The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis by Nancy Guthrie (Mom’s Bookshelf)

If you’ve read my blog for long, you’ll know that I like to beat the drum for the importance of the continuity of Scripture: how it’s absolutely essential to see it as one story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation rather than a series of disconnected events, stories and writings.

 I usually mention this in relation to how we teach our children about the Bible, but it’s equally important for us as adults to grasp. That’s why I’m so excited about a new Bible study series by Nancy Guthrie called Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. I’ve been working my way through the first book, The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis, and I’m very impressed!

The book is designed to be used as a ten-week study. The weeks in this study are:

  • The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24)
  • Creation (Genesis 1:1-2:3)
  • The Fall (Genesis 2:4-3:24)
  • Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6-9)
  • The Tower of Babel (Genesis 10:1-12:3)
  • Abraham (Genesis 12-15)
  • Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 16-24)
  • Jacob (Genesis 25:19-35:21)
  • Joseph (Genesis 37-50)
  • The Sons of Jacob (Genesis 29-30, 34-35, 38-39, 48-49)
Each week (except the first week) begins with a “Personal Bible Study” section that guides the reader through the passage for the week with questions, charts, and related Scripture passages. For those short on time, the most crucial questions are marked with a clock symbol. This is followed by the meat of the study, called the”Teaching Chapter”. Ms. Guthrie has a gift for expressing herself that makes this section a real feast for the soul. She’s able to tie every passage in to the larger storyline of redemption in an understandable, insightful, and incredibly edifying way. Each teaching chapter closes with a short section on”How Genesis Points to What is Yet to Come”, which further points to the continuity of the story, and shows how foundational the book of Genesis is to all the major themes of Scripture.

The study begins, appropriately, with a discussion of the story of Jesus and the disciples on the Emmaus Road:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

The goal isn’t just to pick out specific prophecies and promises of Jesus, though:

More profoundly, the whole of the Old Testament was designed by God to provide a context within which we can understand the necessity of the suffering and the certainty of the glorification of Christ. In fact, without the Old Testament foundation of fall, curse, law, sacrifice, temple, priesthood, and salvation, then the cross, resurrection, and glorification of Christ would make little sense. (p. 19)

What I believe about the importance of understanding the “big picture” is so eloquently expressed here that I’ll quote it at length:

As Jesus worked his way through the writings of Moses and the prophets, he didn’t merely point out specific prophecies that he fulfilled, which is what my understanding of how the Old Testament points to Christ has been limited to for most of my life (i.e., that he would be born in Bethlehem and that he would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey). And he didn’t use Old Testament characters or situations as examples to instruct the two disciples on how to live the life of faith, which is how many of us have always heard the Old Testament taught.

It is doubtful that he turned to the story of Noah and began teaching them that they needed to obey God even when it meant going against the crowd. More likely he turned to the story of Noah, the one whose name means rest, and said, “Hide yourself in me like Noah and his family hid themselves inside the ark and were saved from the judgment.” He didn’t turn to the story of Abraham offering Isaac and tell these disciples that they needed to be willing to give up what is most precious to them for their God. Instead, perhaps he said something like, “See how this father was willing to offer up his only son as a sacrifice? Can you see that this is what my Father did when I was lifted up on the cross?” He didn’t turn to the story of Joseph to teach them that they should flee temptation. More likely he said something like, “Remember how Joseph became the one person that everyone in the world came to for food in the famine? That’s me. I am the bread of life, the one to whom all men and women must come to find life. 

Jesus didn’t work his way through Genesis to point out what we must do for God, but to help us see clearly what God has done for us through Christ.  

As we read the Old Testament, we don’t want to merely make observations about the behavior of the godly and godless and then try harder to be like the godly and less like the godless. Instead, we must realize that there are no true heroes in the Old Testament. No one is perfectly and persistently pleasing to God-the judges aren’t strong enough, the kings aren’t good enough, the prophets aren’t clear enough, and the priests aren’t pure enough. 

The Old Testament serves to point out our cavernous need for a better law keeper, a better judge, a better prophet, a better priest, a better king. Jesus must have looked Cleopas and his companion in the eyes that day, and said, “That’s me. I’m the one the whole of the Old Testament points to. I’m the one God intended to send all along.” 

The Old Testament is an uncompleted story, a promise waiting for it’s fulfillment. And Jesus is that fulfillment. (p. 19-21)

The subsequent weeks build on this foundation as they go through the text of Genesis from beginning to end, looking at every event through gospel eyes, recognizing Jesus in the people, the promises, the stories, the symbols, and the shadows.

Even though the study is designed to be done in a group, I’ve been reading through it myself and very much enjoying it! I’m finding it truly rich and edifying, and in a group with discussion I’m sure it would be even more so.

Individually, with just a couple of friends, or in a small group or Sunday school class, this study won’t fail to have an impact. I highly recommend it and can’t wait to dive into the next volume, The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books , which releases in February. I’ll share my thoughts on it once I’ve had an opportunity to look at it. 

Thanks so much to Crossway for providing a review copy of this book to me. All opinions are my own.

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