Shut Up for Once and Listen! Please.

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Yesterday I read with disbelief as a flood of women replied on Tony Jones’ blog, when he asked the question “Where are the Women?”  Hundreds flooded his blog expressing how frustrated they were with not being listened to by him, by men, in the Church, in the blogosphere.

They also said they didn’t have time for blogs where they aren’t listened to carefully and respected for their ideas.  What I couldn’t believe was that he got his feelings hurt and ended up petulant, going away to lick his wounds.

I believe Tony Jones meant to ask “why aren’t women commenting on my blog?”  Which is actually quite nice of him to notice that women are silent there.  And fascinating, really, that women don’t comment though it is clear that they are reading.  Especially since women are talking to each other within the community of other blogs, like CT’s blog for women, her.meneutics and Rachel Held Evans blog and other places.

What Tony Evans got when he asked, was vitriol and anger and I heard pain from women’s experiences in the Church, but mostly I think the underlying response was would you “shut up for once and listen. Please?”  

These women are frustrated.

I don’t know your church experience, but I’m guessing if it is conservative, or evangelical, or Bible based, women don’t have much of a voice.   They may do lots of work in the church, and may even have subtle and quiet influence, but most women don’t have influence the teaching or theological grounding of the church, because women aren’t being trained theologically, encouraged into those studies, or leadership, or speaking or teaching.

Then a fellow Redbud, Jenny Rae Armstrong wrote a great article Women, Theology and the Evangelical Gender Ghetto. She  commented about how James W. McCarty III expressed concern over the lack of female voices in the theological blogosphere in Stop, Collaborate and Listen. He said:  “Listen to women. And listen in a way in which you can learn from them. Seriously… And don’t argue with them right away… Listen deeply. Meditate upon those things that don’t resonate with your experience and give them a charitable interpretation. Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women to answer them.”

It reminded me of something I wrote this last year:

When our Traditions and Tired Beliefs are Calcified into Orthodoxy (Brief Thoughts On Women).  

And this:  What is lost when the Church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

And it reminded me that the work is incomplete. As Jenny said, books could be written on this topic.

The evangelical Church with a big C (not all churches) is still stuck in petty bickering and  totally useless, entrenched ideas about what women can and cannot do. (That much is clear from the response to Rachel Held Evans new book A Year Of Biblical Womanhood.)  

As one thoughtful blogger Joy asked, where are the optimistic feminists?  She said won’t you dare to hope?  

Food for thought.

Do you listen to the women in your life, truly listen, slowly, deeply, open-handed and humbly asking what their experiences and feelings have been being a woman in the church? Do you think about the things that don’t resonate with your experience? Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Do you take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women in order to answer them.

When was the last time you felt heard at church? Are you a optimistic feminist?  Are you angry.  If you’re angry I’d challenge you to consider the ways, if any that you can be a voice for change.

What did Jesus say about what women can or cannot do?  What does the Bible show  women can do, as Scot McKnight asks so well in The Blue Parakeet.  Read that book it will change the way you read the Bible!!

 Tony Jones was disconcerted by the responses of women.  This disconcerts me because what I heard was women wanting to be heard.  That is all.  That is a beginning.  That idea gives me hope.  Shut up for once, and listen.

On Doubt & Growing up in the Church of (women) “Shouldn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t.”

My daughter pushes me.  She demands.  Before coffee and time to wake up in the morning, she throws out at me like spittle in my face a withering challenge. She says, about my faith, my beliefs, something like ….

You follow some concocted foolishness, if only to comfort yourself, to be a part of something, to be less alone, to feel consoled by the idea you won’t spend eternity in hell.

Ouch.  She’s fourteen.  I listen.  And take another sip of coffee.  Silently wishing that I was more awake.  Wishing that I had time to go to seminary and get back to her.  Hoping that I can remain calm.  And mostly, I am hoping that I am lucid.  Does she not know this is not my best time of day?  Of course she does.  I am not freaking ready for this!?!

And what sort of religion would sentence people to hell?” she continues.  I’m thinking “Where in the hell is she learning her ideas about hell?”

Yes, that’s the sort of girl we’re raising. 

Questioning.  Doubting.  Testing and pushing.  And I love it, even as it scares me and I long for more preparation.  No, I don’t fear my own doubt, because I have known the One who gives me peace beyond my comprehension.

But I fear her doubts.

She has a wonderful, active intelligence.  How to answer the questions rattling about in her brain— which she throws out with such vivid scorn.  How to answer, when it closely echoes the shadows of my heart and mind?  One might think this would make it easier, but it isn’t because I don’t fear my own doubt I pursue it. I have even grown comfortable with it, mostly.

But her doubts loom bulky and cumbersome, large in the room.  I feel them physically as she lurches toward her future.  Away from me.  Yes I feel her doubt pulling her away from me. This is what I must trust, that the One I know will make himself known to her and to each of them, my children.  I only possess them for a short season, if at all.  I once thought they were “mine” like a precious possession to be held on to tightly.  Now I know I don’t. I can’t keep them for my own.

The day she came squealing into the world, so strong and perfect I should have known then that she was not mine.  In the early months I was uncomfortable letting someone else take her from me, to hold her tight against their own chest in church.  I fought letting her infant body be pulled away from mine.  She was my first and the toughest, impossible, to let go of—I thought that I couldn’t do it.  I began to trust others just a little.  Our nanny.  A nursery caregiver.  Kindergarten teacher, first grade, second and up, over the years.  And now she is learning from pastors at church and from leaders in youth group that are young and barely out of school themselves.  And she learns from her friends.  How much she is learning from equally fallible, impressionable friends

I am reminded again, I can’t possess her.    

I look at her speaking this morning, so sure of herself, and  I think “I would hold you in my arms forever, if possible, so enormous is my love for you.”

A mother’s love and possession of her children is irrational.  At first I trusted no one.

And she always resisted me.

She struggles, fights me.  Argues about whether I like her outfits even when I say I do, she says I don’t; her hair, the shape of her nose which I think is quite perfect. But no, she is angry even as she tells me how very wrong I am.  “My nose is not perfect” she wants me to know. And I marvel at the thought.  To me, you are.

Perfection.

This is what I want to tell her.  

You have always questioned.  You were impatient, always.  I couldn’t teach you fast enough — the alphabet, or to read.  All of this could not be conquered quickly enough for you, in the midst of other babies coming along.  Just fourteen short months after you a brother, and he was physically large but quiet, careful and followed you everywhere; happily occupied by his admiration and awe of you.  My job and its demands getting me home at night exhausted, and there you were, already reading, even before I had the time to teach you.  You are ahead of me in so many ways.  At forty-five, I am just barely allowing myself to ask the hard questions, the ones that our faith community wouldn’t allow when I was growing up, somehow my doubt might mean that all of it isn’t true. 

I am only just learning to accept my own questions, to seek the answers out myself.  Yes, I learn from you my girl.

Your mother isn’t sure.  I doubt myself all the time  because I was told long ago in bible class in college (a Christian college) not to question.  As the Bible was opened for me in class, and I began to learn as never before, my heart fluttered and sped up with the dawning, comprehension that I could know the actual Greek words for myself.  I wouldn’t have to take anyone’s word for it.  Just. Like. Anyone. I could study and know for myself.  But when I sought this knowledge out, my professor asked “what would you do with it?” as if, I shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t learn for myself.  There would be no purpose.

Indeed, what purpose would it have served?

Yes that’s the lie I bought into, that I fight against (almost) every day as a woman in the Church, that we shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t, learn and teach for ourselves.  It is a lie, but one that is so strong.   I beat it back.  It returns uninvited.  Reading the words in Blue Parakeet, I am once again liberated.  It’s a constant liberation required, when you are raised in the Church of women “shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t.”   Scot McKnight liberated me again when he asked of scripture’s Story “What Did Women Do?”

What did women do I want to know?  We aren’t even to be allowed the stories in Bible of what women have done.  These stories of women have been silenced, ignored, overlooked and (not always with bad motives but still) they are missing!   As I have come into my own understanding of these things I have had to accept that to take a stand on this is threatening and provocative, and I am immediately perceived to be “liberal” and suspect, as if I don’t respect the Bible which I do, oh so very much from that moment in college when I had the profound thought “I can know this for myself. “ Oh what a sweet relief it was to read that even McKnight found it challenging to defend these things himself.

I am an evangelical, today anyway and I am only learning that I have read the Bible wrong.   I am learning to read the Bible as Story, even while “many of the traditionalists read the bible as a law book and a puzzle.  Traditionalists read the Bible about women in church ministries through tradition instead of reading the Bible with tradition.” (McKnight, the Blue Parakeet)

It is no small thing (to me) and I have spoken of this before.  My pastors never mention female theologians or even woman scholar’s writings about theology and the Bible.  I want my daughter to know that Christian women are thinking, can be academic, even scholarly, that we are wise and thoughtful.  Yes women.

And yet she doesn’t see that in the Church of  (women) “Shouldn’t. Wouldn’t. Couldn’t.”

What would it be like to grow up never hearing the old bible stories of what women did and are doing like Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah? To be a grown woman before you learn that these amazing legendary women spoke for God; they led the nation alongside men.  They sanctioned scripture and they guided nations.  What is it like to grow up never hearing from the knowledge and wisdom of women?   As my precious daughter shares her questions and doubt, I wake up and I listen, take it in.  I hope and pray.  She is strong and her soul and mind are powerful already.  Yes, I accept her doubts.  I know Doubt like a close friend, even if mine has different origins, nuanced by my upbringing and by mistreatment in my life by few strong men who abused.  I’m not afraid of my own doubt and I don’t want to be afraid of hers.  The Church needs girls like her who soon will grow into strong, articulate challenging women.  Her influence somewhere someday will be strong.  Perhaps even in the Church, if she stays long enough.  Are they ready her?  Or will they remain the Church of shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t?

Is that what you want to tell her?

We live in a culture that doubts everything as a matter of principle. In such an environment, how can even faith be immune to doubt? Can I really trust in the gospel? Does God really love me? Can I really be of any use to God? We are taught to doubt but commanded to believe. Somehow we think that admitting to doubt is tantamount to insulting God. But doubt is not a sign of spiritual weakness–rather it’s an indication of spiritual growing pains. — Doubting,  Alister E. McGrath

I guess we are both having growing pains –this slowly waking, grown woman, and this young girl .  Is the Church ready for us?  Will they echo that women couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t?  Or will they tell us, yes, you can.

———————

These musings are like a journal and are not perfect.  As always, I hope you will extend me grace as I write to figure out what I think.

Imagine my Surprise. I read the Bible “Wrong.”

I never knew  that there was a right or wrong way of reading the Bible.  

I have always thought, naively I will now acknowledge, that all that mattered was how one responded to what they read in the Bible.  Nope, I’ve been all wrong.  I don’t know where I learned this idea either.  I’ve absorbed a way of looking at the Scriptures that I never questioned.

“It’s how I was raised.”  

What do I mean? Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals (and I was taught to believe this but no longer) have a view of the Bible that it’s perfect, as in ” inerrant and infallible” by which they mean, it’s a divine product and its authority comes in “that God literally wrote it” by whispering his intents to people who then wrote it down (like God’s holy scribes).  And unless it clearly was metaphor, most every word was literally the truth, word for word from God.  These people also believe that the Bible is basically all God wants us to know in communicating his will to us, which precludes the work of the Holy Spirit and prayer, among other things.  They believe the Bible has everything we need and is totally relevant to the Christian life today.  That it is simple and plain, obvious; meaning if you just read it you’ll “just get it.”  There’s a morsel of goodness in that idea that anyone can read the Bible.  Unfortunately, even though anyone can read it isn’t simple!  What about the fact that it was written in languages we do not read or speak (most of us) and in a culture and time that we know nothing about. And the last, most heinous thing that simplistic reading of the Bible brings is the idea that one can pick and pull verses out of the context, not believing context is that important.  They read the Bible seeking blessings and affirmations for life.

Guilty. Guilty.  Guilty.

I do believe, and it is important to affirm, as Temper Longman says in How to Read Genesisthat the Bible is:

“… grounded in the ultimate divine authorship of the whole.  Thus in spite of a variety of styles, genres, themes and motifs, it is important to ask how the parts fit into the whole.”

And that is what I have known.  I guess one can make the Bible say pretty much whatever you want it to if you work at it.  People do it all the time!  I’m forty-five years old, been reading the Bible for myself since high school, and in many ways this is how I have always understood things.

That is what makes thinking about it in a new way so frightening.

I have to admit that I’m learning.

That fact should not be embarrassing, but it is.  People don’t like to admit very often that they don’t know something.  We all like  to come off as experts, if not experts than knowledgeable, if not knowledgeable then at least well-informed.  (

(Sigh)).  It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong, uninformed, even lacking knowledge.  It is hard to admit but I believe if I’m willing to do that then perhaps others will become open to considering the same.

Do I dare even talk about this topic of reading the Bible?  I am by no means an expert but I’ve read some things recently. I am armed and dangerous but I’ll list my sources so that you can do your own homework.  (And you always should.)

Here’s what I’ve learned.

The Bible is a piece of literature.

It is a book made up of books.  It is a big story of God and the world.  It is made up of stories and poems that tell us about God.  It is also a series of smaller stories.   It is, like any other book you read, written within a genre and knowing the type of genre you are reading helps you know how you are supposed to read it; whether it is poetry, myths, parables, history, legends or a combination.  And like other literature you study you should know a little of the customs and culture of the time it was written.

“The truth of the matter is that the proper interpretation of any piece of literature, and in particular a text as ancient and important as the Bible, deserves our careful reflection.” — T. Longman.

Hermeneutics is just a technical name for interpretation or “how you read.”

There is a way to read the Bible for what it is not just for what we’d like it to say.  And as we learn to interpret the Bible — as literature, within a genre, written in a time and place, a culture, with a certain purpose, we are less likely to be “Biblical Literalists.”  Just because you find verses that supports your view doesn’t mean you’ve probed fully the biblical view.

How we read the Bible has become very divisive among Christians and has been a contributing factor in the “culture wars.”  Biblical literalists fear the “culture slide or culture creep” and tightly hold a grip on the Church and on their ideas; that a few texts yanked out of any context or culture, are prescriptive of how to “do church” for all time. This keeps churches from changing, in ways that may seem obvious to those of us (women and men) being raised with a different way of looking at Scriptures – raised to think, study and apply scripture for ourselves.

I do believe that the Bible guides us and has everything to say to us in the twenty-first century, it can and should guide us, it changes our ideas about our moral and intellectual life, it forms how we think and behave, how we treat others, and transforms us and shapes who we are becoming …

But …

It’s all about how you read and interpret the Bible. 

I think there may be many people in the Church today who were raised to be biblical literalists. I was.  I no longer believe this is correct in fact I know now that it is wrong.  But I don’t exactly know what I do think, yet.  That’s why I’m “developing my biblical hermeneutic.”

I’m learning that there are some that believe there are lots of parts of the bible that you cannot take literally, either as historical fact or direct will of God.

I agree with Tom Wright when he says that the authority of God is embodied in Jesus himself, not in the literal words of the Bible.  (Loosely quoted.)

Of course how you read and interpret is subject to the wisdom and biases of humans.

Everyone comes at the Bible with a “world view.” We are all guilty of cherry picking verses to be factual and literal truth or determining that something is cultural.   Everyone does it.

Take 1 Timothy for instance.

“Women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with hair braided, or with gold, pearl, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.  Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became the transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

If you read it literally, women are not permitted to teach or have authority over men but also they are not to braid their hair or wear pearls or gold or expensive clothes.   Also women are responsible for the origin of sin in the world.  The “good news” is that we can be saved by bearing children.  If you interpret it literally these are God’s instructions/restrictions for behavior and roles of women.  Some churches choose to prohibit women’s leadership in churches because they use this verse to “prove” that God doesn’t approve.  But they happily ignore the rest of the verses as cultural.

That’s cherry-picking. 

But if you look as the Bible as being written by a person in a particular time and culture, if you know the historical cultural setting they were writing in then you see that this is how one man in the early Christian church saw things.

When you read it with context, looking at the contrast between this and other texts in the New Testament, if we recognize or listen to more than one voice speaking about the role of women we can seek to discern which voice to honor.  In the New Testament there are examples of women apostles and teachers, women financing the ministry, women sitting at Jesus’ feet learning from him with the other disciples, a woman being the first to speak to Jesus after his Resurrection.  These stories all empower of women in the early church.  You can see this if you don’t restrict your reading to Timothy’s set of verses, which are very restrictive.

Listen to more than one voice. 

Look for themes and overarching ideas.  I believe one must recognize more than just one voice in trying to figure out anything in the Bible.  And it takes discernment and wisdom and doing your homework in trying to figure out which voices to honor.  I look at how Jesus treated women when it comes to this topic.  I do not look at the verses about early church as prescriptive of how we should run our churches today.  But that’s just me.   But as you can see, a lot is at stake in how we read and understand the Bible.

Everyone wants to read the bible for today – for guidance and wisdom for today’s problems, for today’s trials, for this moment.  The problem inherent in that is that without doing the hard work of asking the questions of the context and placement in history, we endanger our ability to hear God.   I am greatly encouraged with the knowledge that there are essential ideas from God that are clear and reinforced many places in scripture.  Those broad strokes from God are the things that guide us — point us to God and deepen our relationship with the trinity.

Those are my thoughts offered humbly because like I said, I am no expert and I am likely much too opinionated.

On the topic of unlearning and learning How to Read the Bible Again:

  1. The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight.  He’s a professor at North Park Seminary.  He also has a blog Jesus Creed which is for me critical reading.
  2. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today by NT Wright.

And to add to my list of commentary suggestions (from why I’m Afraid to Read the Bible):

  1. New Testament Commentary for Everyone, by Tom Wright.  They could be in the “For dummies”series.  But not really, for everyone is a nicer way to put it.  These are really good.  They go through books of the bible and explain the background and what it’s saying.  I really like them.  Straightforward, not dumbing it down too much, just enough to make easy.  Not everyone has time to do a lot of study.  These are really informative and interesting.  And short.

Melody

Why I am Afraid to Read the (entire) Bible

Here’s the honest and mortifying truth.

I have never read the entire Bible, whole.  I have studied various books at length, sometimes on my own but more often with a group of others.  But I have never opened the whole of the great book of God’s WORD, Old and New Testaments, and soaked it in as a grand story.  Of course, any “sheep” knows, don’t they, that the Bible wasn’t written to us but for us.  The Bible is not a handbook of do’s and don’ts, but rather a beautiful story which we can carefully apply to our lives.  And if we fear what it says, if we are unwilling to challenge and question it, we deserve to be ignorant fools (like I have been.)

I have never put my full attention, put my full brain, toward the Bible.  I have been afraid of reading the entire thing and these are my reasons.

I am afraid of my own ignorance.  I don’t know what I don’t know.  If I don’t know then I can continue stumbling in the darkness.  At least it is a familiar place, my ignorance.  Sounds dumb when you actually write it down.  But how many of us do this in the Church?  Far too many.

I am afraid of what the Bible actually says.  For too long I have simply listened to others and accepted what the “experts” say about spiritual things without really challenging any of it.

I am a frequently boiling pot, kept simmering by the cool head of Tom, my husband.1 He often keeps me from boiling over.  It seems that he will be doing this a lot as we began reading the entire Bible in one year – a challenge from our church they are calling: Eat This Book.

So I would add another point to my list of reasons that I have never the read the Bible in its entirety.

I am afraid of how I will respond to the Bible as a woman.  We all have a worldviews and as such, we read the Bible differently. I respond as a woman.  How can I not?  And that is different from my pastors (both male) and my husband, and most of the commentary I am reading.  As a woman I have different questions.  I am afraid of what  to do with those.  How do I sort out how much of my response needs to be talked about, questioned, and challenged?

On the other hand there is a lot that excites me about finally reading the entire Bible.

I look forward to diving in.  Already Genesis has perplexed me, made me extremely angry, and left me with more questions than answers when I look at it story by story.  I want to be able to see the big picture — to soar over the parts that jump out to me as problematic and see God and hear God, asking him what he wants me to focus on.   I look forward to how this Grand Story changes my life. 

Just last week, my pastor was preaching on Gen 1-3.  He was explaining a very important idea about how we look at scripture overall, which I mentioned already, that the Bible is not written to us but for us and that much of it is metaphor and poetry.

But then he highlighted the verses about man and woman becoming one.  Now I’ll acknowledge that it is beautiful, the whole picture of marriage.  But I actually thought it would have been more important (coming from my worldview, as a woman) or at least more valuable to women, if he had taught about how we are both, male and female created in God’s image.  To emphasize and thus explain what the Hebrew word ezer  (helper) actually means. These verses being misunderstood have diminished and hurt women.  He thought the other verses were more important.  We disagreed nicely by email.

I have to admit that how we interacted mattered a great deal to me and I’m learning that this is more important to me than me being right.   I shared my thoughts with him and he heard me.  I felt heard.  And this is a form of giving someone respect.

And so I would add another point to my list of reasons why I haven’t read the Bible it it’s entirely.

I am afraid of the disagreements among Christians.  I hate the way that Christians wrangle with one another over the baggage that goes into “being theological.”  Are you on the Left or are you on the Right?  Are you conservative or liberal?  Are you a feminist?  Egalitarian or a Complementaran?  A new Creationist or …. ?  I don’t even know all the camps of disagreement and I don’t want to.

I just want to read the Bible and get a little help along the way.

If you haven’t  yet, I’d encourage you to read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight, which will help you rethink how you read the Bible.  Other resources I am finding helpful are the NIV Compact Bible Commentary and the Women’s Bible Commentary.  

The important truth is that I cannot allow my fear of my own ignorance, my fear of this faith tradition that I have followed my whole life, or my fear of disagreement keep me from the next step in my faith journey.

Being that I can be hot-headed, I just might say or do something stupid along the way.  And I would hate that but I cannot allow it to keep me silent.

A friend said to me  this week:  “I am praying that Jesus would guide you as you study His word.   May we always be in search for bringing glory to Him!”  Amen!  I suspect that I will be sharing more of this as I go along.

I wonder, have you read the entire Bible and if not, ask yourself what are you afraid of?    If we seek to follow Christ we are to live in the Bible today and every day.   The question is how?  Let us join together in our KNOWLEDGE not our ignorance.  Let us be SEEKERS together.  

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christians were known for their knowledge, agreeableness and love?

“Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant me so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reign with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen”  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.

Jesus, according to John 16:13

Melody

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1 Tom and I have an egalitarian or mutually submissive marriage. And I was challenged by Rachel Held Evans (she does this a lot) this week .  She asked the question of whether more people need to talk about the ways of egalitarian marriages, to give others an idea of what it’s like.  I never talk about mine.  It’s precious to me and I’d not want to ugly it by my bumbling attempts to describe it.  But I’ll be thinking about that and try to weave things into my blog as appropriate.

2 Blackhawk’s pastors have given us a challenge.  “By reading the Bible every day, our hope is that we’ll become a people who are shaped by the Scriptures – people who are marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  And they are taking it a step further by providing mini videos and teaching tools.  It’s quite good.   I am grateful to attend a church that doesn’t spoon feed, that helps the “sheep” figure some of these things out for ourselves, but also provide solid ways to learn.

The things to look for in reading Genesis are:

  1. The main plotline in the book: God’s desire to bless humanity consistently meets human stubbornness and sin, keeping a record of the words for “bless, blessing” as you read: God wants to pass on a blessing, but humans constantly thwart that blessing.
  2. Genesis 12, 15, 17 and the covenant with Abraham are the key to understanding the entire Bible: God is going to rescue the world from sin and corruption and restore blessing through his promises to Abraham.  The rest of the biblical story will focus on God’s relationship with Israel, because these are the people who bear the promise for the whole world.  Keep track of how the promises to Abraham keep getting repeated and passed on to the next generation and God works out his plan.
  3. Find your story in the characters: All of the characters in Genesis struggle with God, and we are meant to find our story in theirs: the characters wrestle with their own sin and failure, doubt and faith, selfishness and generosity as they try to follow God.  Use each character’s experience (for example, Adam and Eve’s temptation, Abraham’s struggle with doubt, Jacob’s journey from selfishness to trust in God) to find parallels with your own journey with God.
  4. God’s faithfulness: notice how many times God rescues people, or stays committed to blessing humanity. Allow Genesis to reshape your ideas of what it means for God to be faithful to you.

 

3 “Helper”- ezer.  Gen 2:18   According to R. David Freedman, the Hebrew word used to describe woman’s help (ezer) arises from two Hebrew roots that mean “to rescue, to save,” and “to be strong” (Archaeology Review (9 [1983]: 56–58). Ezer is found twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Of these references, fourteen are used for God and four for military rescue. Psalm 121:1–2 is an example of ezer used for God’s rescue of Israel: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”