Genesis Refreshed My COVID-Fatigued Heart
By Boon Jin
When I sat down to start on this piece for the church blog, I was determined to steer away from writing on anything COVID-related. I am not sure about others, but I resented what that smallest of microbes had done to the world. Even to type the name of the virus was a breakthrough for me as I have tried to eliminate its existence (albeit deluded wishful thinking) by avoiding it in my speech along with words such as “unprecedented event”, “new normal” and, yes, even “thank God for Zoom”. It has killed, immobilised the world, wreaked havoc and chaos and it has been intrusively disruptive. As a field worker in missions, I was re-called home when the virus infiltrated the community, much to my reluctance and, if I may be candid, anger.
Yet, it was during this time that God’s word spoke so much louder and clearer, especially through the book of Genesis. Therefore, on second thought, I now think I should and want to give thanks to God, to testify His goodness in speaking through His word during this period. If He had not spoken, I know for certain that discouragement would have set in and impaired any useful service to Him.
Initially, I followed the developments with intensity, hoping each day to hear news of the easing of the measures put in place to cope with the spread of the virus. I waited longingly for the lifting of any movement control orders at the mission field. Instead, all I got were announcements that the deadlines to lift these measures were being pushed back again and again. My hopeful anticipation turned into restlessness and disappointment.
Genesis’ truths that eased My Restlessness
One of the key lessons from Genesis that eased this restlessness is God’s great faithfulness and His powerful sovereign control of human history and in the lives of man. When He mercifully promised that He will send the seed of the woman to crush the devil, He kept true to His word. The next few chapters in Genesis seemingly present a very bleak picture of humankind–the heinous murder of blood brother, the death of generations in the genealogy in Genesis 5, the world-wide destruction by a flood and the rebellion at Babel. These are truly unprecedented events in primeval history of the world (all other events are recurring ones). In contrast to these unsettling events, we are gently given a glimpse of how God kept His word to save man–He provided Cain a refuge as he fled, Enoch was taken rather than having to go through death, Noah and his family’s lives were preserved amid the flood, and the rebels were scattered throughout the world in fulfilment of God’s command to fill the earth.
Genesis slows down from the twelfth chapter to spotlight the patriarchs and God’s faithfulness at a personal level. All the recorded events of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s life are pretty much messed up. The narrative of each episode reads like a drama script that leaves the audience at the edge of their seats. It is gripping and totally relatable because the characters constantly endeavour to change their plight or circumstances, such as when Laban cheated Jacob by taking away the rare striped and speckled flock which Jacob asked for as his wages to deprive the flock shepherded by Jacob the necessary gene pool to produce what Jacob had asked for. Laban brought fraud to a new level that even Jacob, a deceiver himself, could not match. Through Jacob’s angry outburst at Laban in Genesis 31:36-42, we know that life in Laban’s house was very hard and miserable for Jacob.
However, God always has the final say as He reigned in all events to fulfil His covenant with Abraham. Jacob nevertheless prospered when he went back to Canaan with not only his many God-given descendants but also as a man blessed by God. We know it is the hand of God because Jacob’s logic-defying genetics programme to breed striped and speckled flocks would have gotten a PhD candidate dropped from the roll if that was his thesis. By Jacob’s own admission to his wives, he recognised that God was the one who intervened (Genesis 31:9-13).
“Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me. And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.” - Genesis 31:9-13
Jacob had no doubt that it was never his ingenuity as a shepherd of flock for the 20 years he was with Laban. In fact, Jacob acted upon God’s word and it was the wisest strategy against Laban because God is a faithful God.
Before Jacob became Laban’s son-in-law, at a low point of Jacob’s life and when he was all alone, God let Jacob in on His sovereign plan in an awesome dream (Genesis 28:10-22). This was the first record of Jacob’s encounter with God. In it, God reiterated almost word for word what He had said to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. More than that, the visual projection of the ladder led Jacob’s eyes from earth to the gate of heaven. The covenant with the patriarch will find its ultimate fulfilment in our Lord Jesus Christ when He said to Nathanael in John 1:51 (ESV), “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Our Lord Jesus is man’s only way to heaven. He is whom all events, all things and all endeavours will lead to.
God is Sovereign and Faithful
Seeing God’s sovereignty afresh through Genesis has brought much-needed rest and encouragement of the heart and soul. God has saved and continues to save those who are His in Christ. None of what has gone on for the past eight months will miss the target of God’s plan to save man’s soul in Christ. Though my ministry plans were impeded by the microbe, I am reminded that God’s plan is not and will never be thwarted. God is faithful.
The very vaccine we need is God’s word. After this disaster, something else will come—it may be something worse and we will be scrambling for solutions again. While we need to persevere to resolve the current issue and issues that come our way, only the words of an unchanging and loving God will keep us going, wave after wave. All thanks and praise to the Lord!