Fragments. Odd stories, jumbled together in no particular order. The entirety of my childhood Sunday School experience was pretty random, just like my Monday through Friday school career. Perhaps thatís how most children experience education, as individual episodes and haphazard memories, without a connecting framework. But Iím not a child anymore, and I know the importance of framework and understanding the whole story.
Iíve been working hard during my adult life to put the things Iíve learned in order and fill in the gaps. This became immensely easier and lots of fun when we decided to home school our kids. Even though they probably soaked in lots of my instruction as fragments jumbled together, I finally saw the overarching structure and rejoiced as many, many people, events and concepts started clicking into their proper places.
I mention this because Americans are notoriously illiterate when it comes to the content of the Bible they say they love and revere as truth. Our biblical knowledge is jumbled and fragmented, when it isnít completely inaccurate. Thatís not okay. How can we draw others to true faith if weíre only nominally acquainted with the details of that faith? Time to grow beyond John 3:16 and determine to ďbe diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.Ē That would be Genesis right through to Revelation.
Genesis covers a lot. Once through Creation, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel in the first eleven chapters, we meet father Abraham, and then a bunch more important people. Getting the Old Testament patriarchs in their proper order was a challenge for me until Iíd read through the OT lots of times and made a conscious effort to keep it all straight. Hereís how it goes in a nutshell.
Abraham and Sarah
God promises to make Abraham into a great nation. When Abraham is very old and still childless, he and Sarah take matters into their own hands and Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, is born of Sarahís slavegirl, Hagar. Weíre still feeling the shock waves from that event. God waits until Abraham is 99 before announcing that Sarah will give birth to Isaac, through whom the promise will be kept. By Genesis 24 Isaac is grown, and Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac.
Isaac and Rebekah
The servant finds Rebekah, and thatís a great story to read. Isaac and Rebekah have twins, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, the younger twin, manipulates his way into the birthright and blessing that should have been Esauís, and peace and harmony do not prevail. Jacob makes himself scarce and goes to find a wife.
Jacob and Rachel, etc.
Jacob finds Rachel. And Leah, and Bilhah and Zilpah. By the end of Genesis 35 Jacob has four wives and twelve sons (listed in Genesis 35:23-26), and God has changed his name to Israel. His sons Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher are the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Genesisí last several chapters relate the story of the favorite son, Joseph, being sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers, and their reunion after years apart. Really great story. Though the brothers meant it for evil, God meant it for good, to preserve the tiny Israelite nation through a long famine, and give them a place to flourish and grow for a while. That finishes Genesis and sets the stage for the events of Exodus.
If you want to wow everybody and learn the patriarchs from Abraham clear back to Adam, look in Luke 3:34-38.
When I first started seriously studying Scripture, I had no idea how much happened in the very first book of the Bible. Now I have the people and events in proper order in my head (mostly) and find it quite valuable to have it so. After all, my faith is the bedrock reality of my life, and I should know nothing so well as Godís message to me. All the books are rich with wisdom and love and tragedy and adventure and hope. I keep learning it all, bit by bit. I have a long way to go yet.