Genesis 1-47

Genesis 1‑47  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
" In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." The scene of the divine hand in all was, thus, twofold, and accordingly, in " the dispensation of the fullness of times," He will display Himself, in the new creation in Christ Jesus, both in heaven and earth.
I believe that the chapters in the Book of Genesis which we have mentioned above give us a view of the Lord acting with respect to each of these, as it were, by turns, till in the end, we see them presented together in a way typical of what their connection and yet distinction will be in the coming dispensation of the fullness of times. It was of the earth that Adam was made the lord under the Lord God. He had no place in heaven at all. The garden was his residence, and he was to subdue and replenish the earth. But this, excellent as it was, was the limit of His inheritance and enjoyments. All that He knew of in heaven was the Lord God the Creator who was above him. He had no thoughts that linked him personally with it at all. But when he transgressed, he lost the earth. He became a slave and a drudge in it to get bare existence out of it, and then had to lay himself down upon it and die. Such was his changed condition in the earth, grace the while providing remedy for him as a sinner, and pointing his hopes to a better inheritance and richer enjoyments in heaven.
This is much to be observed, and this is the voice of chapter v. There Adam, Seth, and the whole line of godly patriarchs, have in the earth only a burying-place, no memorial, no inheritance there, but, as represented in Enoch, destined of the Lord God to be translated to a higher portion in the heavens with the Lord Himself. This was faith and godliness now. That people who would cling to the earth must do so in the spirit of Cain or the Infidel, desiring to find their memorial and their delights in a place expressly under the curse, seating themselves down with satisfaction and at ease, when God had said, in righteous judgment, they were to expect only bard and sorrowful livelihood. (Chap. 4.)
But the earth was not given up. It is, we know, destined to rejoice in the liberty of the glory by and by, when the promised " dispensation of the fullness of times comes." And, accordingly, this purpose the Lord will rehearse and illustrate, as He now, in due season, does in the history of Noah. (Chap. 6-9.) For here, after passing through the judgment of water, the earth appears again in the scene of the divine delight. God has his representative prophet, priest, and king in it, and makes His covenant with it, undertaking to preserve it, and providing for its righteous, godly government. Cattle and fowl, and creeping thing of every sort are preserved with it; and the earth and its whole system, with man at the head of it, as God's image, is the scene of divine care and delight again. Noah's possession of the earth was quite unlike either that of Cain's or of Seth's family. He did not, like the former, enjoy it and fill it in defiance or in spite of God; nor did he, like the latter, take only a burying place in it. But he enjoyed it under God. The Lord sanctioned his inheritance of it, his dominion over it, and his delight in it, in some sense, like Adam at the beginning, though, of course, it was now in an injured condition.
All this is very significant. In Noah the earth reappears as the scene of divine care and husbandry, after it had for a season been given over, and the elect had been, in their hopes and calling, removed to heaven, as we saw in chapter v. The heavenly family there had died to the earth. They could speak of its coming judgment and restoration. Enoch foretold of its judgment (Jude), and Lamech of its restoration and blessing, though it was then under the displeasure of the Lord. (Gen. 5: 29.) But they neither of them lived for the scenes they thus spoke about. They carried the mind of God in them, and could speak or prophesy of these things, but they had gone from the scene before they happened. So heavenly were they, having the intelligence, that true stranger-character, and the inheritance of the Church. But Noah, who comes after them, is found to be an earthly man. He returns to it, after the judgment, to find in it the sphere of covenanted blessing and honor.
Again, however, we know the earth soon corrupted its way before the Lord. As in Adam, this corruption began in Noah himself, and was perfected in the builders of Babel, who, like another family of Cain, desired to fill the earth with themselves and their works, independently of God. They were mighty hunters before the Lord—they scoured the face of the earth in the full infidel spirit, asking, as it were, " Where is the God of judgment?" But, as we also know, this was not allowed. Another judgment came upon the people, and they are scattered and confounded, and made strange the one to the other. The whole human social order is awfully broken up, and Abram is called out to find his fellowship with the blessed God Himself apart from all that which had now thus corrupted its way before Him.
And thus it is that the Lord still continues to unfold and tell out His purposes. He does not put the earth into Abraham's hand, as He had done into Adam's and Noah's, but He promises him a future inheritance in it, and in that hope and under that promise Abraham becomes a stranger in the world. He walks as a heavenly man therefore, like Seth, or Enoch, or the others of chapter v., with the prospect of the earth and his seed being linked together by and by. Such appears to be the nature of things as exhibited in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, and thus in their persons were heavenly, but their distant hopes, at least the hopes of their seed, pointed to the earth. They did not enjoy it themselves, but it was inheritance in the earth that was covenanted to them and their seed.
Having thus become the objects and holders of these covenants and promises, in process of time, their children, too much in the spirit of Cain, hate and persecute their righteous brother. And this has the operation of separating that brother from them. Joseph is estranged from the scene of the promised and covenanted inheritance and is a pilgrim and a sufferer among a distant people, till he there becomes great and honorable, the second man in the kingdom, on whom by the strong hand of the Lord the whole earth, and his brothers who once hated him and cast him out, became dependent.
I judge that nothing can be more exactly and wonderfully expressive than all this. It is a striking exhibition of the great result-for now we see not the heavens merely or the earth merely, each in its season broken up and made the scene of the divine counsels, or of the hopes and inheritance of the elect, but we see the heavens and the earth together in one great system though in different departments, gathered under one head, a fair and beautiful type of those days of refreshing and restitution, when there shall be, according to this pattern, gathered together in one, all things in Christ, whether they be things on earth or things in heaven.
Joseph is, at first, cast, by the wickedness of them who were the children of the covenants and of the promises, among the Gentiles, among strangers, and then after his sorrows he becomes exalted, and the head and father of a family which yields him such joy that his heart can well afford to forget his kindred in the flesh. He is raised also to be the great depositary and dispenser of those resources on which the whole earth is soon made to depend. This, surely, is Christ in heaven now. This, surely, is the Church taken from among the Gentiles, " the fullness of the Gentiles," made the companion, the family, and the joy, of Jesus during the season of his estrangement from Israel. But the world is brought to look to this exalted one, and his brethren who hated him to bow to him and seek his favor. And surely this is Christ on the earth by and by. And this is Israel brought to repentance, and seated in favor and in the richest portion of the land which their exalted brother can bestow on them. And this is the whole world in the days of the kingdom, when the true Joseph will order and settle them according to His perfect wisdom and pleasure, feed them out of His stores, and receive from them, as Joseph did from the Egyptians, a willing and unmurmuring obedience-when the whole world will say, as the believer, the child of wisdom now learns to say, " Our Jesus hath done all things well." And all this will be to the honor of Him who holds the supreme place, as Joseph did all this for Pharaoh's praise, and as every tongue by and by is to confess Jesus Lord, but to the glory of God the Father.
But in the midst of all this earthly honor of Joseph, Asenath and the children are not seen. No lot of ground is appointed for this family of Joseph. Jacob may get Goshen, the fairest and fattest of the land, but Asenath, apparently, gets nothing. Is it that the wife and children were loved less than the father and the brethren? Nay, that must not be, that could not be, in such an one as Joseph. But it is because Asenath and the children are heavenly, and cannot mingle with the interests and arrangements of the earth. Even Goshen would be unworthy of them. They are the family of the Lord of all this scene. They share the house and the constant presence and the closest endearments of him who presides over all this.
Is not this, all things heavenly and earthly gathered into one? Is not this the Church with Jesus, and the nations and Israel at their head with Jesus in their several spheres in the days of the kingdom? Here, surely, the heavens and the earth are heard and seen together, and yet distinctly here.