Week 1 March 31, 2020
Tomorrow, we begin again! I’m so glad to have all of you joining me on this journey.
As I said previously, I’m going to try to set the stage for you each week of what is upcoming, instead of reflecting on what we already read.
What we are reading this week (starting tomorrow):
• Genesis 1-7 • Isaiah 1-7 • Psalms 1-7 • Matthew 1-7
I have a new resource that I just added, but you probably already saw it: a timeline of Biblical events and persons. Of course, many of these dates are not known exactly, but at least it gives a big picture, and is especially valuable in seeing the connection and time windows between major events and characters. I hope it’s helpful to you in some degree.
Here is our first week:
Notes on Genesis:
Creation comes first, of course. Compare John 1.1 with Genesis 1.1. We often do that when studying John, but now is a good time to do this. Find the Trinity in the first two verses. There are few places where we see all three together, but this is definitely one of them!
We are going to travel over a thousand years in the first week in this book. We start with creation. Notice how many times the phrase “after its own kind” shows up in chapter one.
One of the deep frustrations of evolutionary scientists is that we have no direct evidence of any species turning into another. All we have is a lot of conjecture and a lot (and by that, I mean trillions) of missing pieces.
Notice how many things are initiated in the opening chapters: Life, marriage, work, sin/redemption plan. Find some more.
Notice that God gives man a job before he gives him a wife. And the oldest profession is gardening, not that other thing.
Chapter four: The very first person born murders the second. And so it begins.
Chapter five: The first of many genealogies. These are important, because there needs to be a human connection via birth from Eve to the Messiah, per the promise given in 3.15.
Three chapters (6-8) are given to the flood and Noah’s story. I would love to get some feedback from all of you about this amazing account.
Notes on Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is perhaps the most prominent of the prophetic books. Isaiah’s tenure spanned the reign of four of Judah’s kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (1.1). Three of the four were for the most part godly and wise kings, Ahaz being the exception. Hezekiah (my favorite OT character) was one of if not the very best of the kings of Judah.
It was during Hezekiah’s tenure that the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. His faith will seem more remarkable when you realize just how isolated Judah would have become.
In spite of these godly kings, throughout Isaiah God is pleading with obstinate, stiff-necked people who would not listen to him. He even refers to them, metaphorically, as Sodom and Gomorrah (1.9).
The Lord makes the remarkable statement that a time comes when he will not even listen to our prayers anymore! See 1.15. Before this, the Lord makes it clear that sacrifices from cold hearts mean nothing to him whatsoever.
The role of the prophet is to give people God’s word to them. Sometimes this means giving prophecies about future events, but often is simply the current rebuke from the throne of God to his people. Isaiah has much to say on both sides. He also often sprinkles in many Messianic prophecies.
In 3.1-3, impending doom for Judah and her capitol Jerusalem are threatened. As they watched the demise of the northern kingdom, you would think they would take this seriously.
The Branch of the Lord in chapter four is the Messiah.
Notice the similarity between the song of the vineyard at the beginning of chapter five with Jesus’ parable in Mark 12.1-7.
Isaiah is given a most overwhelming vision as he is commissioned at the opening of chapter 6. This gives us a rare picture into heaven itself.
The difficulty of being a prophet is clearly laid out: “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.”
In other words, tell them what I tell you to tell them; but realize that they won’t listen!
In chapter seven, Isaiah prophesies to the hardhearted King Ahaz. But he delivers some of the most powerful and significant Messianic promises of all: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (7.14).
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!
Psalm 2 is Messianic (many of David’s psalms are), and speaks to the presumptive power of the kingdoms of this world.
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.
Notes on Matthew
Matthew is a gospel written for the Jew. We see continual read “so was fulfilled”, referring back to Old Testament prophecies. He uses the term “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” (the only gospel writer who does so) in deference to the Jews, who were hesitant to use God’s name out of respect and fear. The words “God” and “heaven” were used interchangeably in those days.
The book of Matthew of all the gospels is the least chronological. That is, many of the stories are not in order of date of when they happened. Of course, the birth of Jesus, the appearance of John the Baptist and Jesus’ temptation came first, and the cross and resurrection came at the end. But the rest of it is ordered differently. For example, he grouped ten of Jesus’ miracles together in chapters eight and nine.
The gospel opens with a genealogy to establish the connection back to Abraham (and implied back to Eve) to show Jesus’ royal and Jewish heritage, along with the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis we discussed earlier.
We read of the terrible Herod and the visit of the Magi, accounts we do not find in the other gospels. John the Baptist is introduced, but we find this introduction in all four gospels. It’s good to put them all together and see what Matthew brings uniquely to the table.
We find the account of Jesus being tested in the wilderness, and the beginning of his ministry in chapter four. Matthew ties this back to the prophecy of Isaiah 9. Jesus calls the fisherman in verses 18-22, but this was not the first time they met. Their initial meeting is found in John 1.35-42.
We find the Sermon the Mount in chapters 5-7. This is the first major section that is out of chronological order. This teaching was perhaps a year to a year and a half into his three-year ministry. Again, I would really like to get some of your thoughts on these chapters.
Here is a question to ponder. In 5.38, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” This is actually found in three places in the Old Testament law: Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. Is Jesus somehow suggesting that this is a bad law?
I would suggest taking some serious time to reflect on the words of chapters five, six, and seven. This is one of the longest unbroken teachings we have from Jesus, and as well-known as they may be to us, they are so powerful that they need a regular re-reflection, if that’s a word.
Be blessed as you read this week and begin the journey again!