Tag Archives: Bible

Matthew 1-5

Things to watch for as you read these chapters.

Monday, January 6, Chapter 1

There is no need to bog down on the genealogical list, but do note that he has three groups of fourteen names.  The number 7 is the number of perfection, representing God.  Fourteen is double perfect.  This tells us a couple of things about Matthew.  He is a bit OCD, wanting everything lined up neatly.  He also uses symbols in his writing.

Further, the list is technically incomplete, telling us that Matthew is not planning to write a slice of history.  He will place events in the order that best fits his overall goal, that is, to prove to Jewish readers that Jesus is the promised Messiah.  In that, he followed the writing style of the day.  Matthew wrote a First Century description of the Messiah, not a Twenty-first Century biography of a man named Yeshua bar Yosef.

The four women listed in the genealogy (before Mary) are of particular interest.  Look them up sometime.

Critics of Christianity attack the virgin birth like the Marines attacking a Pacific island.  Joseph himself had a tough time with it.  Women do not become pregnant spontaneously, nor did Mary.  God made it possible.  That, however, was the easy part for God.  The hard part was getting the Son of God to fit in that human body.

Tuesday, January 7, Chapter 2

The Magi probably visited close to a year after the birth.  The Magi were astrologers from what is now Iran or even India.  It was at the least a six month camel journey.  Also note that Jesus is called a child, not a baby, and that they are in a house.  The words give us valuable details.

Herod was still alive at the time.  We know he died in 4 bc.  We believe Jesus was born in 5 or 6 bc.  If the Magi arrived in 5 bc and if Herod ordered all boys two and under to be murdered, that would fit the time frame neatly.  There are other possibilities about the timing.  As a historian, I like to play with the possibilities.

The visit to Egypt was no accident.  God wanted Jesus to come out of Egypt just as Moses did.  Moses was an early Messiah type, and the Exodus was The Great Event in Jewish History.  Jesus copied many aspects of that experience.

Verses 22-23 tell us that Mary and Joseph did not live in Nazareth before leaving Egypt.

Wednesday, January 8, Chapter 3

John seems to have been a Nazirite, someone dedicated to God.  We can only imagine that from his dress and diet.  A Nazirite would not cut his hair either, like Samson.

Not only does he preach repentance, he openly attacks the religious and Temple leadership, something Jesus did more judiciously.

At Jesus baptism, take note of the word righteousness, a key word in his ministry.  If it was crucial for Jesus, it should be for us as well.

Thursday, January 9, Chapter 4

The temptations came when Jesus was extremely weak.  He was a human.  The cells in his body were screaming for sucrose, without it he would die.  He did not have magical powers.  That is a common misunderstanding.  Sure, he walked on water and raised the dead; or did he?  No.  He walked on water because God supported him.  God raised the dead.  Jesus never took credit for what we call miracles, it was God coupled with Jesus’ faith in God.

Because that faith was so strong in the man, he was able to resist three common temptations that beat the rest of us all too often.  Only when the devil finished did the angels of God come to revive Jesus and prepare him for his ministry.

Repent.  Jesus preached the same message John preached. He started calling disciples and healing the sick, both signs that he is the Messiah.

Friday, January 10. Chapter 5

This is the beginning of the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount.  I consider Chapter 5 one of the most powerful of the New Testament.  It is packed with messages that need years of study.  Do not neglect returning to these chapters again and again.  Use a study Bible and commentaries.  Ask questions.

Verse 3 as an example: we, as Americans, strive for strength, but the poor are blessed by God.  Why?  A blessing can only be given, never earned.  Those who are beaten down in this life, who suffer emotionally, who find life almost unbearable will be blessed by God.  Those who think they have earned the blessing will receive a shock.

Salt has two duties, to purify and to add zest.  And that is our job as Christians.

The rest of the chapter sets Jesus’ teaching apart from the Pharisees.  For them, it was all right to hate someone as long as he did not actually attack him.  Jesus comes along and says that our thoughts are just as destructive.  I have committed murder and all the other sins of the bible.  I cannot avoid going to Hell.  Nothing I do can change that.

That is why God blesses the poor in spirit.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Better A Day In Your Courts

Pharaoh

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a
Matthew 2:13-15,19-23
Psalm 84

 Key verses from each of today’s readings:

For the LORD will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

When churches do the Christmas pageant, we seldom include the run to Egypt.  We like the cozy pictures of the baby in the manger visited by shepherds and astrologers from the East.  We forget that those Easterners told Herod about the birth of the new King.  Herod was so determined to keep his position of power that he murdered several members of his own family, so killing a baby was a no-brainer.  Because the astrologers failed to tell him where the child was, Herod ordered all males two and under executed, believing the future King would be among them.

We cheer that God was able to save Jesus, but are sickened at the loss of so many lives.  If we stop to ask why God didn’t intervene and save all the boys, we miss the point.  The Messiah, Jesus, was the only way for those boys to be saved, and all the rest of us for that matter.

Our lives and deaths in this world will occur with or without God.  Being an adopted child of God gives us no special protection in this world.  It does protect us from death.  Not from dying, from death.  When these bodies surrender to all the bacteria, viruses, insects, animals, fellow humans, and aging, we get new bodies that will never be under attack or wear out.  We will be gathered in as the remnant to spend all of time praising God and living the lives God made us for.

A few verses ahead of the Jeremiah text is:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Word

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7
John 1:1-18
Psalm 147 

In the beginning was the Word.  God spoke the Word and the universe came to be.  God spoke the Word to save humans from their own mistakes.

The Word was given to Solomon and by it he gained great Wisdom.  Wisdom is also the Word.

Proverbs 3:18-20

She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.
By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;
by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

Proverbs 4:6-8

Do not forsake Wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.  Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.

Proverbs 8:22-31

The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.
When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water;
before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills I was given birth,
before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world
I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundry so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was the craftsman at his side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

Jesus is the Word and the Wisdom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1Ou4H4Qig0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YA4vOz5dTw

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

A Little Child Will Lead them

2nd Sunday of Advent 

Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

God gave sight to Isaiah allowing him so see the coming child who will lead all nations, all peoples, into the promised land.  Isaiah saw the child as a descendant of David, son of Jesse.  He saw that the child will rule over a kingdom free of anger, hatred, bitterness, greed, envy, or corruption.  No person will attack another just as the leopard and the goat will eat and sleep together.

Isaiah also saw the man preparing for the child.  He shouted to the people to build a highway for the child, a highway in our hearts.  Clear away the debris of our crooked lives.  Level off the mounds of our animosity.  Fill in the depths of our jealousy.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NCO6UzZ2R8

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Let Us Walk In The Light Of The Lord

First Sunday of Advent 

Isaiah 2:1-5
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44
Psalm 122

James tingles with excitement.  Jesus blasted the Temple leaders, showered them with fire and brimstone.  Now is the time.  Now Jesus must claim His proper place as King and throw out all these hypocrites.  Tell us, Jesus, when will it happen and how will we know?

I cannot tell you when it will happen.  I do not know.  The angels do not know.  Only my Father knows.  Many things will happen before I come.  Do not be fooled by them.  They are only signs that I will come.  They are not signs of when I will come.  It is not now.

But Master, Isaiah promised that all nations will come to the Temple seeking to know God, yet you say the Temple will soon be destroyed.  How can this be?  If there is no Temple, how will the people come to you?

God will provide the Temple at the proper time.  When Daniel asked when that time would be, the answer was “It will be for a time, times and half a time.”  Then God told Daniel, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.”

Master, what do we do until then?

Do all that has been given to you.  Care for all you meet.  Offer hatred to no one.  Do not worry about the time.  Trust the time to the hands of God the Father and walk in His Light.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0A_1LovZJc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOIkm_Lq2Jw

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence