I have been slowly reading my way through Genesis since January. The slowness is my own fault: I want to do the book justice, to ask difficult questions and ponder concepts as I never did in the flannelgraph teachings of Sunday School, bedroom-lamp discussions of nightly Bible story time, or even the whiteboard lectures of my college Bible classes.
Genesis is rich and heavy, like gold; terrible and mesmerizing, like ancient temple mosaics seen through torchlight; sweet and beautiful, like a spring morning over an estuary; funny, like a family anecdote retold at every holiday; sad and horrifying in a faraway sense, like newspaper headlines of atrocities across the world. This story of the world’s beginning is full of wonders and mysteries, but the way humans behave is as relatable and familiar as gossip.
This reading has opened my eyes to human behavior in Genesis, particularly human scheming. From the very beginning, we have planned and strategized how to fulfill our desires outside of the will of God: Adam and Eve’s disobediance, Cain’s murder, Sarah’s reproductive substitution; Rebekah and Jacob’s tricks…we exercise our cunning and effort to gain what God forbade us to have, or promised to give us Himself in His own time.
Through all this scheming, the LORD is patient – and still fulfills His purposes.
God is just. Adam and Eve suffered their curse. Cain is exiled. Jacob is tricked in turn by his uncle and his sons.
God is merciful. He clothes Adam and Eve and gives them a promise of redemption. He protects Cain from harm. He blesses Jacob. He gives Leah, the unloved wife, children, including Judah (through whom Jesus Christ traces His lineage).
God is sovereign. He uses our scheming to accomplish His will. Eve and a thousand other women’s pain in childbirth leads to the birth of His Messiah. Sarah did bear Isaac. Jacob’s sons became the clans of Israel.
God is loving. He forms intimate, loving relationships with individuals: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, and others. He is gentle where man is harsh, good where man is evil, gracious and just where man is depraved.
I had my own schemes for this spring, this year. The remainder of March was booked solid with fellowship or intellectual events; April and May were set aside for conferences I looked forward to. Thank God, I have experienced no real harm, danger, or loss through this crisis, as others have.
I have had schemes in past years. When I first graduated from college, I dreamed of working as an editor as a small book publisher somewhere in the green, quiet Northeast, of buying a little yellow house next to a river and surrounded by weeping willow trees. Later, I dreamed of moving to an apartment in Portland, Maine where I could get cinnamon mochas at artisan coffee shops on Saturday mornings and visit the islands on summer weekends. I am glad I had those dreams, and gladder that God has given me a sweeter, wilder adventure than my own schemes.
In the midst of human scheming and chaos and disobedience, certain people bowed their wills to God’s: Noah, who immediately built the ark when called to do so; Abraham, who moved his whole family to the Promised Land when God called him; Hagar, who returned to Sarai after running away and called God “El Roi,” or “The God who sees me.”
I am a schemer and dreamer and complainer, but in this moment, as Holy Week begins, I choose to bow my will to God’s, surrender my reshuffled plans, and pray:
LORD God, please rescue this broken world. Please let there be no more deaths; heal the sick; comfort the grieving; provide for those who have lost livelihoods or loved ones.
And because you are sovereign, all-knowing, and love us unconditionally, I can say with confidence: Your will be done.