Recently, I read Genesis. To be honest, once I was done, I felt a bit disappointed. It didn’t really change my life in any specific way. I did glean a couple insights about my own life from, I think, Abraham or Lot’s story. They were good reminders. Overall, though, it was like going to Panda One Buffet, eating the place out of business, and leaving just as hungry as I was when I came. I spent 3 or 4 hours reading Genesis, and God didn’t have a single thing to say to me.
Actually, He did have something to say to me. It went something like this:
Tim, it’s not about you.
God says a lot of things in Genesis, but what he has to say isn’t directly addressed to me as an individual (not that it doesn’t apply to me; more on that later). Genesis isn’t about me. For the most part, the entire Bible isn’t about me. It’s about God. It’s about who He is, what He has done, and what He is doing now.
Too often, I treat my relationship with God like I’d treat a relationship with a personal trainer. God’s here to teach me the right exercises, to feed me spiritual foods that satisfy my needs, to spot me when I do some heavy lifting…all so that I can become a strong Christian with a thriving ministry that gives me personal fulfillment. But God’s not primarily in the business of making pumped-up individuals. Last I checked, He has an agenda of his own. He’s working according to His own plan, not mine.
Now, I’m not saying that God treats people like tools. What I am saying is that we have to remember that God is perfecting a plan that’s been in the works since Creation—a plan beyond anything we’ve ever imagined. The exciting thing is that we are a part of this great work; however, it isn’t primarily about us as individuals. God does work to produce individual meaning and fulfillment for our lives, but, in the Bible, this is always done in context of His master plan. In Genesis, we see that God’s master plan is to bless all of humanity.
Genesis shows that God works at all levels of human history. At the top level, He’s dealing with Man and the problem of sin. Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the Tower of Babel—these are all events that affected humans universally. Through these, God reveals His wisdom, His power, and His benevolence towards the human race, the crown jewel of Creation.
At the next level, God begins working through a specific people group. God raises up Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the patriarchs of an ethnic group through which “all peoples on earth” will be blessed (NIV Gen. 12:3). God is at work among communities of people.
Finally, God uses individuals to accomplish his work. In Genesis, the prime example of this is Joseph. With God’s help, Joseph saves not only Egypt but the entire known world from a severe famine. At the same time, he preserves a remnant of his own family, which would later become the nation of Israel. Joseph understands that God didn’t make him the de facto ruler of Egypt in order to make his life personally fulfilling. He tells his brothers that what they intended for evil, God intended for good “to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (NIV Gen 50:19). Joseph properly recognizes his individual role in context of God’s wider plan for blessing the whole world.
Today, we know that what God has been preparing since Genesis is the Gospel of Christ for the salvation of men. Sadly, we’ve moved away from the universal and communal aspects of God’s plan in favor of individual fulfillment. We’re on a search for meaning in our own lives, and the Gospel’s supposed to help us get there. Even when we fellowship, the primary reason seems to be focused on building ourselves up spiritually. My point isn’t that these things are bad, but I think that by focusing on the individual joyride, we’re missing out on being a part of God’s bigger plan. Joseph found personal fulfillment in recognizing his part in God’s plan to bless the world. In the same way, we’ve got to start with God’s Big Plan and work our way down to find out where we fit in the grand scheme of things.
“…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”