Many think of the book of Genesis as shrouded in the mists of time-- strange stories of people so different from ourselves that they could be from another planet! Others see it as an interesting, but quaint, collection of myths to explain why there are dinosaur bones (they died in the Flood of Noah) or why the Jews and Arabs are such bitter enemies (Jews are descendants of Isaac, the Arabs the descendants of Ishmael). Some might consider Genesis as the first chapter of human history, told just to ‘get the ball rolling’ for the more interesting parts that follow!
In the first book of our Scriptures, we begin to learn some things about God, who set the principles of creation to work as he gave much thought and care to what he created. We discover that God does not count creation, including the human enterprise, as just another project to check off the ‘to do’ list before moving on to the next one. From the beginning, God decided to take an active part in the lives of men and women, and to reveal himself to those who responded in friendship and trust.
Hearing about the lives of our ancient ancestors, we are drawn into the stories of these men, women, and children. Genesis introduces us to the idea of a ‘Family Tree of the Human Race’. We meet adventurers like Noah and Abraham, strong women like Sarah, schemers like Rebekah and her son Jacob, scoundrels like Cain, and dreamers like Joseph. We read their stories of family feuding and sibling rivalry, of envy and jealousy, of love and hate, of greed and generosity.
That family tree extends through time and history to include our own family branch— as immigrants, as Americans, and the generations that come down through us to our descendants. And the centuries melt away, and we realize that Genesis not only tells us something about God but aslo we learn something about ourselves.
Take the story of Esau and Jacob. Parents of more than one child will nod in recognition at this account of sibling competition. Brothers and sisters may chuckle at the memories of deals made with unsuspecting siblings. One of Esau’s more important blessings was his birth right. As the eldest son, he would inherit his father’s position in the community and the bulk of his family’s wealth. And he was entitled to a special blessing from his father—not just in the titles and goods of the world, but a bestowing of power and confidence to be able to accept and increase the benefits of his birth right.
Because God loves each of us as if we were the only child, we all have a birth right—an entitlement to gifts and blessings which we do not earn and cannot demand, but can only receive from a kind and gracious Giver.