M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 9

Today’s Bible readings are from Genesis 9-10, Matthew 9, Ezra 9 and Acts 9.

Genesis 9-10 are about Noah’s sons and the “table of nations.”  After the flood, Noah and his sons were blessed by God, told they could now eat meat (and I assume until then everyone, including animals, were vegetarians), and that they were to hold the blood precious.  They should neither drink the blood of animals or shed the blood of man.

Verse 6 is where we get the idea for capital punishment…

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Genesis 9:6)

God promises that He will never again bring a global flood upon the earth, testified to by the rainbow (Genesis 9:8-17).

An introduction to the nations is given in vv. 18-19

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

and then the sin of Ham occurs (Genesis 9:20-29).  Noah gets drunk, Ham sees his nakedness and told his brothers.  They cover his nakedness without looking.  Ham is cursed and Shem and Japheth are blessed.  Then Noah dies.

Genesis 10 records the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem.  Here is a genealogical table (genealogical table of the descendants of noah, lambert dolphin) and here is a map.

This map is from Martin Luther.

Here is another map from Bible History Online…

Image result for table of nations

Significant to Genesis 11 and the tower of Babel is this description of one of the sons of Ham…

8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD.  Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Matthew 9 is a collection of miracles performed by Jesus, which often raised the ire of the Pharisees and they frequently challenged him.  Does he have the authority to forgive sins? (9:1-8)  Why do you associate with sinners? (9:9-13)  Then a question from his own disciples (9:14-17), followed by three healing miracles (9:18-31) and casting out a demon (9:32-33), at which the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (9:34).

This chapter ends by noting Jesus’ compassion and His desire for His disciples to take notice of the potential harvest of souls…

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

In Ezra 9 Ezra is confronted with the situation of Israelites intermarrying with Canaanites.  The issue is not inter-racial marriage, but the reality that marrying Canaanites had historically proven to be deadly to one’s spiritual life and devotion to the one true God.

Ezra prays a prayer of confession, noting Israel’s guilt and God’s grace throughout their history, and even now.  I love what he says in verse 13, that You “have punished us less than our iniquities deserved…”  In the face of such mercy, dare we break Your commandments again???

Acts 9 recounts the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  Since chapters 1-12 are basically the story of Peter, this scene with Paul is merely an interlude.  Peter’s story is resumed in 9:32-43, preparing us for chapters 10-11 and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles.

The gospel to Saul was simply,

4b “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Apparently Saul already knew enough about Jesus to put 2 and 2 together, for as soon as he regained his sight, he argued that Jesus was the Son of God everywhere he went!

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.