08 July

Pursuing God’s Love in the Book of Genesis

by Margaret Feinberg

When it comes to rock climbing, I’m still a beginner. But I love watching skilled rock climbers scale rocks. They remind me of the importance of courage and commitment, no matter what challenges we’re facing in life.

A while back, I remember that I was feeling like I had hit a rock wall with God. I was still carving out time to spend with God each day, reading the scripture, praying, asking God to lead, direct, speak into my life. And all I heard was silence. When I face times like those in my life, the only thing I know to do is not give up. Stay courageous. Stay committed. Keep pursuing God and his love, even when I feel like I’m struggling to find the next handhold of faith.

Well, the weeks rolled into months. And I remember thinking, maybe it’s time to go back to the beginning. I opened my Bible to Genesis 1 and began reading. And for the first time in a long time, I felt that spark of connection with God. I kept reading morning after morning. When I finally finished those 50 chapters of Genesis, I returned to the beginning and read it again. That tiny spark became a steady flame.

Download an Infographic on the book of Genesis

I didn’t realize that morning that I had found a handhold for my faith journey. It became a year-and-a-half-long personal study of the book of Genesis. Though I had read Genesis many times before, I had never seen God’s love so clearly on display.

You see, Genesis is the story of our beginnings. But it’s also the story about the various walls that we keep running into in our lives in our relationship with God, each other, and creation, as well as God’s loving initiative to move us beyond those walls, redeem the world, and bring us back into a right relationship with himself through Jesus Christ.

The greatest story you will ever know is the story of God’s love. Genesis reveals that since the beginning of the world, God created you for love. And we need to be intentional about pursuing God’s love in our lives. Why? Romans 8:39 says that nothing in the sky above or the earth below is able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus.

You and I were designed not just to be filled up with God’s love, but to overflow with it. We pursue God’s love not only so we’ll love God more, but so that we’ll love others more, too.

Why pursue God’s love? Because it invites us to shift our focus, the way we see ourselves, others, the situations we face, and God. I think one of the most significant examples of this is found in the first few chapters of Genesis.

Genesis begins, “In the beginning, God.” And I always pause there, because the first few words of Genesis inform us that we are entering into God’s story. God is the hero. This is not our story. Yes, we are invited to be part of it. But this is primarily the story of God.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As this chapter unfolds, we get a glimpse of God in creation, hanging the stars in the sky and hovering over the sea. As a holy and divine artist, God paints our world beautiful with the most loving attention to detail. God’s love is displayed throughout creation.

Some people try to read Genesis 1 as if it’s a scientific or a historical document. And while it contains scientific and historic truths, we must never forget that the first chapter of Genesis is primarily a theological document. The author designed it to tell the story of who God is. And we discover that all of creation is dependent on a loving God for both its existence and its subsistence. We learn that God is all-powerful and sovereign, and his work is marked by precision and intimate involvement.

The second chapter of Genesis offers a second account of creation that’s slightly different. Genesis 2:4. It says that God makes the earth and the heaven. You may be tempted to think, well, maybe the writer just flipped the words. But I think that the writer was intentional. Genesis 1, the heavens and the earth, is a story of creation from God’s perspective. Genesis 2, the earth and the heavens, is a story of creation from man’s perspective. It’s here where we get to see more of God’s love on display.

God forms a man from the dust of the ground and breathes life into him. God places the man in the Garden of Eden with the responsibility to cultivate and keep it. In love, God only gives one limitation. Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, because the result is death. Even God’s one limitation is founded in his love.

I can imagine Adam being like, got it. But in love, God notices Adam is alone, and God doesn’t like that. For the first time, God declares something not good and creates a woman, a strong companion for Adam. And all is well until chapter 3.

A savvy serpent approaches Eve. “Do I understand that God chose you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” It’s kind of a trick question. The serpent is familiar with God’s instruction regarding the forbidden fruit. It’s not just any tree they can’t eat from. It’s one tree.

Yet the serpent manages to distort God’s words. The serpent introduces confusion regarding what God has said as well as God’s intent. Once the woman engages in the discussion, the serpent focuses on the one forbidden tree and makes the case that God’s prohibition isn’t based in love, but that God somehow is trying to keep something good from the couple.

The serpent’s argument is timeless. You see, whenever we focus on God’s prohibitions rather than his provisions, we can’t help but doubt the goodness and the generosity of God. We can’t help but question God’s love. A crafty serpent convinces the woman of the ultimate lie, namely, that God is not good, that God does not really love them.

The woman and Adam eat the fruit. Sin enters our world. Stripped of their innocence, the couple now feel shame. They reach for bright green fig leaves, which are known to grow up to a foot in length, in order to create a covering. Hiding among the shrubs, the man and woman are not only alienated from each other, but also from God.

And yet again, in love, God continues pursuing Adam and the woman. Even God’s judgments are marked by love. The couple is removed from the garden so they don’t eat of the tree of life and live forever. God curses the serpent and the ground, but notice that God never curses Adam or the woman. Instead, he places an enmity between the woman and the serpent and multiplies her childbirth pains. God establishes a desire in the woman’s heart for her husband. Meanwhile, Adam must struggle with the ground. Because of sin, death enters our world.

But if you look closely, after God judges the serpent, the woman, and Adam, a subtle but significant shift takes place in the text. For the first time, the woman is given a personal name. She is called Eve, the mother of all the living. The name Eve is derived from the Hebrew word Chavah, meaning to breathe. This is a sign of hope. God’s redemptive work has begun.

While the story in the garden is often referred to as the fall of humankind, I can’t help but wonder if we need to rename it God’s rising. Remember that this is the story of God. Genesis 1:1 begins, “In the beginning, God.” But by chapter three, we somehow begin thinking that it’s all about us. It’s about our fall. No. The hero of the story is still God, and it’s God who gives the promise that many generations later, one of Eve’s offsprings will defeat evil forever. His name is Jesus.

The opening of Genesis is a powerful reminder that even when we question God’s love or act in disobedience, God continues pursuing us. It’s easy to look at the first couple and say, well, Adam and Eve, they fell for the serpent’s lie that God isn’t good, that God really doesn’t love them. But how often do we fall for the same falsehood today? So the question becomes, deep down inside, do you really believe God loves you? Or are you tempted to believe something, or rather someone, else? Are you more focused on the fall, the failings in your life, or God’s rising and the redemptive healing and restoration he has in store? How are you actively and intentionally pursuing God’s love in your life?

Watch a full session of Pursuing God with Margaret Feinberg:

Host of the popular podcast, The JoycastMargaret Feinberg is a Bible teacher and speaker at churches and leading conferences. Her books and Bible studies, including Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers and Fresh Food Makers, and Revelation: Extravagant Hope have sold over one million copies and received critical acclaim. She lives out West with the love of her life, Leif, and their superpup, Zoom.

Download an Infographic on the book of Genesis

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