M’Cheyne Bible Reading January 4

Today’s Bible readings come from Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4 and Acts 4.

Genesis 4 is about Cain’s sin (4:1-8), judgment (4:9-15) and progeny (4:16-24), with a final statement (of hope) about Adam and Eve’s third son Seth (4:25-26).

This reminds me of a joke that Marcus Herod made a couple of Christmas ago: “How long was Cain mad at his brother?  As long as he was Abel.”

Why did God not receive Cain’s offering?  We know from Hebrews that Abel’s offering was “by faith” (Hebrews 11:4).  Was it because Abel followed God’s lead in killing an animal as a substitute for himself, acknowledging how serious sin was, whereas Cain’s offering was a nonchalant view of sin.

For further reading:

The Offering of Abel__A History of Interpretation, Jack P. Lewis (JETS)

Cain and His Offering, Bruce K. Waltke (WTJ)

Notice the image of temptation in verse 7: when we don’t do what is right, sin crouches at the door ready to spring on us.  Sin doesn’t lie passively waiting for us to pick it up and try it on.  No, it is always crouching right outside the door.  We let sin in and entertain it.

[For an alternative understanding of Genesis 4:7, one which I just received today among the blogs I subscribe to, is one by David Schrock.

‘sin crouching at the door’ or ‘a sin offering at the gate’__michael morales on genesis 4 7, david schrock]

Cain was a whiner (v. 13-14) and God had mercy on him (v. 15).  While he complained that he would be driven from God’s presence, his real fear was in being killed.  That is shown by Cain going away from God’s presence (v. 16).

Years ago, I heard Bill Gothard say that “what parents do in moderation, their children will do in excess.”  This was certainly true of Lamech (v. 24).  By the way, that is not always true, but generally so.

Unlike Cain and Israel, Jesus was doing everything right–following the lead of the Spirit and fasting (Matthew 4:1-2).

Matthew 4 shows Jesus successfully dealing with temptation.  Cain failed when sin crouched at the door, Jesus did not.  Again, sin is active, “the tempter came [to him]” (Matthew 4:3).

The use of the first class conditional sentence here by Satan, “If you are the Son of God” means that Satan was not casting doubt on whether Jesus was the Son of God, rather Satan was trying to get Jesus to illegitimately use his sonship, to abuse it.  He was trying to get Jesus to act independently of His Father, to pursue a crown without a cross.  He was prompting Jesus to prove Himself in the wrong ways.

Jesus succeeded against Satan, unlike Eve and Adam, and Israel, unlike the best of us.

Was it a legitimate offer, Satan promises to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (vv. 8-9).  I believe it was.  Under God’s authority, Satan is the “god of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air,” so he can legitimately promise power, prestige and possessions.  Of course, Jesus will eventually reign over all the earth, a promise made by His Father (Psalm 2), but the path to the crown lead through the cross.

When Jesus began to preach, he picked up on the same theme John the Baptist was preaching on (compare 3:2 with 4:17)–“repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Ezra 4 records outside opposition to the rebuilding of the temple.  First, outsiders desired to join with the returned exiles, to help them rebuild the temple.  Me, I would have accepted their help.  But Zerubbable and Jeshua had more discernment than I, of the true motives of these people.

Being rebuffed by the leaders in Jerusalem, they trumped up charges against them and brought them before the king of Persia, thus stopping the rebuilding of the temple.  The prophet Haggai’s ministry occurs at this juncture, rebuking the people for building their own homes when God’s house lay unfinished (Haggai 1).  Zechariah’s ministry also occurred during this time. (Preview of coming attraction: Ezra 5 shows the people resuming the work and finishing the temple.)

Acts 4 shows that Peter, who had cowered before the servant girl only a few months before, stood bravely before the very group that had sentenced Jesus with blasphemy and called for His crucifixion, and proclaimed Jesus.  What made the difference?  The filling of the Spirit (see Acts 4:31).

The religious leaders were amazed at the boldness of Peter and John (Acts 4:13).  I love what is said about them.  They were uneducated, common men, but they had “been with Jesus,”  That is our primary qualification for ministry–that it is obvious to others that we have been with Jesus, spent time in His presence, learning from Him.

Notice that miracles cannot be denied (Acts 4:16).  They were the way that God established the apostolic message as truth.

While the religious leaders couldn’t hold them (due to their popularity), they commanded them to stop preaching Jesus.  While Peter said, we cannot but speak about what we have seen and heart, when they returned to their brethren, they prayed that God would “grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).  That is certainly what we need today–boldness to speak.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 3

Today’s reading is from Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3 and Acts 3.

Genesis 3 recounts the fall of mankind into sin.  I find it interesting that the temptation, which involved the lust of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and pride of life (1 John 2:16) said,,,

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (3:6)

That description of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is almost exactly like every other tree in the garden.  Genesis 2:9 said…

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

So all the trees were pleasant to look at and good for food.  The only difference is that the name of the tree and Satan’s temptation, offered to “make one wise.”  Isn’t it amazing that Adam and Eve had access freely eat of any tree of the garden, and they were all beautiful and delectable…and they chose the ONE tree God about which said, “Keep out”?

Satan’s temptation was first to question God’s word (3:1, “did God actually say…?”), then directly denied the truth of God’s word (3:4, “You will not surely die”), then Satan questions God’s goodness, spinning it as if God was withholding something from them.  This “something” would make them like God, independent of God.

Why would Eve want to know “evil” (3:5)?  She had never experienced it before and possibly had no idea what it was.  Up until that moment, she had never known anything but “good.” Possibly again it was the idea that God was withholding something from her, the belief that ultimately God wasn’t good.

Of course, all the consequences, immediate and long-term, were negative.  First, their eyes were opened (to evil) and they saw that they were naked (cf. 2:25), but now for the first time they felt shame and tried to cover themselves.  We all attempt to hide, being ashamed of what we’ve done and who we are.

The second response to their newly experienced sinfulness and falleness was to hurl blame upon one another–Adam to Eve and Eve to the serpent.  Each of them was at fault, so each was judged.

The proto-evangelium (first gospel), and the reality that history from then on would be filled with spiritual warfare, is found in Genesis 3:15…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Here God says that in the perpetual battle between Satan and the women (and her offspring), Satan will gain seeming victories, but will ultimately and completely be defeated by her offspring–Jesus Christ.

Verses 20-21 offer hope in the midst of judgment.  Adam still called his wife Eve, the “mother of all living,” even though their actions brought death into the world.  Also, God provided them a new, and better, covering, the skin of an animal requiring death (thus initiating the reality that a living substitute would have to die for sins to be pardoned).  Was this animal a “pet” of Adam and Eve, one well-known and precious to them, as the ultimate sacrifice would be to God the Father??

Matthew 3 is about the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus.  I’m always reminded when I read of the Father’s affirmation of his son here in Matthew 3:17 (and add Matthew 17:5) we get a composite statement, “This is my beloved Son, with who, I am well pleased.  Listen to him.”  Every son needs his father to regularly tell him:  “I love you.  I am proud of you.  You do ___________ well.”  I believe I first heard this from Robert Lewis in his Authentic Manhood course.  Dads, take a moment to write to your son(s) and tell him these three things, even if they are adults.  Then do it regularly.

The first part of Ezra is about the rebuilding of the temple.  According to Ezra 3:1-6 the returned Israelites were offering all the offerings, but the temple of the Lord “was not yet laid.”  When the foundation was laid (3:10), they worshiped (3:11).  However, some of the “old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid.”  They compared Solomon’s temple with this puny temple and couldn’t help grieving.  Did they grieve over their sins which had caused Solomon’s temple to be destroyed, or were they grieving simply because the glory of this temple (and therefore their prestige as a nation) was so meager in comparison?

Acts 3 is about the healing of the lame man (3:1-11) and Peter’s sermon (3:12-).  The healing of the lame man resulted in “And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (3:10) and the people “came running” to Peter and John.  That is when Peter preached the gospel to them.  This is why I say that gifts like healing, miracles and tongues were given to (1) arrest people’s attention (wonder and amazement, running to listen) and (2) attest to the authenticity of this “new” gospel.

Notice the interesting juxtaposition in Acts 3:15 of the title “Author of life” referring to Jesus, whom “you killed” but whom “God raised from the dead.”

 

M’Cheyne Bible Reading January 2

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 2, Matthew 2, Ezra 2 and Acts 2.

In the narrative in Genesis 2:18-23 it is God who identifies Adam’s need for a companion.  But before God meets that need, he helps Adam to feel that need by giving him the task of naming the animals.  As they came before him he would doubtless notice that many of them had companions according to their kind.  But he did not.  No animal matched him, until…

It is tempting to preach only to people’s felt needs, but like God we must surface other, deeper needs in people’s lives so that they will feel the need and desire a change.

I remember some speaker from the past, likely my Bible College days, who interpreted

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

“Wowza! Dy-no-mite! She’s like me, but different!”

The wise men followed a star to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem.  They surmised that it was “his star,” that is, the star of the Messiah, king of the Jews.  Jehovah Witnesses believe that this was Satan’s star, because it identified where Jesus was and Herod wanted to kill him.  While it is true that Herod wanted to kill his competition to the throne, it wasn’t the star, but Herod’s murderous intent that was Satanic.  The wise men were warned by God not to tell Herod this news.  It seems, therefore, that they were led by God all the way–from the east, to Jerusalem, to Bethlehem, then to leave and go home.

If this were Satan’s star, why not lead Herod to Jesus?  Why did he need the wise men?  The star led the wise men to Jesus to worship him.  It was Herod’s hard heart that led him to try to kill Jesus and kill the children (in an effort to kill Jesus).

So why did God bring the wise men (pagans) to Jesus?  Because God had already purposed that Jesus would spend time in Egypt (see the prophecy in 2:15).  The gifts of the wise men prepared them financially to make that trip to Egypt.

And the winner is—the sons of Senaah (Ezra 2:35).  They gathered 3,630 family members to return to Israel.  The loser was the sons of Adonikam (Ezra 2:13).  They didn’t have the least, but they had 666 (bad number).

The early church–Spirit filled, preaching Christ, devoting themselves to the teaching and to one another–and growing (Acts 2).

Bible Reading

Why is it important to read your Bible?

Here are some statistics from Wayne Stiles in his blog from today:

Did you know? Research shows that someone who reads the Bible 4 or more times each week is:

  • 228% more likely to share their faith
  • 407% more likely to memorize scripture
  • 59% less likely to view pornography
  • 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness

There are likely many other benefits as well!