Welcome to week 1 of our 2022 Bible reading plan! This short entry will give you a quick summary of what you’ll read this week to help you remember more of it. I’ll have some questions for reflection strewn throughout the summary. And at times, if a certain passage is known to be a little confusing, I’ll do my best to make a note of it and offer a short explanation.
If you are not a part of the Church Center reading group, you can join by clicking here. That’s the place to ask any questions you might have about your reading. Don’t post questions on Facebook.
I also want to help you use your Bibles for better personal study. Many of your Bibles have cross-references, which are notes at the bottom of the page tied to the verses above. You may have many different kinds of footnotes, but cross-references are a specific kind.
Cross-references show you where a particular passage is quoted or alluded to elsewhere. Most often, this looks like where the New Testament pulls from the Old Testament.
Jesus and the apostles quoted Old Testament passages all the time. So do you have trouble understanding what you read in the Old Testament? Would a worthy interpreter be helpful? Why not get help from the apostles?
Use the cross-references, especially from the Old Testament, to lead to you to the New Testament. This does not in any way diminish the Old Testament. In fact, what we’re trying to do is understand it even better.
So, on to this week’s summary.
In chapters 1-2, God creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh. Everything is very good in the beginning. Man is the highpoint of all creation, given dominion to rule over it and make more worshipers of God. You read about all kinds of different things that God created, but when did God create angels? Read Job 38:1-7 to see if that helps you answer the question.
In chapter 3, Eve is deceived by the serpent. Adam is with her. Neither does he stop her or reject the offer of the fruit himself. The serpent deceives her by calling into question the exact words that God had said. Why might first-hand knowledge of God’s word be important?
In chapter 4, the first murder takes place: Cain kills Abel. Like his parents, Cain tries to hide from God by saying that he was not responsible for what he did. But God is merciful, and he gives Cain a peculiar mark that would warn people that murdering Cain would result in God’s wrath.
In chapters 5-10, we get the story of Noah and his family. One passage that often raises eyebrows is 6:1-4, when Moses mentions the Nephilim and “sons of God” having children with the “daughters of men”. Every time Scripture uses the phrase “the sons of God”, it is referring to heavenly beings, or angels (Genesis 6:2-4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7; Daniel 3:25). The Nephilim simply serve as a reference point relative to the time Moses is writing. When did God send the flood? In the time of the Nephilim. Genesis 6:4 says that the Nephilim were there “in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them.” The Nephilim were there before the time of the angels marrying women, and they were there after that time. He is saying that the Nephilim are not the offspring of the angels and women. The Nephilim are simply those heroic men from the ancient past. Moses includes them for the purpose of correcting the mythological ideas of the early Hebrews concerning the Nephilim. It serves to remind us not to romanticize the past. Where do we read references to this passage in the New Testament?
In chapter 11, the offspring of the sons of Noah build the tower of Babel. God had given Noah and his sons the same command given to Adam and Eve (Genesis 9:7). The “table of nations” in Genesis 10 is a condensed history of the time of Noah and long after. The episode of the tower of Babel takes place during the genealogy of chapter 10 (Genesis 10:10). Instead of obeying God’s command to multiply and fill the earth, they settle in one location and build a monument to their greatness (read: arrogance). To make sure the people fill the earth (because God is in control), he instantly forms new languages so the people cannot communicate and finish the tower. Where do we read of God making it so everyone can understand each other’s languages in the New Testament? What is God doing there?
In chapters 12-18, Abraham is introduced, along with his covenant with God. Abram (later called Abraham) is a run-of-the-mill idol worshiper. Our only background on Abram is a short genealogy (Genesis 11:27-32). He’s just like everyone else; there’s nothing righteous about him. That is, until God chose him among the other idol worshipers to serve his purposes. How old is Abraham when God called him out of his home (hint: chapter 12)?
In chapters 1-2, we read the genealogy of Jesus back to the time of Abraham followed by the narrative of an angel speaking to Joseph in a dream. Some time passes, and chapter 2 begins with the wise men from the east seeking out Jesus. Because Herod won’t stand for any competition, he has the young boys under the age of two all killed in the region surrounding Bethlehem.
A little less than thirty years pass. In the immortal words of Brother Maynard, “Skip a bit, brother.”
In chapter 3, John the Baptist appears. John is preaching about the coming of the anointed one, Jesus. After being convinced, John baptizes Jesus. Now why would Jesus need baptized? Whatever the reason, if we have an issue with it, then we’re just like John (Matthew 3:14). We need corrected as he did. The answer Jesus gives is simple: it is righteous to do so. We’re never told that Jesus repented of anything or had any sin to wash away. John’s baptism and baptism into Christ are simply different: one looked forward to the work of Christ, and one looks back at what Christ has done. Jesus was baptized as a way of finishing John’s work and beginning his own. In Acts 18, we read that a good teacher named Apollos “knew only the baptism of John” (v.25). He had a baptism-of-sorts, but it wasn’t a baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. His first baptism didn’t carry the same meaning as a Christian baptism. Note that Apollos wasn’t baptized twice in the same (Christian) way. Christians are not baptized again and again. You need to remember your baptism, not repeat it. How does remembering your own baptism give you spiritual strength for the present?
In chapter 4, Jesus immediately goes into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. In each temptation, Jesus confronts Satan with Scripture. But note that Satan responds with Scripture, too. Satan used the word of God to deceive Eve, and if he could, he would use the word of God to deceive the Son of God. Jesus is victorious over each temptation and begins his ministry of teaching by calling disciples. Crowds start following him. Is something keeping you from memorizing Scripture, even a little bit at a time?
In chapter 5, Jesus sees the crowd and begins what we call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Many have said that Jesus raises the standard of holiness, but that goes against what he actually says. In 5:17, what many have called the main point of the sermon, he says that he has not come to abolish (or raise or lower) anything but to fulfill the Law and Prophets. Jesus has come to be what we cannot be.
When it comes to the Psalms, I’m not going to summarize them per se. Use these usually short readings simply as a time of worship. I’ll give a quick one-line summary and note how the New Testament references them.
Ps. 1: Intro to the Psalms; call to follow God’s ways.
Ps. 2: God’s anointed will reign forever; quoted in Hebrews 5:5, Acts 13:33.
Ps. 3: God protects his people.
Ps. 4: Do right before God and have peace; quoted in Ephesians 4:26.
Ps. 5: God deals with the wicked but justifies the righteous.