Monday, January 4, 2021

January 4 - Genesis 2/Matthew 2

Key verse: Genesis 2:18

Big idea: In the beginning, God made us to be together.

Ancient writers often told stories in circles, where they gave the big picture of an event and then later repeated a part of the story in more detail. That is clearly at work in Genesis 2, where some of the events of the sixth day in Genesis 1 are expanded and clarified. In the beginning, as we have seen, God made everything from nothing. He spoke, and the very fabric of reality obeyed. The animals were not formed ex nihilo (“out of nothing” in Latin) but were brought forth from the Earth. Yet, humanity is unique. We were not made as an entirely new thing but were formed from the dust like the animals. But God describes the next step in our creation in startling terms, which should be taken seriously, if not literally: God “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life.” The picture is like someone performing CPR, with their mouth against someone else’s, forcing their life into another’s lungs.

People are bridges, not exactly like God, but not exactly like the animals either. We are spiritual, with the very breath of God bringing us to life. We are physical, made of the same elements as the world, and destined to return to them when we die. So Genesis 2 tell us that when God made Adam, none of the animals was the right fit for him. He needed what the King James Version calls a “help meet for him.” The word “help” does not imply inferiority – it most often refers to God Himself! “Meet” is similar to our word “meeting,” where two people come face-to-face and it is most often translated “before,” in that sense. Adam needed someone to work alongside him, to serve God together. No animal would do.

Every part of the cosmos except God Himself could not fulfill its function alone: the skies needed the stars, the seas needed the fish, and the land needed plants and animals. Adam was no different: it was not good for him to be alone. So God created the woman out of the man. Not as a new creation, or fresh from the dust, but the very same nature and status as His image-bearer. Adam and his wife naturally exhibited different glorious truths about God; when they were together, they could glorify Him more fully and be more of the people they were meant to be. Depending on others is not weakness: it is design.

Discussion idea: Sometimes people call their pets their children. It is important to realize that people were given the responsibility for caring for the rest of creation, but can an animal ever be a fitting companion for a human being? How can we serve God best when we are together with His other children? How does this play out in a family? A church?

Prayer focus: Lord, break the arrogance that makes me think I can stand alone. Teach me to live in community, and to live as You have designed me.

Key verse: Matthew 2:2

Big idea: We cannot be neutral to Jesus the King; we will either worship or rebel.

About two years after Jesus was born, a group of astrologers from the East came to worship Jesus. They saw a star rising, and apparently familiar with some of the Old Testament prophecies decided to go and see the newborn king of the Jews. Matthew does not tell us how many came, but we know they brought three precious gifts: gold, frankincense (a powder burned as incense), and myrrh (perfume). Centuries earlier, the queen of Sheba had come from the East to honor King Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10), and these men came to recognize his heir. When they heard about Jesus, their reaction was reverence.

On their way, they came to the current king of Israel and Rome’s puppet, Herod the Great. Recognizing a threat to his power, Herod sent the wise men (or magi) to find out where Jesus was so that he could destroy Him. Murder was certainly not out of Herod’s character; he executed three of his own sons when he thought they were rivals, one in the same year he attempted to kill Jesus. Christ’s claim to the throne was a threat to his autonomy, and so he chose rebellion.

There is no middle ground with Jesus because there is no neutral response to a king. Either we submit to His reign like the wise men or reject it for our personal authority like Herod. Yet, the great principle of the Bible is that when we try to be our final authority, we are only fooling ourselves. We are merely choosing sin and death as our masters instead of God. Herod’s desire to be his own absolute authority gave his sin final dominion over him. By the end of the chapter, we find that the death that he used so willingly on others has claimed him too. But in Christ, we are set free from those old lords, if we will accept Him.

Discussion idea: Why was Herod so afraid of Jesus’ claim to authority? How do people today respond to the announcement that Jesus is King?

Prayer focus: Make a list of ways that you have rejected Jesus’ kingship in your own life. Pray specifically for forgiveness in those areas and the strength and faith to follow Him in those areas.

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