The Genesis stories send a peculiar task: to feel after a spiritual meaning for an unspiritual life. In all of Genesis’ 3,000 words, the name of God appears not twenty times, and even then, mostly as a believer’s boast—but God in Godself does not appear. Therefore, let us ask about an unspiritual life. What is it?
“The holy roller-coaster” is a handle I give to my Old Testament students to set the history of Israel clearly in mind. Spread across some 1500 years, that history has four peaks of great favor separated by three calamities for the whole people. As this undulating wave forms on a blackboard on the first day of class, I often ask my students what the big picture calls to mind. “A roller-coaster” says one. Eventually, from a deeper place, someone says: “My life.”
We are going to hear a number of stories from Genesis in the coming weeks. They tell like one cliff-hanger after another . . . where survival is imperiled. We are old, we are few, they say; we are barren and famished, flanked by enemies, and hating our own brother. Are we going to make it out of here into the future?