The Narrative Begins

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Genesis, Part 1

The books from Genesis to 2 Kings are sometimes called “Narrative Books.” They narrate the story of God’s relationship with the world from the very beginning until the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of the people to Babylon in 587 BC. By story we do not mean something invented, but rather how events rooted in history and reality were interpreted and transmitted by the people of Israel. These events and their telling are of prime importance because they express the identity of God’s people. Even more, they show us how God acted in the past and how he continues to act in history and in our lives. God doesn’t change. The same God who acted in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and Mary continues to act in our lives. While some aspects of these accounts are strange to us—after all they come from thousands of years ago—a great deal still speaks to us because the same God is involved and human beings share the same human nature. People are people the world over! Though times, places, and circumstances change, God continually seeks out his people and draws them to himself in love. In the accounts of Genesis to 2 Kings we really get to know God, how he acts, and what he is like. Most importantly of all, these accounts are reliable and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Here God continues to speak to us.

There are other reasons, too, for reading these books and the Old Testament in general. Recently Pope Francis wrote of the importance of the Old Testament for understanding the New Testament. The Old Testament helps us understand Christ all the more deeply. Pope Francis recommended the Old Testament as a “priceless source of spiritual nourishment” for us. Sometimes we forget that God continues to speak to us in this way.

When we read the Old Testament stories we are reminded that the main character is the Lord, even when he seems very much behind the scenes. He directs creation, history, and the lives of people. What strikes us most is that God, who created everything in the first place, also cares deeply and personally for every individual human being, however small or poor or forgotten.

After the Lord himself there are two kinds of characters in these narratives, those who make good decisions and those who do not. We learn from these characters, their deeds, their lives, and what happens to them. Sometimes the personalities are central to the story, like Jephthah, Samson, Saul, or David. Often, however, these are not presented to us as models but to demonstrate what should be avoided and to remind us of the importance of obedience to the Lord and his commands. The accounts remind us indirectly that, in the end, it is fidelity to the Lord—even through suffering or trial—that brings