Jan. 6 – Genesis 13:5-15:21 – Andrew

If you miss Genesis 15, you miss the point of the entire Old Testament!

15:1-24 – This chapter contains the mysterious and absolutely essential account of the covenant God makes with Abram (who gets a new name, Abraham, as a result).  The entire rest of the Bible is a consequence of this covenant.  So, why is this important?

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Forgive me for quoting myself, but I wrote a blog post about this on my personal blog 2 years ago that I’d like you to read: http://andrewforrest.org/2015/01/23/take-the-abraham-quiz/.

Here’s the point.  Note that God, in making the covenant with Abraham, promises to also uphold Abraham’s side of the agreement!  God is committing to be cut in half if the covenant is violated.  Jesus is God’s response to the failure of humanity to keep the covenant, and Jesus was crucified–cut in half–because humanity couldn’t keep the covenant.  The entire scripture is about the covenant God made with Abraham, and how God uses Abraham’s family to bring salvation to the entire world.

See below for other brief glosses on today’s reading.

13:18 – “The oaks of Mamre.”  This description will occur throughout the rest of Genesis, and I always find it interesting to think about how striking these trees must have been to be used as a place designation.

14:14 – “318 of them.”  Abraham is extremely wealthy–he has 318 trained fighting men working for him.

14:17-24 – Melchizedek has long puzzled commentators:

“Who is the mysterious king-priest Melchizedek? He is not mentioned in the genealogies of Genesis. Announced as a priest of God most high, he appears out of nowhere to officiate over Abraham’s victory celebrations, and he disappears just as suddenly. As Calvin observes, ‘This Melchizedek, whoever he was, is presented before us, without any origin, as if he had dropped from the clouds, and . . . his name is buried without any mention of death.'” -R.R. Reno, Genesis

The author of Hebrews in the New Testament sees Melchizedek as a Christ figure, but we’ll wait until we get to Hebrews to discuss him.

–AF

 

 

1/4 – Gen. 8:1-10:32 – Andrew

Genesis 8:1-10:32  There are no heroes

I don’t think the way we teach the Bible to children is all that helpful.  Many people were taught that the people in the Bible were heroes of the faith.  But, when you actually read about these heroes, you realize that they were usually pretty bad people.  This throws modern people for a loop–if the people in the Bible are supposed to be heroes, then why are they such bad people?

Here’s another way to look at it, however: what if the point is not that the people in the Bible are all that great–what if the point is that God uses flawed people for his good purposes?  “God writes straight with crooked lines.”

And, don’t worry if the Flood story seems strange–it is strange.  Focus on what the story is telling us….

8:2 – In Genesis 1, God is pictured as shutting up the waters of chaos and giving order to a disordered universe.  In the Flood story, God is unmaking what he’s made, and the waters of chaos are allowed to rush back in.  But then, God pushes the waters back again, and dry land appears again.  One of the things the Noah story is about is the promise that God will never destroy the world out of anger, no matter how much we might deserve it.

9:3-5 – Originally, God’s intention was that humans be vegetarians, but here, God gives them animals to eat.

9:6 – Killing a human is forbidden because humanity bears the image of God.  Human life’s sacred.

9:20-9:27 – Several things are going on here.  First, though Noah is a good man, he’s not perfect, as this bizarre episode shows.  Whatever happens in the tent, it’s not a good thing.  Also, note that sin can’t be washed away by a flood, because sin is in every human heart, even the so-called good people, like Noah.

–AF

Jan. 3 – Matt. 3:7-4:11 – Andrew

Matthew 3:7-4:11

4:1-4:11 – The temptation of Jesus is the temptation to take what God wants to give us without having to suffer first.  It’s all about the easy way.  Jesus knows, however, that the only way to receive God’s gifts is to be obedient, even if obedience requires suffering.

4:3, 6 – The word “If” is important.  The devil wants Jesus to question his identity. “If  you are the Son of God….”

4:6 – The devil is smart: here he is quoting Psalm 91 to Jesus!  (In your Bibles, when the type is indented and in quotation marks, it’s a quotation from the Old Testament.)

THIS IS WHY WE ARE READING THROUGH SCRIPTURE–if we don’t know the entire story, it is easy to be misled.  Jesus knows that the devil is taking the promise of Psalm 91 and twisting it.  Because Jesus knows scripture, he has a response.  What about you?  Are you able to use scripture to keep yourself from being led astray?

–AF

Jan. 3 – Gen. 5:1-7:24 – Andrew

Genesis 5:1-7:24

Why do the people live such long lives?

We don’t know when Genesis was written, and we don’t know what the people were like who originally heard it.  What we do know is that numbers meant something different to ancient peoples than they do to us today.  Are we supposed to assume that Adam lived 930 literal years, or does 930 mean something?  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the Bible says that God thereafter puts a cap of 120 years on human lives (6:3).

6:4 – We don’t know who the Nephilim were, or what exactly is going on here.  Whatever it means, it’s not good.  (And if you haven’t watched the Read Scripture video on Genesis 1-11, now would be a good time:

I find think this video explains the Nephilim passage pretty well.)

5:2, 6:19 – “Male and female.”  To the writer of Genesis, the division between the sexes is really important.  Here is restated again the idea from 1:27, that somehow men and women together reflect the likeness of God.

7:16 – “And the LORD shut him in.”  What a great detail!

–AF

The Bible Tells ONE Story – Andrew

If you remember nothing else from this Year of the Bible, remember this:

The Bible tells one story from start to finish.

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Yes, the Bible as we know it is a collection of 66 books, and yes, it comes from many authors who wrote hundreds of years apart in many different genres.  But, nonetheless, the Bible tells one unified story.

The story is about the Lord’s love for the world he made, and the lengths to which he’ll go to save it.  It’s a classic rescue story.

You can the outline of the entire story in one verse in Genesis, namely 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.”

What is this strange passage about?

The Lord is talking to the serpent, and the curse is that the serpent shall perpetually be at odds with humanity (the woman’s offspring).

It’s a poetic prophecy, and Christians have always seen this prophecy to refer to Jesus.  Jesus is the “offspring” of Eve, and he steps on the serpent as the serpent bites at his heel: the Crucifixion.  I like how the image above portrays the relationship between Eve and Mary.

The Bible is the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.  It’s about how we turned away from God, but how God never turned away from us.  In Genesis 3, God begins his rescue plan, which will involve one particular people–Israel–and unfold over the centuries.  This is the story of the Bible.

Other Notes on Genesis 3-4

3:1 – Note that the serpent causes Eve to question the Lord’s commands.

3:1-6 – Where is Adam the entire time Eve is with the serpent?

3:12-13 – Note now both the man and the woman refuse responsibility.

3:20 – Note the footnote, #7 – “Eve” means “living” in Hebrew.

4:4 – I don’t know what was wrong with Cain’s offering, either.

–AF

 

Jan. 1 – Matthew 1:1-2:12 – Andrew

Matthew 1:1-2:12

1:2-1:17 – The genealogies seem boring to modern readers, but they are important because they show that biblical faith is grounded in history.  The Jews believed that God had actually worked through their ancestors, and the genealogies are a way of indicating that.  Also, there are 4 women mentioned in the genealogy, and all the references are scandalous….  What does that say about Jesus?

Love this version of Matthew’s Begats by Andrew Peterson:

–AF

 

Jan. 1 – Genesis 1:1-2:25 – Andrew

1:12 – Note how everything in the Creation account is specifically ordered, even down to the seeds of the plants “each according to its kind.”

1:27 – Note how male and female together make up humanity, and somehow it is in their complementarity that men and women together bear the image of God.  I think this is important.  A man alone does not sufficiently reflect the image of God, nor a woman alone, but a man and a woman together.  How might gender relations be different if we believed that our counterparts bore the image of God in ways that we don’t?

1:30 – Note how, according to the author of Genesis, the original design was for the animals in nature to be vegetarians.  Having seen wild animals in Africa make a kill, I can understand why “nature red in tooth and claw” is a sign of the Fall.

2:4 – There are actually two Creation stories, back to back.  The 2nd story begins in 2:4 and is much more concerned with the Creation of Adam.

2:10-14 – I wonder if, for the original hearers of this passage, the first 2 rivers meant anything to them.  Today, we have no idea what or where is the Piston or the Gihon.  We do, however, know about the Tigris and the Euphrates.

2:14 – “Assyria.”  I think that suggests that this was written down or edited during a time when the ancient kingdom of Assyria would have meant something to folks.

2:19 – Love that detail–isn’t that exactly what happened?  We have named all of Creation, haven’t we?

2:24-25 – Again, there is something really important going on here.  We live in a world with a lot of gender confusion, but the opening passages of Genesis suggests that there is something about the coming together of a man and a woman that creates oneness, and somehow that relates to the image of God.  (See 1:27, above.)

–AF