From Creation to New Creation: A Journey Through Genesis with N.T. Wright

Day 4 of 7 • This day’s reading


Presence – The Lord is in This Place

The theme of God coming to be with his people, joining heaven and Earth together, runs like a golden thread through the book of Genesis, particularly in the patriarchal narratives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though sometimes it appears that they’re a bit confused and not sure how to follow through, God has been working out his purposes. God’s intention, shown in the Creation story, to rule from his throne in Creation is already playing out. God, actually, is already coming to be with the chosen people, though this presence may seem fitful at times.

This is most clear in the story of Jacob, who, by deceiving his father Isaac into giving away Esau’s birthright, breaks the normal patterns by which God conveys the promise to the next generation. Mirroring the Fall, Jacob takes a shortcut to God’s purpose. Yet, God shows up. Three separate times, in fact. In Gen. 28, the first of these appearances, God appears next to Jacob in a dream, a ladder envisaging the right ordering of New Creation. In stark contrast to the tower of Babel, this ladder has traffic flowing in both directions, showing that Heaven and Earth are indeed connected.

The mere fact of God’s presence with Jacob is a sign that the covenant will continue, the promises will come to fruition, and God’s plan will be enacted. It is also a sign of tremendous grace. Even as Jacob lays down the conditions under which he will worship God, God is patient with him and renews the covenant.

Question: Jacob meets with God twice, both under odd circumstances. Reflect on how this is, and isn’t, characteristic of the way God works. Where do you see examples of Grace in Jacob’s story?

Practice Prompt: Wrestle with the inspirational and problematic passages in this section of scripture. Abram sells his wife out (twice!), misuses, and then abandons Hagar. Jacob steals the birthright from Esau. What do you do with these difficult passages? Reflect on Jacob’s example of wrestling with God.