Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Read the Bible in a Year (Day 1)

It's been your New Year's resolution for years, maybe. You've started with Genesis and gotten stuck in the "begat" mud and have never been able to move on.

Help is on the way!

We're starting your new year today!

Beginning today, I'll have a series of posts that will, by the grace of God, appear for the next 365 days. There will be a few notes and questions to ponder on the Bible passages for the day.

You can read the entire Bible in one calendar year by reading little more than three chapters a day. A friend suggested that a good format would be to read three chapters and a Psalm. I thought that was a great idea. The Psalms are the Old Testament's hymnal and book of prayer and they still speak powerfully in so many ways. (Sometimes we'll use a portion of a Psalm.)

Each day, I'll have hyperlinks to the chapters appointed and give you the option of reading them in three different renderings: The New International Version (TNIV); the English Standard Version (ESV); and Today's English Version (TEV, also known as the Good News Bible).

One brief word about the nature and authority of Scripture. The writers of the Bible saw themselves as conduits of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has, through the centuries, led the Church to believe and experience that the Old Testament is God's Word for the human race, not human attempts to understand God.

As we'll have time to discuss in the coming year, historically, the Church, including the denomination of which I am now a part, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), has held that the Bible is the authoritative source and norm of our life, faith, and practice.

There are things in the Bible we can't fully explain or understand. But its overall theme and story is of the God Who created and loves the human race and Who ultimately became one of us in Jesus Christ in order to offer His life as the pure sacrifice for our sins and then died and rose in order to open up new and everlasting life to those who turn from sin (repent) and believe in Christ as their only God and Savior...their only hope.

(And yes, that story is even told in the parts of Scripture that tell us about God sending His people into wars and such.)

The Christian view of Scripture is put well in 2 Timothy 3:16:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness...

January 7:
Genesis 1: TNIV ESV TEV
Genesis 2: TNIV ESV TEV
Genesis 3: TNIV ESV TEV

1. Genesis 1-2: The interest of Genesis in the universe's creation focuses on two basic questions: Who created the universe, especially its life, and why? Who, of course, is God. Why appears to be that God, self-sufficient yet filled with love and life, must, by His nature, give of His life and of His love. God is giving by His very nature.

2. Genesis 1:27-30: These verses demonstrate the special place humanity has in God's creation. First, God makes us in His image. We bear a special resemblance and relationship with God in our essence, not in our physical appearance because "God is spirit." The image of God has become distorted in us because of the condition of sin. Christ came into the world to restore the image of God to those who trust in Him. Death is the consequence of sin and even believers in Christ die. But like the Savior to Whom they surrender, they will rise to live with God eternally. Second, humanity is put in charge of the world God creates.

3. Genesis 2: The Hebrew names of Adam (man) and Eve (life) sound similar: ish and ishah. There are many such word plays throughout the Old Testament, written in Hebrew.

4. Genesis 3: Notice that the serpent told Eve the truth in a lying way. That's how subtle he was. In fact, Adam and Eve didn't immediately die. But death, which was never intended for them or their descendants--you and me--became part of the human condition when they transgressed God's will for them.

5. The Bible speaks of sin in two different ways. (1) First, as a condition of separation from God and from others. We see this in that Adam hid from God after he and Eve sinned. We see it too, in that Adam and Eve, so close a few verses earlier, blame each other for their common sin against God. Psalm 51:5, among other passages, affirm that we are born into the condition of sin we have inherited from our parents and, ultimately, the first humans.

(2) Second as those things we do, sins, that we do because we are sinners.

6. The grace (or undeserved charity) of God can be seen in several ways in Genesis 3: (1) First, God didn't do away with Adam and Eve as a good project gone bad as soon as they rebelled. He reached out to them.

(2) Second, God sewed clothing for them. Adam and Eve had been naked and ashamed. But once they had sinned, they became aware of how they could misuse their bodies and their lives. Mark Twain once said that man is the only animal that blushes...or needs to. Even today, God provides the world with "daily bread." The fact that millions go hungry is not a problem of God's provision, but of human selfishness...It's a sin issue.

(3) Third, God banished them from the Garden of Eden. It may seem cruel for the first human beings to have been barred from paradise. But the reason it had to be was simple: Had the two remained there, they would have gained access to the tree of life, but done so while still alienated from God and in sin. They would have been eternally separated from God and others. This is exactly how the Bible describes hell!

God has better plans in mind for Adam and Eve and their descendants. It's only when sin's power over our lives is eliminated that we can take eternal life as God intends for us from Him. That's why Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, was crucified. The cross is, for all who turn from sin and trust in Christ alone, the tree of life. (See this more literal rendering of Acts 5:30, from the New Revised Standard Version's translation of the Bible.) We submit to its verdict on our lives and to the crucifixion of our old selves so that our new selves can rise with Christ!

Points to Ponder:

1. How much of yourself do you see in Adam and Eve?

2. In light of the phrase, "her husband, who was with her," why have some believers pinned the blame for sin more onto Eve than Adam, do you suppose? What are the implications of this blame game?

3. Historically, New Testament scholars have seen the promise of Christ in Genesis 3:15. Can you see why this might be so? (Think about that before taking a gander here, if you like.)

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