1:1 through 2:3, for at least three months. We might spend a little less time in  2:4 through to the end of that chapter, and a little less in chapter 3. We will pick up the pace a bit in chapters 4 through 11. And a bit more in 12 – 18. My plan is to move rather quickly from chapter 19 onward. I won’t even try to guess how long we will be in this book, but I trust that the Lord will use it to point us to Christ, to strengthen our faith, and bring glory to his most holy name.

My prayer is that we would see the end for which God did make us, that we would be struck by the awfulness of our sin, and that we would be overwhelmed by the love and grace of God shown to us in Christ Jesus. Lord help us, we pray.

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that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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