I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them. I hope that the Spirit is moving in others through these posts as the Spirit has definitely been convicting me.
This is the start of a New Year. I did not start this blog until April of last year, I am looking forward to doing this blog from the beginning of the year and the beginning of the Bible.
Question:What is the first sport mentioned in the Bible?
Answer: Baseball. Genesis 1:1 starts out “In the big inning…”
Ok, now that I have that groaner out of the way to start the New Year. Genesis starts with what should always be our starting point, “In the beginning God…” That is where it starts. That is where everything starts, with God. Whenever we start anything our fist thought should be about God. That is certainly the place to start the New Year. We are at the beginning of a new year, I am going to dedicate myself to putting God first, at the beginning, of all aspects of my life this year.
In today’s passage we have two creation accounts. Many people claim they are contradictory, but that is because they read them looking for “errors”. The first account is about the creation of the universe, this world and everything in it. The second account is about the creation of mankind and marriage. In the first account the author is telling us about the creation of the earth and everything on it (including man) and how man relates to the earth and to God. We learn that God created everything in a systematic manner. Then God created man in His own image and gave man dominion over all of the other living creatures. When God finished creating everything, He instructed mankind to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. He completed that command by telling mankind to govern the earth. Govern means to control and bind to your will, so that is part of what mankind has a divine mandate from God to do; bend the earth and the living things upon it to mankind’s will. However, it also means to guide and develop in a productive manner, so mankind also has a mandate from God to guide the development of the living creatures on the earth in a productive (rather than destructive) manner. Even from this first command, we are to be responsible stewards of the earth.
The second creation account is about the creation of mankind specifically and our relationship to each other, to God and to all of creation. This account tells us that God handcrafted man as an artisan carefully crafts something. I believe that the author is intentionally evoking the image of a potter forming clay into a pot or some other item. The item (in this case man) was carefully created with thought going into every detail. After God had created man, He planted a garden, a paradise where every need was met. As soon as man was created it became obvious that this new creature was a social animal and needed a companion/helper. God then brought each other animal to man so that man could name them, but none of them were suitable helpers for man. This was not done so that God could see if one of the animals would do. This was done to show man that none of the animals would do. God then put man into a deep sleep and took a part of him and created woman. This was to show that man and woman are part of each other, but not identical. God did not create another being just like the first man to be man’s helper. God created woman to be man’s helper, similar but with different characteristics. This is the origin and purpose of marriage. Men and women are complimentary to each other. They bring different gifts and ways of thinking to their relationships with each other. These difference mean that when they come together in marriage, they bring a kind of completion to one another that cannot be formed in any other way.
There is a lot more I could say about this passage, but I only have so much time. Perhaps I will do a blog on just this passage at some point.
Another good place to start the new year is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth. Matthew starts with the genealogy of Joseph (which is legally the genealogy of Jesus). The most interesting part of that genealogy to me is the fact that Matthew makes a point of mentioning five women in Jesus’ genealogy. Those women are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. The first four are women who were of backgrounds that would have ordinarily made them not fit for discussion in polite society. Yet the first three are held up as examples of godly behavior. Tamar played the prostitute with her father-in-law, yet we are told that he was the one at fault. It was he who violated the norms and practices of the day by not arranging for her to marry his third son after the first two died without giving her any children thus leaving her with no means to support herself. Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho who, when the opportunity presented itself, sided with God’s people against her own out of faith in God. Ruth was a Moabitess who left her people after her husband died in order to support her mother-in-law. I do not know why Matthew chose to incorporate these five women (well, OK, I know why he included Mary), but it is noteworthy that, in a society that viewed women as unimportant or even as inherently evil, he chose to include women in the genealogy of Jesus’ father. This is the first indication that this is not just a retelling of a myth, that this story is about something different.
Matthew then tells us that Mary was betrothed to be married to Joseph. We often translate that as engaged, but it was much more binding than engagement. Next he tells us that Mary was “found to be with child.” This was a major scandal. There were two possibilities. The first is that Joseph had broken his promise to Mary’s parents and had sex with her before the betrothal period was completed and they were married. The second was that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph and had sex with someone else. Matthew tells us that there was a third possibility. The power of the Holy Spirit had done what was impossible and caused a virgin to become pregnant. Joseph has three choices. He can make a big stink about this and publicly divorce Mary, thus freeing himself from any taint of scandal, but marking Mary as an adulteress and possibly bringing about her death. He can go through with the marriage and take the hit on his pride and reputation. Or he can divorce her quietly and allow her to attempt to keep it all a secret (perhaps marrying the father of the child). Joseph is not a bitter, spiteful man and chooses the last option. However, an angel appears to him and tells him that Mary has not been unfaithful and that he should marry her. Joseph believes and acts accordingly (that is, he marries Mary).
In due time, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Shortly after that some prominent men arrived in Jerusalem asking where they could find the newborn king of the Jews because they had seen his star rise in the east. Matthew identifies these men as magi, which would make them the scientists of their day. They studied the stars and other aspects of natural science. Herod was disturbed by their questions, as was everyone else in Jerusalem when the word got out. Herod summoned the experts in the Law and the prophets and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. He knew that this star could only mean one thing, God’s promised Messiah had been born. Herod’s experts told him that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Herod holds a private meeting with the magi and finds out when they first saw the star. He tells them to go to Bethlehem and find the child. He asks them (although in this case it would have been more of an order) to return once they have found the child and tell him where it is so that he can go and worship it. The magi leave Jerusalem and head for Bethlehem. Matthew tells us that the star gave them further guidance and showed them where Jesus was living when they got to Bethlehem. They were overcome with joy at finding the child. They worshiped Him and gave Him valuable gifts. After spending some period of time there with His family they returned home. However, before they left they had a dream and did not return and inform Herod.
The psalmist gives us guidance on how to start off our year correctly. First, do not follow the advice of the wicked. Second, don’t spend all of your time hanging out with sinners. Third, don’t join in with those who mock and make fun of others. Rather, we should meditate on the law of the Lord, making it the focus of our attention and seeking its advice on how we should live our lives. If we follow the psalmist’s plan we will be well established and that which we turn our hand to will prosper.
We begin our year by considering the purpose for which the Book of Proverbs was written. The proverbs provide us with insight into understanding wise behavior. If we study them we will learn to behave prudently by doing what is just and right and fair. If they would study the proverbs those who are easily duped would learn to recognize how foolish and wicked behavior will lead to future unhappiness. If those who may not be gullible but are young and inexperienced study the proverbs they will gain knowledge and discretion. Finally, if those who are already wise continue to study the proverbs they will increase in wisdom. No matter who we are, we will become wiser and better people by studying the proverbs and meditation on their meaning.