What we are reading this week (beginning Thursday, April 8, 2021):
• Genesis 8-14
• Psalms 8-14
• Isaiah 8-14
• Matthew 8-14
I always like April, because the day of the month tells me where I should be reading every day in each book.
Notes on Genesis
Opening up the ark and stepping out into a brand, new world must have been overwhelmingly exhilarating as well as terrifying. Everything new. Everything else dead and gone. The lay of the land was most likely severely transformed. I personally think the mountains were formed during this storm, and that would have been something to see for the first time!
Birds are significant throughout the Bible. In Jesus’ parables, they were indications of evil (see Matthew 13.4). Yet the Holy Spirit came down descended “like a dove” at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3.16).
In the story of Noah, the raven settled sooner than the dove. This because the raven would have scavenged a carcass. A dove, being a clean animal, would not do this.
Noah had seven pairs of each of the clean animals, so there were plenty to offer in sacrifices without eliminating any species (8.20).
Covenants were common between God and his people. There was normally an altar or some other article built in remembrance. In the case of Noah, God used the rainbow.
You should be familiar with the phrase, “Be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” This was given to Adam, to Noah, and to Jacob.
We find the first genealogy in chapter ten. I always look through these for items of interest that the casual observer would miss.
1. One of Ham’s sons is Egypt. Yes, the nation had a namesake. This has to be the most enduring name of any nation based on someone’s name in world history.
2. Eber, from verse 25, is the name from which we get Hebrew.
Chapter 11 is the Tower of Babel. Things were still pretty primitive at that time. For what it’s worth, Job probably lived somewhere between chapter nine and chapter twelve of Genesis.
We meet Abraham (Abram) for the first time in chapter 12. We never get a clear indication why God chose him (he came from a pagan family), but he was a good choice. Notice the promises given him in the first three verses.
The promise of the Messiah originally given to Adam and Eve in 3.15 is now refined a bit (and will be refined more times as we go). Here, Abraham is given a four-fold promise:
1. He would become the father of a great nation (Israel and the Promised Land).
2. He would become great (No question there. Christians and Jews and Muslims all look to him as a forefather, encompassing a vast majority of the world’s denizens with far more people claiming him that he could have ever possibly imagined living on this planet).
3. God would protect his family, blessing their friends and destroying their enemies (Read your history).
4. All nations would be blessed through him. Here, the man Abraham and his descendants are identified as the family through whom the Messianic line would generate.
A famine drives him to Egypt. Everyone seems to go to Egypt when there is trouble, from Joseph and his brothers to Mary and Joseph; and there are several other instances throughout the Bible, as well.
God blesses Abram and his nephew Lot. They are both blessed so much that they have to separate in chapter 13. Abram gives Lot the choice, and he selfishly chooses the best land for himself… the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Starting in verse 14, God renews and clarifies some of the promises to Abram.
In chapter 14, Abram will bail out Lot from a terrifying experience, before the Sodom and Gomorrah issue.
And we meet Melchizedek in 14.18. He is a fascinating character, but in many ways is more significant in a symbolic than actual way.
Notes on Isaiah Ahaz was one of the wickedest kings of the southern kingdom (Judah). Yet God offered up some of the best Messianic promises during his tenure: The sign of Immanuel, the virgin birth, and the well-worn words of chapter nine: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given… and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
The unusual Hebrew word that Isaiah used for “virgin” has two meanings: a young woman, or the traditional use of a woman who has not had sexual relations. Both meanings are fulfilled: Possibly through Isaiah’s own son Maher-Shalal-Hash-baz; and in Jesus, born of the virgin Mary.
Normally, in a court of law you are looking for eyewitnesses who have heard and seen what happened. However, our senses often have poor reliability (especially when our memory is foggy). And then there are the deep fakes. God tells us in 11.3-4 that he will not judge by what he sees and hears, but will judge with righteousness and justice. He will get it right, and will never be manipulated by false/deceiving evidence or testimony.
In 11.6 we have what I believe is the first prophecy in Isaiah regarding the Millennium. I find this topic particularly fascinating, a one-thousand-year period of time on this planet following the seven-year tribulation after the rapture.
The second coming actually refers not to the rapture itself, but Jesus’ physical return to the earth after the tribulation to rule and reign for this time period. Of course, there are other theories on this, but what I presented is the most well-regarded evangelical position.
In 11.16, a promise is made for those of the northern kingdom who survived the invasion of the Assyrians.
In 13.6, the Day of the Lord is mentioned. Throughout the Old Testament, the Day of the Lord is referred to, sometimes as a day of victory and rejoicing, and sometimes, like here, as a day of judgment and dread. No one really understood at the time what it really was all about. Jesus cleared a lot of the confusion up with his appearance and his teaching.
Chapter 14 gives a most fascinating account of what appears to be a prophetic look at the day when Satan himself enters his eternal reward in hell, being “greeted” by the rulers of this world, who find him much less intimidating and much less powerful than they imagined he would be. See 14.9-20. Notes on Matthew The action is fast and furious. In your reading, do not rush through the gospels. We see in this week’s chapters the full array of Jesus’ ministry on display: healing the sick, casting out demons, calming the storm, teaching, putting up with criticism. Note the references to the Old Testament. Matthew was written to the Jew, and he is documenting Jesus as Messiah throughout. In chapter ten, he sends the disciples out on a test run. It surprises and amazes me that he did this, because these guys were so completely clueless at this time, it seems like they would only be knowledgeable enough to be dangerous. However, we know that Jesus knew what he was doing! In his commissioning of this project in this chapter, he also launches into some end times issues. In chapter 11, John the Baptist is in prison, and is discouraged. Jesus sends him a word of encouragement, and then spends time commending his ministry. John was the only true peer Jesus ever had. Jesus will begin to stir up his enemies. When he claims in 12.6 that he is greater than the Temple, there should be no surprise when we read of plans for his death eight verses later. We find great stretches of teaching here, and we need to hang onto every word. However, Mary and Jesus’ family thought that he had gone off the deep end, and tried to contain him in 12.46-50. The greatest collection of Jesus’ parables are found together in chapter 13. His genius in teaching is on full display, as he uses simple things that everyone understands to explain the magnificent Kingdom of God. John is killed at the opening of chapter 14. If you read all of the gospel accounts of this, you will see that this was very, very hard on Jesus. As he fed the five thousand that day, the crowds were delighted, but he was hurting badly inside. Walking on the water that night, we see the disciples amazed, but Jesus again was dealing with deep pain, and perhaps made this walk to get as far away from others as he could (see Mark 6.48c).
Notes on Psalms Chapter eight is one that you would do well to consider memorizing in its entirety. It’s only nine verses (and two of them are identical!). In 11.5, we read for the only time that I know of in the Bible people that God hates. It says he hates the wicked “with a passion.”
The lostness of mankind and the plan of salvation that was to emerge out of God’s presence (Zion), with allusions to the coming Messiah is found in 14.2-3, 7.