Thursday, December 31, 2020

January 1 - Genesis 1/Matthew 1

-- Happy New Year! For 2021, we will be taking a sampling of the Old Testament. One chapter a day will expose us to all of the major narratives in the Old Testament, most of the major passages important for understanding the New Testament, and at least one chapter from each book. If you missed the New Testament study last year, or would just like to do one chapter from each (maybe doing one as a family and one privately, or one in the morning and one in the evening), I am including the New Testament devotionals each day as well. They are not substantially different than what we did last year. May God bless you as you spend time in His Word. --

Key Verse: Genesis 1:31

Big Idea: In the beginning, it was good.

How would you describe our world? I wonder how many adjectives you would work through before you got to "very good." You would be right, of course. The world is full of sin and suffering, far from how its Creator designed it. But we should not fall into the trap of Greek philosophers, who convinced themselves that the physical world is bad and that our goal is to escape it. That is not the hope of the Bible! God created the world to be a showcase of His glory, where His people could walk with Him, serve as His representatives, and worship Him. Sin has added some intermediate steps to that plan but has not destroyed it irreparably.

When Jesus conquered death, He rose again in a physical body. That was no accident! His body is the beginning of a new physical creation. All of the consequences of sin, whether the direct consequences of people's actions (like murder and theft) or what is called natural evil (like plagues and earthquakes) are dealt with in the person of Jesus. He has paved the way to bring things back to a state of "very good," when He returns and accomplishes the "restoration of all things."

This is good news! Ultimately, of course, it is good news that all things will be fixed. But the fact that physical is not another word for "bad" is good news too. It means you can look at a sunset and truly worship the God who created beauty. You can taste a piece of chocolate and praise God for it. Your body is not a prison for your soul, it is a part of who you are, by God's grace. Although sin has tarnished the silver, so it must be cleaned to be fully appreciated, God made it very good.

Discussion idea: Our desires are clear examples of good things that sin has warped. What is something good in this world which can be made bad by excess or misplaced priorities?

Prayer focus:  Ask God to help you recognize the beauty and glory of creation, despite the pain of sin.

Key Verse: Matthew 1:21

Big Idea: The arrival of Jesus the King is both something ancient and something new.

Plenty of wide-eyed students have opened the New Testament enthusiastically and been shocked to find a genealogy. As you read Matthew 1, you might be thinking: “Who cares that Uzziah was the father of Jotham? Isn’t the Old Testament the one with all of the ‘begat’s? I thought the New Testament was going to be interesting!” But there is a good reason that the Holy Spirit led Matthew to begin his gospel this way. The coming of Jesus is not Plan B, as if God had been doing one thing throughout history and is now giving up on that to try a new approach. Jesus is the culmination of everything which came before, and so His genealogy firmly anchors Him as the climax of the story.

Jesus is fully human, so He is part of that long human story. He was born into a family with a history, both good and bad. That was no accident! Jesus did not enter the world at random; He came as the masterstroke when the chessboard was perfectly arranged. The successes and failures of everyone who came before laid out the path which Jesus fulfilled.

It is not enough to say that Jesus is fully human, though. As the angel told Joseph in verses 20 and 21: “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” This child was the son of Mary and fully human, but also the Son of God and fully divine. The tension in this story is that Jesus was both the next step in a long line and something radically new and unexpected. He is a part of the legacy which has come before, but He is also the author’s unprecedented intrusion. This baby boy was Immanuel, God with us, who would grow up to die as a human being for the sins of human beings, and rise again as the victorious God who has set people free from the chains of sin and death.

Discussion idea: Do you recognize any of the names in the genealogy? What can you remember about them? How has God used your family to make you into the person He wants you to be?

Prayer focus: Thank God for someone in your family who has helped you to grow, whether through a challenge or a blessing. 

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