The journey begins again! I’m always excited to begin again. It never gets old.
What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, April 1, 2021):
• Genesis 1-7
• Psalms 1-7
• Isaiah 1-7
• Matthew 1-7
Notes on Genesis The opening of the entire Scripture is foundational to everything. We find a picture of the Trinity in the very first words. In verse one, we read that “In the beginning, God created.” Cross-referencing this with John 1.1, where we see that “the Word was with God and was God” (and Jesus is clearly identified as the Word in John 1.14-15), we have the Father and Son together, with the Spirit referred to hovering above the waters immediately after, in verse two. Finding the three together in Scripture is rare, but each time we find this special collection, it is significant. The word “Trinity” is never used in the Bible. However, the term Godhead appears a few times in the New Testament in certain translations. The name of God used throughout the first chapter is Elohim. In English, if we want to emphasize something, we used the adjective “very.” In Hebrew, however, for emphasis, a word is made plural. So even though the Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God, Elohim—which means “The exceedingly great God”— is plural to emphasize just how exceedingly great God is. And being a plural, there is a veiled inference of the Trinity within the word itself. Some think there is a contradiction between the creation accounts of chapters one and two. Chapter two is simply going back and emphasizing some of the detail of creation. Foundational issues that we find in the opening words of the Bible include: the nature of God (as we have just seen), creation of things that reproduce “according to their kinds” (this phrase used ten times, with no empirical evidence ever since then of one kind of any living organism morphing (evolving) into another-e.g, a fish turning into a bird); human race created as male and female; work (developed before the fall of man, so it’s not a negative); marriage (God gave Adam a job before he gave him a wife!); the fall of man; and the promise of a redeeming Messiah already popping up in 3.15. You may notice that these foundational building blocks of what God put in place for us (creation, marriage, gender, et al) are under unrelenting assault in our day at their very definitions, much less their significance. The rest of the Bible will be God’s plan to bring redemption to the world by first choosing a people for himself (the Hebrews who will become the Jews), to give them his law, his plan, and his promise of a redeemer (Messiah) who would be born into their midst. The lineage and details of the birth of the Messiah would be unfolded, with details leaked here and there, of the one who would become their redeemer and King, as the promise would be refined over hundreds of years until the fulfillment of it all in the birth and life of Jesus. The first Messianic prophecy in the Bible is given to the serpent (Satan) in the Garden of Eden: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (3.15). This was a promise that the conquering Messiah (yet quite undefined and not even named as such) would be born of the human race. Satan would then continually attempt to interrupt and corrupt that plan. We find a major assault in chapter six, when the Nephilim (some kind of angelic beings) were intermarrying with humans. We really know very, very little about the Nephilim. People have long been fascinated with what or whom they might have been, but virtually all of these ideas are simply conjecture. (You can be sure that Russel Crowe’s movie Noah got it completely wrong!) People lived significantly longer before the flood. We can safely assume that the earth’s atmosphere was completely different at that time, and the flood wreaked all kinds of meteorological havoc, altering the living conditions such that the average lifespan would become much shorter. I once knew a guy who told me that back then, they probably counted years by cycles of the moon (months), so a lifespan of 600 years, divided by 12, would be 50; this seemed much more likely, he told me, with obvious pride in his deduction. But I pointed out that they were having children at the age of 70, which would translate to a little under the age of six. I could tell I just shattered a theory that he had apparently been touting for a long time. Notes on Isaiah This is my favorite book in the Bible. Isaiah was a prophet during the reigns of four kings, each the son of the preceding king. The first two (Uzziah and Jotham) followed the Lord faithfully throughout most of their respective tenures, but both fell into sin at the very end. Ahaz, the third, was wicked right out of the gate, and undid most of the spiritual progress of his father and grandfather. He was followed by Hezekiah, my favorite Old Testament character, and a dynamic reformer. Much is written of his reign, and we’ll look at it in detail later. At the point in time of the writing of Isaiah, the divided kingdoms (Israel to the north and Judah to the south) were approaching the judgment of God. The northern kingdom (referred to as Israel or Ephraim in the Old Testament) fell to the Assyrians during the reign of Hezekiah. The kings we read of here (those of the southern kingdom) are the legitimate kings from the tribe of Judah, and will all be part of the lineage of Jesus, the Messiah (see Matthew 1.9). The prophecies of judgment against Judah should have awakened the people to the reality that God meant business after seeing the great fall of their brothers to the north. The people of Judah had sporadic times of repentance and restoration, but as we can see in the opening verses of chapter 1, their sin was deeply ingrained, and it was only a matter of time until they would go down, as well. There is another way to interpret the very familiar words of 1.18: “Come now, let us reason,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” We have traditionally thought about this as a picture of sins being forgiven and wiped away, making us white (clean). But perhaps there is a different message here. In this perspective, if our sins are left unattended, they will turn from red to white, like becoming leprous. If we do not repent, after a while we, like lepers, will no longer see or feel the effects of sin in our lives, becoming completely oblivious to their presence. Just a thought. Notes on Matthew Matthew is one of the three synoptic gospels (along with Mark and Luke), that basically follow the same general storyline of the life of Jesus, whereas John has a totally different approach. Scholars talk about the Q Document, another writing that was used as a pattern that these three gospel writers referred to as they wrote. Of course, it would be awesome to locate this writing. However, some scholars think that the gospel of Mark is actually Q. The uniqueness of Matthew is that it is written primary for the Jew. You will find many more references to the Old Testament prophecies and writings in its pages. Based on what we saw in Genesis, genealogies, though certainly not the top-interest reading of anyone, are nonetheless of critical importance. God promised a deliverer through the human race (and specifically through the Jewish people). An uninterrupted line was required. The genealogical lists in chapter one shows an unbroken line from Adam to Jesus (even though there are some missing names in the list. “The father of” could also imply “grandfather of” or even a larger gap. However, there is direct relation between each name, so the line is indeed unbroken). In chapter one, we have the genealogy of Joseph, who would be Jesus’ legal father, though not biological. To be a legitimate king, Jesus must be from the tribe of Judah on his father’s side. Joseph was. The genealogy we find in Luke 3 is actually Mary’s. We read “Joseph, son of Heli,” in 3.23, but we just saw in Matthew 1.16 that his father is Jacob. The scholars inform us that “son” in Luke should be read as “son-in-law.” There is no Greek word or phrase for “father-in-law”. As a child, I was always intrigued on how Jesus walked up to the seashore, talked for a few minutes, and persuaded these fishermen to abandon their entire lives and follow him (see 4.18-20). This was always used as an example on how we need to follow Jesus immediately. However, you may wonder why they would follow a total stranger. Apparently, no one knew anything at all about Jesus at this point. He could have been a slick-talking ax murderer for all we know. The clues to the answer to this dilemma is actually found in the book of John. In chapter 1 of that gospel, we read about the very first few days of the fisherman disciples meeting Jesus, and it was in another place (see John 1.35-2.2). So this encounter in Matthew was not the first time they had seen Jesus. As a matter of fact, it may have been months or even a year since their first encounter. This was long after the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine. We see the Trinity at Jesus’ baptism in 1.16-17: “As soon as Jesus (SON) was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit (SPIRIT) of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven (FATHER) said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Everything you need for happy and fulfilled life can be found in chapter six: Verse 14: For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. Verses 33-34: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. *** Notes on Psalms The Book of Psalms is divided into five books. Most of the first two are written by David. However, there are many authors throughout its 150 chapters. I like to save reading the psalm of the day for last. It’s like dessert!
You may be surprised to see, however, how many of the psalms are written not as praise, but as complaints or questions emerging from pain and distress. There is great comfort in reading these words from poetic and deeply godly writers who come to grips with God in the midst of life’s troubles.
There are a lot of great places to take to heart and memorize. I will point some of these out as we go. More than simply suggestions, these will be verses that I myself have made a point to memorize.
Psalm 1.1-3 would be the first on this list!
The prefaces of the psalms, when they appear, often give us deep insight into the struggle of the writer. In chapter three, David is fleeing his son Absalom. Here he faces fear, humiliation, loss, and frustration to the max. Read it with all of this in mind.
The remainder of the psalms for this week are other wonderful encounters of David with the Lord through his daily struggles.
The second psalm, which is Messianic, has never been more relevant than today as “the kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed.” No matter how bad things seem to be and how wicked the rulers of this world become as they conspire against the Lord and his people, just remember that God is laughing at their presumption (2.4). Though Psalms is generally considered a book of praise, you will notice that most of the psalms are written in anguish, not simply expressions of praise and worship. In our first six chapters, five of them are written out of distress.