11. A Solemn Reminder

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Throughout our study we have continually seen God demonstrate His faithfulness to His covenants and His gracious disposition towards humanity and His creation. In the garden He spoke the redemptive promise Adam and Eve. When humanity’s sin was too much to bear God spared Noah and his family. When God scattered the nations at Babel He also graciously called Abram from among the nations to bless the nations. The descendants of Abraham grew to become the twelve tribes of Israel and seeking refuge from famine they settled in Egypt under the care of Joseph. Then, however, “a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (Exodus 1:8) and Israel was enslaved there for four hundred years. God, remaining faithful to His covenant, delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt and yet they were dissatisfied and often longed to return to slavery than continue to rely upon the provision of their God. The situation climaxed at Kadesh Barnea when Moses sent spies into the land of Canaan and the people of Israel rebelled because they feared the inhabitants of the land (Numbers 13-14).

I. Deuteronomy in Context

Deuteronomy begins forty years after the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea. During those forty years the entirety of that rebellious generation except Moses, Caleb, and Joshua perished in the wilderness. “A wholistic reading of Deuteronomy presents us with a series of speeches in which Moses presents Israel about to enter the Promised Land with the continuity of covenant and promises, graciously extended by the Lord to the new generation, and urges them to respond to Yahweh in faith and obedience for the sake of the future generations.”[59]

II. Deuteronomy in Outline

  • Remembering Israel’s Rebellion and Subsequent Judgment (1-3)
  • Covenant Obligations, Blessings, and Curses (4-26)
  • A Command to Respond (27-30)
  • Joshua Commissioned to Lead Israel (31)
  • The Song of Moses (32)
  • Moses’ Blessing upon Israel and Death (33-34)

III. The Message of Deuteronomy

What is Deuteronomy teaching us? What is it’s central thrust and message?

Deuteronomy demonstrates God’s unwavering faithfulness to His promises in spite of rebellion and subsequent judgment God’s purposes stand and He will bring about their fulfillment.

IV. Deuteronomy as Eschatology

Unlike the Adamic, Noaic, and Abrahamic Covenants this covenant and the Mosaic are conditional. There are blessings and curses attached to them that depend upon Israel’s obedience or disobedience. Yes, God will fulfill His promises to Adam, Noah, and Abraham but as we saw with the generation that perished in the dessert this generation may or may not enjoy the blessing of covenant fulfillment. Deuteronomy 28:62-63 presents this generation with this staggering reality. Will the land be theirs? Will they enjoy God’s presence and protection? Will they continue to increase? Or will they forsake their God and leave these blessings for future fulfillment?


How is the central thrust and message of Deuteronomy an encouragement to us?

[59]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 140.

9. Israel’s Covenant Deliverer

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The narrative of Genesis led from creation, through the fall, to several demonstrations of God’s grace which both define Him as a Redeemer and shape our understanding of redemption. Yet every experience of God’s grace leaves the recipients of the promise looking forward in anticipation of its fulfillment. And so Genesis comes to a close with the dying Joseph confidently encouraging his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Genesis 50:24). Even so the promises to Abraham of a great nation in the Promised Land who both receives and is a blessing to the nations seems quite distant as Exodus begins with the coming to power of a new Pharaoh who exploits and oppresses Israel. This was never meant to call into question God’s fidelity rather Moses writes Exodus and Leviticus at Sinai (Exodus 24;4, 7; Leviticus 27:34) to reinforce the identity of God and their identity as His people.

I. The Narrative of Exodus

A. Outline of Exodus

While there are many twists and turns along the way the narrative of Exodus may be understood in three distinct movements.

I. The Exodus from Egypt and Journey to Sinai (1-18)
II. The Mosaic Covenant (19-24)
III. The Tabernacle (25-40)

B. The Exodus from Egypt and Journey to Sinai (1-18)

This study will focus mainly on the Mosaic Covenant and only briefly touch on the Exodus and the Tabernacle. There are two primary reasons for this. First, in the Mosaic Covenant God reveals His intent in redeeming Israel and secondly, this intent then naturally flows into the creation of the tabernacle. There are several important biblical-theological themes in the Exodus that will be picked up on in our study through The New Testament; however, other than the Passover those will not be addressed for sake of brevity.

This narrative is rich with language from creation and the promise to Abraham. Israel has grown in number they are being fruitful and multiplying both in response to the creation mandate and in fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham. As Pharaoh’s fear of the Hebrews grew he oppressed and afflicted them and when they continued to multiply he decrees that all the male children be killed. This is an assault upon the promised seed of the Abrahamic Covenant and echoes the struggle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.[59] The plagues bring this conflict into focus culminating in the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn. “The firstborn son of the Pharaoh was destined to rule but instead it is the firstborn son of Yahweh who will have dominion.”[60] After the plagues and the death of his firstborn Pharaoh concedes and urges the people of Israel to leave; however, God further hardens Pharaoh’s heart and he gathers his army in pursuit. The best place to begin for a summary of these events is the Song of Moses (15:1-21).

Will someone read the Song of Moses for us? How does this song describe God? What is Israel’s relationship to Him? How does this paint a picture of redemption?

J. Richard Middleton notes the importance of these events in the shaping of Israel’s worldview,

Beneath the Old Testament’s use of explicit salvation language lies a coherent worldview in which the exodus from Egyptian bondage, followed by entry into the promised land, forms the most important paradigm or model. . .

The complex of events of the exodus was so central in Israel’s experience and memory that it decisively shaped much of the Old Testament, becoming the lens through which salvation in understood.[61]

These events are paradigmatic and exert tremendous influence upon our understanding of redemption. Indeed as we will see later it does much to expound upon God’s intentions in His promise to Abraham and His unflinching commitment to His intent in creation as well.

God had decisively triumphed over their enemies and liberated them from their oppressors Israel had been set free. “God’s purpose, however, was not simply to deliver Israel from Pharaoh’s yoke. It was to bring them under His yoke. God demanded that Pharaoh let the people go that they might serve Him.”[62] As Arthur F. Glasser explains,

The Hebrews were now free to worship their God in a spontaneous, joyous, and caring fashion because of their unbelievable sense of having been redeemed by him from Egypt. They now belonged uniquely to God and God alone. And the Passover feast provided them with a divinely authenticated way to celebrate the beginning of their national existence in the years that followed.[63]

Israel’s redemption is holistic it touches every aspect of reality this is clear both in the immediate narrative and the covenant itself,

The texts portray at least four dimensions of the bondage that Israel suffered in Egypt – political, economic, social, and spiritual – and goes on to show how God redeemed them in every one of these dimensions.[64]

And God’s intent here will be reinforced later within the Mosaic Covenant itself.

C. The Mosaic Covenant (19-24)

Will someone please read the beginning of the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus 19:3-6?

William J. Dumbrell emphatically states the importance of correctly understanding the Mosaic Covenant explaining that,

A correct understanding o f these verses which summon Israel, as a result of Sinai, to its vocation, is vital. T he history of Israel from this point on is in reality merely a commentary upon the degree of fidelity with which Israel adhered to this Sinai-given vocation.[65]

Prior to examining the covenant’s content the first possible misstep would be to assume the covenant’s conditionality based upon the requirement of Israel’s obedience (Exodus 19:5).

It is true that the Mosaic Covenant was the most conditional of all the biblical covenants. Of all the covenants, it dealt specifically with how the people of God should live. The fulfillment of the promises and blessings of any of the covenants for any particular individual or generation was dependent upon their obedience to God’s revelation. Disobedience annulled the blessings of God for that individual or generation in his/her/its own time, but disobedience did not invalidate the unconditional terms of the covenant.[66]

This, the unconditional nature of the covenant, will become increasingly clear as we move through Deuteronomy and see the overarching eschatological and covenantal thrust of the entire Pentateuch.

From your knowledge of the Old Testament what might it mean for Israel to be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation?

Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum explain that the literary structure of this verse points to “a treasured possession” and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” as being two sides of the same coin. “In other words, both statements are saying the same thing, but each does it in a different way and looks at the topic from a different perspective.”[67]

After a lengthy discussion of the terms they summarize the purpose of the covenant as follows:

Although the language is different from that of Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 12:1-3, we can clearly see that the covenant at Sinai achieves and administers in the Iron Age, through the nation as a whole, the purposes of the promises given to Abraham. God is establishing his kingdom through covenant. The covenant entails relationship with God on the one hand and relationship with the world on the other hand. Israel will model to the world what it means to have relationship with God, what it means to treat each other in a genuinely human way, and what it means to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. As priests, they will mediate the blessings of God to the world and will be used to bring the rest of the world to know God.[68]

Just as God’s redemption of Israel was holistic so too are His covenantal purposes. The covenant stipulations that follow in Exodus 19-24 with the giving of the Ten Commandments and the case law, or judicial precedents, expound upon Israel’s responsibility in light of God’s covenantal intent. J. Richard Middleton is particularly helpful in linking these two together,

. . . obedience completes the salvation begun in the exodus. . . Deliverance from bondage must now be matched by conformity to the creator’s will, which will require substantial changes in the way of life of God’s people. Salvation thus cannot be limited to deliverance from external circumstances; it must include what we might call ‘sanctification.’ The Torah given at Sinai constitutes God’s instructions for holy living, meant to direct the life of the redeemed community toward justice and righteousness, that they might be restored to flourishing.[69]

Or simply stated the covenant stipulations are “the foundation of true justice and the basis of what it means to be a son or daughter of God, an Adamic figure, i.e. truly and genuinely human.”[70]

The covenant is then ratified as they offer burnt offerings and peace offerings and Moses takes the blood of those offerings and throws half upon the altar and half upon the people of Israel and in a ceremony most similar to that of a wedding Israel is united by blood in covenant with God.[71]

D. The Tabernacle (25-40)

Building upon the these themes of Israel’s freedom to worship God, the restoration of true humanity and true human flourishing and wedding together of God and humanity in restored relationship Stephen G. Dempster explains, “the goal of the Exodus is thus the building of the Edenic sanctuary so that the Lord can dwell with his people, just as he once was Yahweh Elohim to the first human beings.”[72]

The tabernacle parallels the Garden and the Cosmos; indeed it represents a new creation a new Eden where man may dwell with God. The structure of the garden, is found in the structure of Israel at Sinai, and in the tabernacle itself pointing to God’s purposes for their relationship with the surrounding world. This as we will see here, and in Leviticus, is an ever present reminder of the intent of God’s covenants with Adam, with Abraham, and the Mosaic covenant. Below is a chart which illustrates these parallels.

Tabernacle Chart

Linking this structure to creation Gentry and Wellum conclude, “just as Adam was to fulfill his mandate by devoting himself to worship as a priest in the garden sanctuary, so Israel as a new Adam is to fulfill her mandate by devoting herself to worship as a priest in the tabernacle.”[73]

The Passover serves as a continual reminder of God’s redemption and the service in the tabernacle as a continual reminder of God’s mission for His image bearers to subdue the earth and fill it with His glory. They are to be both blessed and a blessing a picture of a renewed humanity living in the new creation in restored relationship with God.

The people have been redeemed from their bondage in Egypt, wed in covenant to their Lord, and have received instruction for the creation of the tabernacle where the people can meet with God. How does Israel respond? What happens in Exodus 32?

Looking at 32:12 what promises does Moses plead as he intercedes on behalf of Israel?

From this point Moses continues to intercede for Israel and is so bold as to ask Yahweh to see His glory. The text focuses less on what Moses sees and rather on what he hears. Would you read Exodus 34:5-7? What kind of God is Yahweh?

After further instruction the tabernacle is erected and the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle that His people may dwell in His midst.

II. Exodus as Eschatology

“Later when the psalmists sing of God as Redeemer, they make the Exodus their theme. And when the prophets speak of a new covenant beyond the covenant of Sinai, they expect God to act in an even greater way for the redemption of human-kind and yet to be consistent with his actions at the Exodus (Jer. 31:31-34). It is for this reason that God’s deliverance during the Exodus, Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, and the conquest of the Promised Land are as significant for the New Testament as for the Old. It is in the New Testament that ‘One greater than Moses’ makes possible a liberating and redemptive Exodus, one which leads to a more lasting inheritance (Deut. 18:15-19).”[74]


Where in the Exodus did you see parallels between and hints towards the fulfillment of the covenants to Adam, Noah, and Abraham? How do you see Israel’s mission shaped and informed by that Mosaic covenant?

[59]Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 93-94.
[60]Ibid., 99.
[61]J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 79-80.
[62]Edmund P. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1988), 97.
[63]Arthur F. Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 76.
[64]Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, Biblical Theology for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 99.
[65]William J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation: A Theology of the Old Testament Covenants (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBook House, 1984), 80.
[66]William D. Barrick, “The Mosaic Covenant,” in The Master’s Seminary Journal 10 (1999): 223.
[67]Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 316
[68]Ibid., 326.
[69]Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 87-88.
[70]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 356.
[71]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 349-354.
[72]Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, 100.
[73]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant, 322.
[74]Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom, 75.

Revisiting Abortion and the Illusion of Sovereignty: Addressing the Real Issue

I originally posted the following article four years ago, here, and with the current discussion of Planned Parenthood and the renewed cultural debate on abortion this is a particularly relevant post to revisit. What follows is an unedited reposting of my 2011 article followed by a brief addendum to clarify the original conclusion.


Abortion and the Illusion of Sovereignty: Addressing the Real Issue

This Sunday’s cover story, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy”, for The New York Times Magazine is nothing new. I wrote several years ago, in “When the Fertility Clinic Meets the Abortion Clinic: A Modern Paradox,” about a similar article in the Los Angeles Times. In fact the only thing that has changed in these four years are the numbers. The reasons and the response are the same things that have been around since the first abortion and if we were to go back further to the origins of infanticide. When reading these articles, or the responses to them, they are so predictable that they almost appear to be scripted. With that I hope to take a departure from the typical response and argue that the real issue here is not life, it is not choice, and it is not even murder. The real issue is sovereignty.

Let me explain what I mean. In her June article, “Yes, Abortion is Killing. But It’s the Lesser Evil,” Antonia Senior explains how having a child changed her perspective regarding abortion. After explaining the lack of a consensus regarding a scientific or philosophical definition of life she concludes,

What seems increasingly clear to me is that, in the absence of an objective definition, a foetus is a life by any subjective measure. My daughter was formed at conception, and all the barely understood alchemy that turned the happy accident of that particular sperm meeting that particular egg into my darling, personality-packed toddler took place at that moment. She is so unmistakably herself, her own person — forged in my womb, not by my mothering.

Any other conclusion is a convenient lie that we on the pro-choice side of the debate tell ourselves to make us feel better about the action of taking a life. That little seahorse shape floating in a willing womb is a growing miracle of life

She then explains that such conclusions have resulted in a movement aimed at separating feminism from “fertility control.” However, she views this as entirely incompatible with the central aim of feminism exclaiming, “The single biggest factor in women’s liberation was our newly found ability to impose our will on our biology.” The freedom of women then depends upon one thing the unencumbered exercise of the will.

With a shocking candor she concludes,

As ever, when an issue we thought was black and white becomes more nuanced, the answer lies in choosing the lesser evil. The nearly 200,000 aborted babies in the UK each year are the lesser evil, no matter how you define life, or death, for that matter. If you are willing to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it, too.

For Antonia Senior, and I would argue for all of us, the principal issue is sovereignty, a woman’s ultimate right to impose her will upon herself and upon others.

Sovereignty occurs vertically in the form of worship, we could use other words but the concept remains the same. We either rejoice in the sovereignty of the God in whose image we are made or we deny it by worshipping any number of god’s made in our image. Horizontally human interaction exists upon a continuum of two extremes; escape and conflict. Both extremes end in death and both are false exercises of sovereignty. At the extreme end of escape is suicide where the sovereign self claims sovereignty over the self by taking one’s life. At the extreme end of conflict lies murder where the sovereign self claims sovereignty over another by taking another’s life.

The first two articles mentioned, “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” and “The abortion debate brought home,” regarding reduction, which let’s be honest is a clever play on words to sanitize something far more grisly and sinister, bring another exercise of sovereignty into the question, namely in vitro fertilization and the creation of life. Imposing one’s will upon one’s own biology may require medical assistance and donated eggs which is where our current discussion often begins. With in vitro fertilization, when multiple embryos are transferred, there is always the possibility of multiple embryos implanting and when multiple babies are not wanted or the mother is unable to give birth to multiple children then one or more of them must be put to death. In 1988 Dr. Mark Evans penned guidelines for this procedure stating that “most reductions below twins violated ethical principles.” Things have changed over the past 23 years; the medical community has rethought its ethics and is now willing and able to reduce your pregnancy to one. “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy” ends with a counterintuitive conclusion. After choosing to reduce their pregnancy to one child the author asks the women what would happen if they miscarried to which one of them replied, “I’ve come to realize there’s only so much we can control. There’s a point where you just have to let nature take its course.”

After all this talk of a woman’s complete control of her own fertility comes the tragic conclusion that “there’s only so much we can control.” Ultimately you cannot impose your will upon your biology because ultimately you are not sovereign. Your sovereignty is an illusion.

How are we to respond to this? Should we call our senator or state representative? Should we start building picket signs and begin protesting abortion clinics? No, we must respond with the Gospel, in word and deed. We must respond in the same way that God responds to humanity’s first act of false sovereignty in the garden, with grace and the promise that in Christ we will be liberated not unto self but from self and sin and set free to worship the one true Sovereign. Any other response is incalculably inadequate and nearsighted.


Addendum 2015-08-05

The church is a global reality and when I address issues, such as this one, my primary concern is how the global church should respond. And our primary response and concern must be proclaiming and incarnating the Gospel (Ephesians 6:10-20). After all abortions do not occur simply because they are legal or because of Planned Parenthood. No, they occur because of our insatiable desire for control, for sovereignty; they occur because humans, both as individuals and as humanity, a global culture, are unflinchingly committed to our rebellion against the true Sovereign. That must be our first and primary response. Any other primary response is, as I said four years ago, incalculably inadequate and nearsighted.

Now, I still have little patience for evangelical political activism. As Ed Stetzer lamented in Breaking the Missional Code, ” For many, evangelicals have become a voting block rather than a spiritual force” (2006:9). Political activism alone, defunding Planned Parenthood for example, would only be as beneficial as God bringing the Jews out of Egypt without also bringing them to Himself. But in 2011 I was unbalanced and failed to recognize the uniqueness of the American situation. The global church must respond with the Gospel, as in many places political change is not possible in the same way that it is in the United States. The church mush make the gospel our primary concern, we must make the truth known, we must seek to see men and women reconciled to the God whose image their born and unborn children bear.

At the same time when there is opportunity seek political change we must do so humbly, with a knowledge that political change is important but not ultimate. God is redeeming the whole of creation from the cancerous cells growing in your body and the raging of the seas to the political and cultural structures of man. He is, and ultimately will, set those things right, their rebellion will be brought to an end, and the earth will be renewed and inhabited by the new humanity. But the renewal of creation is inextricably tied to the reconciliation of God and man (Romans 8:18ff.). So feel free to contact the political powers that be and seek to persuade those who make those decisions but do so knowing that what your neighbor who is considering an abortion needs most is not legislation but reconciliation.

I hope this was a beneficial read and I hope that this addendum has clarified what was lacking in my previous conclusion.

8. God’s Covenant Faithfulness to the Patriarchs

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Looking back to the fall and the spread of human rebellion we continually saw that God’s response was to initiate and provide for reconciliation. We saw that in the garden he sought out rebellious man and paired with judgment issued a gracious promise. When Cain murdered his brother Abel we saw God’s gracious response to Cain and we also saw His gracious response to Adam and Eve with the provision of another son Seth, through whose line the promised deliverer of Genesis 3:15 would come. In the story of Noah God gracious provided the means by which Noah and his family could escape the impending judgment and after this deliverance God echoed the commands of Genesis 1:28 by saying, “be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it” (Genesis 9:7). Again we saw God’s grace at the Tower of Babel as humanity gathered to make a name for themselves the Lord confused their languages and dispersed them over the face of the earth, which again echoes the mandate of Genesis 1:28. Again God is gracious in judgment as he calls Abram and establishes a covenant for Abram. With this,

“Abraham is asked to give up all the symbols of security and autonomy with which the builders of Babel sought to shore up their own identity . . . [and yet in an amazing contrast] The trophies that the people of Babel attempted to take for themselves―fame, security, and a heritage for the future―are God’s free gift to Abraham.”[54]

While studying the Abrahamic Covenant we noted four distinct promises made to Abram. These promises are reaffirmed to Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. These promises profoundly shaped the lives of the patriarchs as they struggle to trust God for their fulfillment.

I. The Narrative of the Patriarchs

There is much that cannot be covered due to time constraints; because of this the passages covering each of the patriarch’s narratives are listed on the outline.

A. Abraham―Genesis 11:27-25:11

Would someone read Genesis 12:1-4?

This begins the story of Abram. God has established His covenant and Abram has left his country to follow the Lord. The story of Abraham highlights his struggle concerning God’s fulfillment of the promise concerning his offspring. There are two places where this struggle reaches a climax.

Would someone read Genesis 16:1-11 and 17:15-21? What does this story teach us about Abram? What does it teach us about God?
Would someone read Genesis 22:1-14? Read verse 6 what can we learn about Isaac according to the description found here? What do you think that tells us about Isaac’s attitude in verse 9? What picture are we given by the “ram, caught in a thicket?” Isaac’s life also gives us a picture, what might this be?

Isaac is carrying enough wood for a burnt sacrifice this is not the description of a small child. Furthermore, we learn of Isaac’s submissiveness as he allows his father to bind him. I think many of us would note the similarities between the “ram, caught in a thicket” and Christ but I have never thought of Isaac as a pattern of the resurrection. But is that not one of the central points of substitution? A substitute died in his place and because of that substitute he lives.

B. Isaac―Genesis 21:1-35:29

The Genesis text emphasizes the lives of Abraham and Jacob with Isaac playing a transitional role between these two narratives.[55] Because of this you can read the account of his life in the Genesis text and we will focus our study on the two characters given literary emphasis. It is important to note that the fourfold promise made to Abraham his father is repeated to him in Genesis 26:3-4.

C. Jacob―Genesis 25:21-50:14

Certainly Abraham had his struggles but the story of Jacob’s “reprehensible features are rather strongly brought out. This is done in order to show that divine grace is not the reward for, but the source of noble traits.”[56]

Would someone read Genesis 25:21-34? How is Jacob described in these verses?

Jacob is conniving and cold as he uses his brother’s weakness to purchase his brother’s birthright from him. In the same way we see his deceptiveness in Genesis 27 as he disguises himself as Esau to receive a blessing from his dying father Isaac.

How are we to understand these stories? What moral lessons are we to take away from them? What do these stories teach us about God? What do they teach us about how we are to read His Word?

These storied teach us that God rescues those who do not deserve it. No one merits God’s favor; neither Adam, nor Cain, nor Noah, nor Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob has in any way merited God’s favor. His covenants and promises are wholly and act of His redeeming grace. Furthermore, we cannot use God’s Word as simply a moral handbook because if you do then this passage will lead you to prize deception. Rather you must read God’s Word as a metanarrative. The greater redemptive context provides a clearer understanding of this text and that is to show, as we read earlier, “that divine grace is not the reward for, but the source of noble traits.”[57] We continue to see this divine grace even as God reaffirms his covenant to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15.

Would someone please read Genesis 35:22b-36? What is the significance of Jacob’s offspring? How has God kept His promise to Abraham?

These are the twelve tribes of Israel; God is beginning to make of Abraham a great nation.

II. Common Themes in the Patriarchal Narratives

A. Covenant Promises in Crisis

During each of the patriarch’s lives different promises are the source of struggle and possible failure. With Abraham the possibility of a seed is the source of much tension. With Jacob God’s blessing and protection is a source of struggle. The promise of land is far removed from the patriarchs; they wonder in it but in no sense has God given them this land, so in a way while God has fulfilled aspects of the promise other aspects are left unfulfilled at this point.

B. Election

One of the central themes of this section, which will be heavily emphasized later on, is that of election. How does the narrative bring this out?

This can be clearly seen in God’s calling of Abraham but it is emphasized the most in the story of Jacob.

III. The Patriarchal Narratives as Eschatology

Just like Noah before him Abraham is another Adamic figure who points towards recreation. With Noah we were pointed to a renewed creation. With Abraham we are pointed to a renewed people, a particular people, and a people through whom all peoples will be blessed. “Salvation meant blessing on a particular people (Israel) and blessing through that particular people (for all nations).”[58] God is not just creating a particular people He is creating a missional people for a particular mission, His mission. With this progression we are reminded of past progressions all of us which pointed to something greater and indeed with this small nation, consisting of twelve sons, we are left to anticipate the day when they are indeed a great nation and the nations are blessed through them


How have we seen God’s covenant faithfulness through the lives through the patriarchs and what are these stories teaching us?

[54]Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 53-54.

[55]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 103.

[56]Vos, Biblical Theology, 108.

[57]Ibid., 108.

[58]Christopher J. H. Wright, Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story, Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007), 60.