Six gospel themes in first half of Genesis
At the beginning of the year, our church encouraged everyone to be reading the Bible together throughout the entire year. So far, I’ve managed to actually keep up with it (and am now in Deuteronomy). I’ve consistently enjoyed reading the Old Testament, because it is so rich with these threads of the gospel—hints at what God was planning from before the world began. They’re the sort of moments that are easy to overlook, because they’re presented in an understated way; they’re not the main point of the passage, but they’re present.
Just in the first book of the Bible alone, there are many gospel themes that begin to take shape, many of which are found in the earliest chapters. Here are just a few that are fairly clear:
- God promises death to the serpent (Genesis 3). The first hint at the gospel comes on the heels of humanity’s rebellion against God. Sin will die, death will be defeated, and the serpent will be crushed the Son of the woman.
- God covers Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). This is a somewhat debated point, so it’s wise not to make more of it than is necessary, but prior to casting the first humans out of the garden, God clothes them in animal skins that he makes. So there are a couple of key things we see here: God covers shame, and another dies in their place.
- God’s favor toward Noah (Genesis 6-9). The language of Genesis s pretty clear that “every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). And God determined that he would destroy all humanity. Yet, Noah found favor with the Lord (6:8). God’s favor (or grace) to Noah gives us a picture of a greater rescue to come—that just as God preserved humanity in judgment through one man, he would preserve a people for himself in Christ.
- The promised offspring (Genesis 12). Paul explicitly addresses this in Galatians: the promised offspring, the seed, is a singular person—Jesus.
- Abraham is justified by faith (Genesis 15). Paul also explicitly calls this out in Romans: Abraham’s righteousness comes not from his actions, but from his belief in his God.
- Isaac is spared (Genesis 22). Abraham was faithful to bring Isaac to the mountain, to place him on the altar, and to raise the knife. Isaac was faithful to carry the wood, to allow himself to be tied up and placed on the altar, and watched as his father prepared to kill him. They both knew God’s promise. They knew Isaac was a child of promise—born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age. They trusted the Lord to fulfill his purposes. And he did, because in the thicket, after Abraham’s hand was stayed, there was a ram. These events hinted at actions still to come, when a Father would send his son into this world, who would carry the wood on his back to the place of his sacrifice, be placed on a different altar, and no one would stay the hand of the One offering the sacrifice. A Son who was the Lamb.
There are more than these, of course. The gospel lurks in the shadows of the stories of Cain and Abel, of Jacob and Esau, of Joseph and his brothers. And when you see them, you can’t miss them. The gospel isn’t reserved for the Gospels themselves; it is the whole story of the Bible, and it is waiting for us in every book from beginning to end.
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