~ Click on this link for today's readings ~
Genesis 3:1-4:26 ~ Matthew 2:13-3:6
Psalm 2:1-12 ~ Proverbs 1:7-9
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Old Testament - Today in Genesis chapters 3 and 4 we read about The Fall and Cain, Abel, and Seth. Chapter 3 is one of the foundational chapters of the Bible to understand. From this chapter our history goes forward with sin passed on to every man and woman through the seed of Adam. This sets the stage for God's pursuit of men and women in Genesis, followed by the Exodus from Egypt, the Laws, the judges, the kings, the prophets - and finally the final solution to The Fall - the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. (ultra-Cliff Notes here...) It is through belief in Jesus and God's grace that we are saved from what began here in Genesis chapter 3. Below is a portrait by Guy Rowe of Adam and Eve with the serpent in today's readings -
In verses 1 through 4 in today's readings we are first introduced to the devil in the Bible, who clothes himself as a snake. The devil is often referred to as the "great deceiver", and in this chapter you can see why. I think an important thing for us to realize today is that the devil continues to work in our world. He continues to deceive men and women. And, unfortunately, he is good at what he does. I have a hunch that probably a few people reading this blog do not believe in the existence of the devil. I will admit that early in my Christian walk, I did not believe in the devil's existence. However - thankfully, I was discipled by a godly man who counseled me through Bible passages that prove his existence - chapter 3 of Genesis certainly being one. In fact, one interesting thing my friend said to me at this early stage of my Christian walk was this - "The devil's greatest trick is to make you think that he does not exist." This is a very powerful statement. Please consider it. Why would this be his greatest trick? Because if you believe there is no devil, then you may believe there is no evil, and you then may believe that there is really no sin or nothing you can do wrong, and then you may come to believe that there is no moral code. You see the slippery slope of not acknowledging and realizing the existence of the devil and evil?
The other problem of not realizing the existence of the devil or evil is that you can more easily be tempted and enslaved to bad habits and sins. So - I know I'm going on quite a bit here about this point - I just want to encourage you to ask yourself - do you believe in the existence of the devil? Do you believe in the existence of evil? Of temptation? Of sin? There is a remedy and solution to protect and keep you from all of this - and that is Jesus. But, it's possible that you may not run into the loving and saving arms of Jesus if you don't believe in the devil or evil. (As the band Switchfoot sings on their latest CD - "the shadow proves the Sunshine...") Second to last point - a book that did help open my eyes in a big way to existence of evil in our world today is Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness". It is a Christian book and one that I believe will really bring home the seriousness of evil and temptation in our world today. You may want to check it out if you have questions on all of this. Also, C.S. Lewis, in the intro to his incredible book about evil and temptation in our lives called "The Screwtape Letters", writes this - "There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight." A great quote... and a great reminder to not have an excessive nor unhealthy interest in the devil or evil - this is of course extremely dangerous! And the bottom line is of course to turn your eyes and gaze toward God and Jesus for ultimate protection - and I do believe reading the Bible each day is one of the best ways to do exactly this.
In verses 12 and 13 we see Adam and Eve passing the buck on why they sinned. Check out Adam's words in verse 12 - ""but it was the woman you gave me who brought me the fruit, and I ate it." At first glance you might think that Adam is just blaming Eve in this verse, but note that he is also blaming God! "the woman YOU gave me..." Adam was blaming God and Eve - anybody but himself. How often do we do this in our lives? Blame others for our mistakes? Should we do this when we are praying or confessing our sins to God?
Verse 15 is a prophetic verse that carries forward to Jesus - "From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her offspring will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."" This last sentence refers to Jesus ultimately defeating the devil through his life, death on the cross, and resurrection. If you recall in the movie, The Passion of the Christ, at the very beginning of the movie Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and the devil is speaking to him. Trying to deceive him - remember, "the great deceiver." And out of the devil's robe comes a snake that slithers toward Jesus. What does Jesus do? Gets up and crushes the snake! I immediately thought of this verse 15 when I saw that in the movie! A great metaphor for Jesus' triumph over evil on the cross. (keep in mind that the snake scene in the movie in the Garden of Gethsemane is not found in scripture - just a cool imaginative movie twist I think!)
In Genesis chapter 4 we read about the first murder of humankind - Cain killing his own brother Abel in a premeditative way. This is a clear demonstration of The Fall and how sin lives in the hearts of men and women - and can only be redeemed and forgiven today through faith in Jesus and through God's grace. Many of you probably asked yourselves, why didn't God look with favor on Cain's offering? Commentaries I've read suggest that Cain's offering was a careless or thoughtless offering whereas Abel's offering was a choice or generous offering. And God saw the motivation and heart attitude of both men as they brought their offering. It seems that God is looking straight into Cain's heart as he says this in verses 6 & 7 - "Why are you so angry?" the LORD asked him. "Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it." That is a scary thought - sin waiting to attack and destroy. In the NIV it translates "sin is crouching at your door." Let us be watchful and prayerful to not be overtaken by sin, but to respond correctly to the grace and strength given us through Jesus. Below is a modern image by an anonymous artist of Cain just after killing Abel (do you see the contrast of light & dark - powerful image to consider) -
In chapter 4 verse 19 polygamy enters history - "Lamech married two women--Adah and Zillah." Polygamy clearly went against God's divine intention of monogamy in Genesis chapter 2:24 - "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." God's original plan early on in the Bible is monogamy in marriage. We will see many cases of polygamy this year as we read through the One Year Bible - this is humankind thwarting God's will - which we will also see in many ways throughout our readings this year. I think sometimes we can get hung up on the "strange stuff" we read about in the Bible - but one important point to make is this - The Bible records both God's will and teachings, and man's sin. So if we happen to read about man's sin in the Bible, as we do here in verse 19 with Lamech's polygamy, please don't confuse this with this being God's will. It's man's sin. And we'll see this again in the Bible - fortunately we have a loving God who sent his son, Jesus, to save us from our sins. Heavy that they are...
New Testament - In Matthew today we read about The Escape to Egypt, The Return to Nazareth, and John the Baptist Preparing the Way. 2 things jumped out at me in Joseph's behavior in today's readings. In verse 13 an angel tells Joseph to "get up and flee to Egypt" - and Joseph responds by leaving THAT NIGHT with the family, as we see in verse 14. That's beautiful obedience. Then, in verse 21 we see Joseph respond similarly when he is told by an angel to return to Israel - he leaves with the family "immediately." I like this - Joseph is acting obediently to God's will in his life - and he is acting pronto! He's not sitting around worrying or fretting or thinking that he'll get to it tomorrow. He goes that night! He returns immediately! Can we learn from Joseph's amazing obedience in these readings? Is God calling us to do something in our lives that we are hemming and hawing about? Is God calling us to forgive someone? To love someone? To serve someone? To encourage someone? Will we be like Joseph and obey God's call for our life immediately? Since we've turned the new year, I hope you don't mind if I post up my favorite image demonstrating amazing obedience below... :) Do you have obedience like this when it comes to God's will for your life?
Today in Matthew chapter 3 we are introduced to John the Baptist! I don't know exactly what it is about John the Baptist - but I love reading about him and his life. He is just on fire for God and Jesus and he is encouraging others to get on fire too! I guess I like that in a person. :) Another thing about John is that he is so focused on his mission to call others to repentance and to baptize them, that he really does not care about worldly things - like how he looks or what he wears or what he eats. None of that really matters to him. It is the message of the coming of Jesus that matters to him. Very cool. Maybe it is verse 4 that really stands out to me about John - "John's clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey." I think this is really saying that John lived a simple life. He did not "major in minor things" - he "majored in the major thing" - Jesus! Is there something we can learn from John the Baptist in our lives today? Are we perhaps focusing too much on things of this world and not enough on God and Jesus? Are we truly loving God and loving people like John did? Or are we spending our life "majoring in minor things"? Will we instead "major on the major thing" that John is calling us to even today - complete passion and love for God, Jesus, and other people?
Psalms - Psalm 2 today is a prophetic and Messianic Psalm. This Psalm is frequently quoted in the New Testament in reference to Jesus as God's Anointed and the great son of King David. The word "Messiah" comes from the Hebrew word for "anointed one". And the word "Christ" comes from the Greek word for "anointed one". (as we read Anointed One in verse 2 of this Psalm today)
Verses 11 & 12 in this Psalm are encouraging and also a strong warning for us at the same time- "Serve the LORD with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God's royal son, or he will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of your pursuits--for his anger can flare up in an instant. But what joy for all who find protection in him!" I think the closing sentence should be a huge encouragement to us. If we are seeking to love God and Jesus and other people with all of our hearts, mind, strength and souls - God knows it. And he will provide eternal protection for us. Yes, there will be suffering in this life - but joy can be found in knowing that we will have an eternity to spend with God and his royal son.
Proverbs - I read that Proverbs chapter 1 verse 7 is basically the foundational mission statement for the entire book of Proverbs. So, I guess we ought to pay attention to this one! "Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline." What does this proverb say to you? Do you believe we should fear God? Zondervan's NIV Study Bible defines this fear of God as "a loving reverence for God that includes submission to his Lordship and to the commands of his words." Do you believe that fear of God is the beginning of knowledge in our lives? Will you embrace wisdom and discipline in your life? Will you make wisdom and discipline top priorities in your life in this new year of 2006?
What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up in the Comments section below!