December 8 – Go to God in Prayer
Read Psalm 142
1 Samuel 22 records the time that David hid from Saul and the Philistine king Achish in the cave of Adullam. 1 Samuel 24 recounts the time that he fled from Saul to a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, the same cave his pursuer shortly entered. It’s likely that on one of those occasions, David prayed the words that are recorded as Psalm 142. The psalm bears the title “Maschil,” meaning that it is a psalm that teaches. What lesson would David have us learn?
Here is the first lesson: when you are troubled, overwhelmed, or abandoned like David was, go to Jehovah in prayer. Reserve a quiet time, find a quiet place, and quiet your heart with this knowledge: Jehovah knows your path. He encompasses your way and directs you to an expected end. When your flesh and your heart fail, find in him the strength of your heart your portion forever (Ps. 73:26). When his way for you eludes your understanding, confess this by faith: “But he knoweth the way that I take; when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Sing or pray Psalter #387.
December 9—Jehovah Knows Your Way
Read Psalm 142
Imagine yourself on a busy street corner in a big city. People stream past you, and horns blare as drivers attempt to maneuver through traffic. If you would shout right now, would anyone hear you? Everyone around you seems absorbed by his own schedule and intent on his own destination. Now consider that this city is one of thousands in the world, and you are only one of billions of people. The Creator of this universe is so great that the enormous universe in which our tiny planet spins is the work of his fingers. And yet, when you cry to him, he hears you. Not only does he hear you, he knows you, and he knows your path. His knowledge is not a formal, academic knowledge. It’s intimate and informed care for you and for all who belong to him in Jesus Christ.
David clung to that truth when he called out the words of Psalm 142 to Jehovah. Lonely and weary, he poured the last of his energy into prayer, knowing that the one to whom he cried would answer him, for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father (HC, LD 9).
Sing or pray Psalter #426:1–5.
December 10—The Promise Keeper
Read Psalm 142
Though he was forlorn and forsaken when he prayed the words of Psalm 142, still David hoped in God’s promises. He looked forward to the day when he would be surrounded by God’s people and crowned their king. (The word translated “compass” in verse seven in the KJV can also be rendered “encircled,” denoting, perhaps, the future encircling of David’s head with a crown. Psalter #388:5 extends this idea to the joy with which all of God’s people are crowned.)
Ultimately, David trusted in God’s promise that from his family would come the Messiah, the King who descended to hell and the grave on our behalf, but tore away the bars of that prison and ascended to Jehovah’s right hand. From there he gives gifts to his saints, and in him all of the promises of the Father are “yea” and “amen.” Do you pray to Jehovah in that assurance?
Sing or pray Psalter #388.
December 11—A Threefold Distress
Read Psalm 143:1–4
A troubled David again appeals to Jehovah in Psalm 143. But before he presents his case against his enemy in verse three, he admits his own guilt in verse two: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” So you and I should always first confess our own sins, both in prayer and when confronting a brother or sister. But if David himself is guilty, on what grounds does he plead? On the basis of Jehovah’s faithfulness and righteousness (see verse 1).
David’s case against his enemy consists of three incremental crimes. First, the enemy has persecuted his soul. He pursues David, intent on his life. Second, the enemy has smitten him “down to the ground.” His threats and slander have crushed David’s spirit. Third, he has made David to “dwell in darkness.” David is so overwhelmed that he cannot find any comfort or light. “My heart within me is desolate,” he says. All this he presents to the Judge.
What temptations pursue you today? Would your own sinful self crush the new man within? Plead your cause before the Judge on the basis of his Son’s righteousness.
Sing or pray Psalter #390.
December 12—A Threefold Discipline
Read Psalm 143:1–6
David presented his enemy’s three-fold persecution in Psalm 143:3. Initially overwhelmed by his enemy, David regains a right perspective when he exercises three spiritual disciplines (v. 5). First, he remembers the days of old. His current troubles have consumed him, but how do they compare with trials he has faced in the past? Second, he meditates on all Jehovah’s works. He cannot reflect on former days without acknowledging God’s gracious interpositions on his behalf. Third, he muses on those works. The word muse originated in Greek mythology. Now the word muse refers to a person who inspires an artist, writer, or musician. Pondering Jehovah’s works moves the poet in David: he stretches out his hands to Jehovah and praises his works in song. He longs to be again refreshed by his God. So verse six ends with the word “Selah,” which denotes a musical interlude.
Not a day goes by when you and I don’t need to be restored to a proper spiritual perspective at one point or another. Are you discontent? Discouraged? Depleted? Reflect on your life. Consider the ways Jehovah has provided for you in the past. And may your mediations inspire you to praise our God in word and song.
Sing or pray Psalter #389:1–3.
December 13—A Morning Prayer
Read Psalm 143
The tone of Psalm 143 changes after the “Selah” in verse six. It’s as if David is finished posturing on the witness stand. He approaches the Judge’s bench, as it were, and pleads with him face to face. You see, David knows this Judge well: the Judge is his Father. And even more than David desires the just punishment of his enemies, he desires a healthy relationship with his Father. He comes to Jehovah with a prayer: a perfect prayer (it is, after all, a Spirit-inspired prayer), a morning prayer. It is a prayer that I memorized some years ago and often pray silently even before I arise at the beginning of the day. Here is part of that prayer: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee” (v. 8).
To that prayer David desires a speedy answer, and he—and you and I—can be confident of just that. For when “the righteous cry,” “the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles” (Ps. 34:17).
Sing or pray Psalter #391.
December 14—Deliverance Necessitates Destruction
Read Psalm 143
In Psalm 143:11–12, David presents two petitions. First he pleads, “Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble,” and then he prays, “And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.”
David knew that to pray for his own deliverance was to pray for the destruction of his enemies. He understood the reality of the antithesis, a truth at which many twenty-first century Christians balk. It’s a truth that the ungodly seem to comprehend readily, however. For some time American Christians could claim that we have a voice in our culture. No longer can we pretend that that is true. “What we face is not a struggle within a culture but…a clash of alternative cultures” (Carl Trueman). The forces of the moral revolution are advancing on every front, and out of all the confusion they’ve generated, they’ve made one thing clear: they will take no prisoners.
Sing or pray Psalter #389.
December 15—My Spirit, Thy Spirit
Read Romans 8:1–18
Before we move on to Psalm 144, let’s consider the contrast David makes in Psalm 143 between his spirit and Jehovah’s Spirit. In verse four David writes, “My spirit [is] overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.” Like Paul, David knew “that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18). That’s why he prays for Jehovah’s Spirit. “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” (v. 10). David knew that he could not trust the leading of his own fickle heart, but he trusted the good, Holy Spirit of his God to lead him with light and truth.
What trials do you face today? Is your spirit overwhelmed? Turn to the everlasting God, Jehovah, the creator of the ends of the earth. He fainteth not, neither is weary. The Spirit whom he gives is not a spirit of fear, but the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. That Spirit teaches you and me through the living and abiding word of God.
Sing or pray Psalter #389:1,2 and 5.
December 16—Ten Glories
Read Psalm 144:1–4
David begins Psalm 144 with a list of 10 of Jehovah’s glories. The fact that he lists 10 of God’s attributes is in itself significant, for in the Bible the number 10 symbolizes completeness and perfection, attributes that belong only to God. In the fight of faith, Jehovah alone is David’s offense: (1) his strength (or more, literally, “Rock,” as it rendered in our Psalter #392) and (2) the one who teaches him to fight. Jehovah is (3) David’s “goodness,” the one who loves him with committed covenant love. Jehovah alone is also David’s defense: his (4) fortress, (5) high tower, (6) deliverer, and (7) shield. He is (8) the one in whom David trusts. David is no longer waiting to be crowned king as he was in Psalms 142 and 143. He is the king of Israel, but he recognizes that he could not rule without Jehovah, either. God is (9) the one “who subdueth my people under me” (v. 2d). What a wonder that this great God is (10) mindful of man! And yet that is the last glory for which David praises him.
What a wonder that such a God takes thought of man, whose days are like the grass. What a wonder that such a God takes thought of sinners like you and me!
Sing or pray Psalter #392:1–2.
December 17—Deliver Me
Read Psalm 144
The first verses of Psalm 144 are peppered with “my” and “I.” David’s faith is very personal, yet he recognizes that God saves him as a member of a body. As a type of Christ, our king, David switches to the plural pronoun “our” in the psalm’s latter verses as he prays on behalf of all God’s people. But first he has an urgent request. That request is articulated in the chorus that is found in verses seven and eight and verse eleven, a chorus that balances and sets apart the middle section of Psalm 144. David pleads, “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (v. 11). David is requesting that Jehovah will purge from the people of God the unbelievers that dwell among them. The mouths of these ungodly people are full of emptiness. And what sits at their right hand, their ready and indispensable help? Nothing but lies.
What a difficult prayer to pray, but what a necessary prayer! Are you able to pray that prayer when the strange children of whom Christ’s church must be rid are your own family members or friends?
Sing or pray Psalter #392:1–4.
December 18—Sons Like Plants, Daughters Like Pillars
Read Psalm 144:11–15
What makes David’s petition that Jehovah rid him of strange children so very urgent? He knows that the maintenance of the antithesis is essential to the prosperity of God’s people. Therefore, he links that petition to his subsequent requests with the conjunction “that.” David prays that Jehovah will rid Israel of the unbelievers who dwell among them so that their covenant children may thrive. He desires sons like “plants grown up in their youth.” He compares the godly young men in Israel to fruitful plants, resilient to wind and storm and also to drought, for their roots are planted deep in the river of life. He likens Israel’s daughters to pillars (“corner stones” is perhaps better rendered “corner pillars”) that not only support a structure, but beautify it as well. (That’s a striking figure, sisters! Don’t permit yourself to think that our role in Christ’s church is unimportant because God has reserved the special offices for our fathers, husbands, and brothers!)
Do you love the children of the church? Do you desire to see them grow and prosper spiritually? Then, for the welfare of those children, you must be willing to pray, “Rid me…from the hand of strange children.”
Sing or pray Psalter #393.
December 19—The Happy People
Read Psalm 144
Psalm 144:13–14 describes a prosperous people. Their granaries and barns are full, and they live in peace and safety. If you were to walk through the streets of their city, you would hear no cry of lament. These are also happy people. Are they happy because they enjoy such abundance? No, their happiness has a much deeper source: they are happy because they belong to Jehovah. Many Christians today have fallen prey to the lie that above all God desires that they be happy. Consider those who disregard God’s hatred of divorce, reasoning that he will sympathize with their unfaithfulness and subsequent adultery because he wants them to be happy. Others excuse their own more respectable sins—bitterness, discontent, impatience, etc.—assuming that God will dismiss their damnable self-idolatry because he is sorry they are unhappy.
Dear Christian, do find the source of your happiness in your situation, or in the knowledge that you belong to your sovereign heavenly Father, the holy God who desires your holiness far more than your earthly happiness? Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!
Sing or pray Psalter #399.
December 20—An Unsearchable Greatness
Read Psalm 145
Like Psalms 25 and 34, in the original text Psalm 145 is an alphabetical acrostic. The first word of verse one begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the first words of the following verses begin with the remaining letters of the Hebrew alphabet in sequence. This style of poetry likely aided God’s people in memorization, but it also suggested a totality of the treatment of its subject, similar to our expression “from A to Z.” Jesus employs that idiom using the first and last words of the Greek alphabet, “Alpha” and “Omega,” meaning that he is not only the first and the last, but everything in between as well! Interestingly, one letter of the Hebrew alphabet—the letter “nun”—is absent from Psalm 145. Perhaps that verse was lost in translation. More likely David intentionally excluded it to suggest the infinite, incomprehensible glory of God. “His greatness is unsearchable” (v. 3b).
Though we will never be able to wrap our minds around Jehovah’s glory, we do not shrink back from studying him as he’s revealed himself in the scriptures. Christian faith requires “a certain knowledge;” repudiates willing ignorance; engages the renewed mind.
Sing or pray Psalter #394.
December 21—A Limited All
Read Psalm 145
Psalm 145:9 reads, “The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Does that verse teach that God dispenses grace on both the elect and reprobate? No, not when it is considered in its context. Jehovah is the one who feeds every living thing. He is indeed “a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Jonah 4:2). But he is also “righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (v. 17), near only “to all that call upon him in truth” (v. 18), and the one who preserves only “all them that love him; but all the wicked will he destroy” (v. 20).
Does your mouth speak the praise of that incomparably great God? Do you look forward to the day when, willingly or unwillingly, all flesh will bless his holy name? The apostle John relates a vision of that great day in Rev. 5:13: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
Sing or pray Psalter #396.
December 22—A Grand Finale
Read Psalm 146
Each of the books of Psalms ends with a doxology. Consider the final verse of Book One: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen” (Ps. 41:13). Psalm 72:18-19 concludes Book Two: “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.” Psalms 146 to 150 are the doxology, the grand finale that concludes not only Book 5, but the entire book of Psalms. There are no laments here. No cries for help. Just a sustained “Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah!”
Christmas is coming. Is your calendar jam-packed? Are you wrestling with the “holiday blues”? May our meditations on the grand finale to the Book of Psalms move you to praise the covenant God who kept his word and sent his only begotten Son.
The praise to which the psalmist calls us is both corporate—“ye” in the KJV denotes a plural “you”—and personal: “Praise the Lord, O my soul” (Ps. 146:1b). It is praise that demands one’s entire being, in every situation, for a lifetime.
Sing or pray Psalter #401.
December 23—The God of Jacob
Read Psalm 146
Psalm 146:3–4 warn us of the folly of placing our trust in men. Included among those in whom there is no help are our own selves. Do not put your trust in your own knowledge, strength, frugality, punctuality, or perseverance. There is no salvation there. But “happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help” (v. 5a). The God of Jacob. What a wonder that the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of all things permits himself to be called “the God of Jacob”! Jacob, the liar and conniver. Jacob, whose myopic favoritism wreaked havoc between his wives and among his children. Jacob, who was quick to trust in his own wealth and schemes. Yes, Jacob. Jacob, who wrestled with God and prevailed. Jacob, who worshipped Jehovah by faith. Jacob, whom God loved.
Is the God of Jacob your God? Then happy are you. And what a wonder of grace that he allows himself to be called your God and mine.
Sing or pray Psalter #400.
December 24—Fully Divine
Read Psalm 146
Psalm 146:3–4 warns us not to place our trust in men, but in Jehovah. The psalmist describes Jehovah as the one who made all that is in heaven, earth, and the sea, keeps truth forever, executes judgment for the oppressed, feeds the hungry, looses prisoners, restores sight to the blind, lifts up those bowed down, loves the righteous, preserves the strangers, relieves the orphan and widow, turns the way of the wicked upside down, and reigns forever. Can you think of anyone else to whom that description belongs? Jesus Christ, the messianic king for whom Old Testament Israel yearned, the one whom we’ve encountered repeatedly in Psalms. He is the King whose name endures forever (Ps. 72:17), the very Son of Jehovah (Ps. 2:7), the one who declared and proved himself to be the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. In him, the baby who was laid in a manger, dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). And the preaching of his gospel still turns the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
Sing or pray Psalter #400.
December 25—A Jerusalem Celebration
Read Psalm 147
Psalm 147 is addressed to a specific group of people: the saints in Israel, who are referred to twice as “Jerusalem.” They are Jehovah’s chosen nation, the beneficiaries of his great power, infinite understanding, abundant provision, and transforming word. It is their city that he builds up, and their nation that he encircles with peace. He gathers their outcasts together and blesses their children. Among all the peoples of the earth, Jerusalem has reason to sing praises unto Jehovah with thanksgiving.
It’s Christmas Day! The stores have been dressed in holiday style for months already, and much of the world will do their best to make merry today. But among all the people of the earth, we who are God’s people are the one who have reason to celebrate today. The Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. Do you believe in him? Christmas is a Jerusalem celebration. Praise ye the Lord (Ps. 147:20c).
Sing or pray Psalter #403.
December 26—A Transforming Word
Read Psalm 147
Psalm 147 contains three calls to praise Jehovah. These appeals, which are found in verses 1, 7, and 12, divide the psalm into three sections. After each call to praise, the psalmist focuses on one or more of God’s attributes as they come to expression in creation and in his people. First the psalmist observes Jehovah’s great power and infinite understanding. He calls the stars by their names. How can we doubt that he is powerful enough to gather together the outcasts of the church, heal the broken-hearted, lift up the meek, and cast down the wicked? After the second call to praise, the psalmist describes God’ gracious and sustaining provision for his creation. Do not doubt that he will provide you with all things necessary for body and soul, also, but remember that it is not your physical strength that delights him. He takes pleasure in those who fear him. In the third section the psalmist focuses on the efficacious word of God. God’s word sends the snow and hail, and it is also the transforming power that melts them. That powerful word he entrusted to Israel, his church. What kind of transformation has (and does) his word work in you?
Sing or pray Psalter #402.
December 27—The All and the Alone
Read Psalm 148
Psalm 148 is a systematic, all-encompassing call to all things created to praise Jehovah. The psalmist systematically enjoins different groups in the creation to praise, beginning in the heights with the angels and then working his way down to the sun and moon, all the stars, the earth’s atmosphere, and the clouds. Then the psalmist descends to the lowest parts of the earth and works his way up. He addresses the mythical dragons and the creatures that dwell in the depths of the sea, then the so-called “elements of nature”—fire, hail, snow, mist, and stormy winds—followed by the mountains and hills and then the living things that populate them—plants, animals, and birds—before turning to address the king of God’s creation: man. No people group escapes his attention, regardless of their age, sex, or social status. All are called to praise Jehovah. Why? Because “his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”
Do you reserve all your praise for the one who alone is God?
Sing or pray Psalter #404.
Read Psalm 148
In Psalm 50:10–12, the Almighty God declares, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.” Although all created things belong to Jehovah, the psalmist reserves the possessive pronoun “his” for only two of the created groups addressed in Psalm 148. He refers to “his angels” and “his hosts” in verse two, and he writes of “his saints” in verse 14. These two groups belong to Jehovah in a special way. They are moral, rational beings. The angels are those who “do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word” (Ps. 103:20), and his saints, the people who are near him, are those in whom he works “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
What a wonder that the righteous and holy God of heaven and earth calls us his.
Sing or pray Psalter #405.
December 29—A Bed…
Read Psalm 149
Rest is an important, recurring theme throughout scripture. God set aside a day of rest at the end of the very first week. The Israelites longed to enter Canaan, the land of rest. The physical rest that our bodies need and the land of Canaan typified the spiritual rest that is to be found only in our Savior. To all who labor and are heavy laden, Jesus cries, “Come unto me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29). In his full and free salvation we repose, ceasing from our own works and resting in his steadfast love.
Psalm 149 begins again with “Hallelujah!” The Psalmist enjoins Israel to rejoice in their Maker and King, praising him with music and dance. Why? “For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation” (v. 4). The knowledge of their salvation gives Jehovah’s saints cause to celebrate, even when they are lying on their beds (v. 5). It’s noteworthy that these saints are resting, but they’re not asleep: they’re singing at the top of their lungs. Similarly, the glorious salvation rest that we’ve been given doesn’t mean inactivity: it drives us to praise.
Sing or pray Psalter #408.
December 30—…and a Sword
Read Psalm 149
Psalm 149:5 contains the striking image that we considered yesterday, that of saints singing aloud on their beds. That their salvation rest is not one of ease is further demonstrated in the following verse: not only are they singing as they rest, they have a sword in their hand! This deadly sword is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), “the word of God” (Heb. 4:12). And it is to be used to execute vengeance, to bind kings, and to execute the judgment written.
Who has the honor of wielding this sword? “All his saints.” So the gospel is brandished by the church, leaving Jehovah’s enemies without excuse and conquering his saints from every tribe and tongue, taking them captive to Christ, and making them citizens of Israel. So you and I have the privilege of turning that blade on our own hearts day-by-day. “With this two-edged sword believers fight against their own corruptions, and, through the grace of God, subdue and mortify them; the sin that had dominion over them is crucified; self, that once sat king, is bound with chains and brought into subjection to the yoke of Christ” (Matthew Henry).
Sing or pray Psalter #407.
December 31—A Hallelujah Chorus
Read Psalm 150
If you have ever attended a live performance of Handel’s Messiah, perhaps you were startled when, three-fourths of the way through the concert, the entire audience suddenly stood for the “Hallelujah” chorus. Legend has it that at the oratorio’s London premiere, King George II became so excited during the “Hallelujah” chorus that he leapt to his feet. Out of respect for the king, the entire audience followed suit, and from that time on, it became tradition for all to stand during that climatic piece.
The grand finale of Psalms climaxes in Psalm 150. Thirteen times in six verses the psalmist sounds this note: “Hallelujah!” He calls on “all his works in all places of his dominion” to praise Jehovah (Ps. 103:22). Nor is it enough that a solo instrument be employed in this endeavor: the psalmist conducts an entire orchestra in a symphony of praise to God, and he calls on all that breathe to join the chorus. Indeed, it’s hard to read (or sing) this psalm without leaping to one’s feet. Yet at its a conclusion lingers the recognition that everything that breathes does not praise Jehovah and the yearning for the day when the Messiah returns and that prayer becomes reality. (See Rev. 5:11–14.)
Sing or pray Psalter #409.
Dear Daily Press readers,
The end of 2016 marks the end of our devotional study of Psalms. As the year 2017 begins, we commence a chronological devotional study of the entire Bible. Not all of the Bible is arranged in historical order. As one would expect with such an ancient, lengthy, and detailed book, there are differences among approaches to organizing its text in historical sequence. In The Reese Chronological Bible Dr. Edward Reese painstakingly arranges the Bible not just chapter by chapter, but sometimes even verse by verse. Certain portions of scripture he places according to the estimated date of their content and others by the estimated date of their composition. In order to simplify our reading and writing schedule and to maintain momentum in our study, we plan to assign one chapter of scripture per day, following a chronological list from www.blueletterbible.org with a few changes made after referring Dr. Reese’s chronological Bible. We recognize that some chapters of the Bible are much longer than others and may require more time to read aloud than is suitable for family devotions where there are young children present, for example. In those cases, please feel free to read only a portion of the chapter or to divide the reading material between multiple devotional sessions. Nor will we writers be able to cover all the material in a chapter in a brief mediation. Each devotional will either act as a summary of the assigned chapter or focus on one event, theme, or person found therein.
Why a chronological study? In “Skip’s Farewell,” printed in the December 2014 issue of Beacon Lights, Mr. Chester Hunter, who wrote the devotional column for this magazine for more than 20 years, suggested that a future writer consider a chronological approach to the Bible. Since it can be helpful to study the scriptures in their historical context, Mr. and Laning and I have decided to follow his advice. We pray that our study of the Bible in chronological sequence will prove edifying and interesting to us and to our readers.
January 1 – A Very Good Place to Start
Read Genesis 1
The Christian faith begins before the beginning. In the beginning, God. The triune Almighty God was there in the beginning. He commanded, and the world was created (Ps. 148:5). He spoke, and it was done (Ps. 33:9). First he called into existence a watery chaos, and then he ordered that chaos into a beautiful world in which plants, animals, and man could thrive. What was his evaluation of his creation? “Very good!”
The Reese Chronological Bible inserts Isaiah 14:12–17 and Ezekiel 28:13–18, which poetically recount Satan’s fall, after Genesis 1:1. We know that God created the angels very early, because scripture tells us that when the heavenly hosts observed God creating, they shouted for joy (Job 38:7). In his book The City of God, Augustine suggests that God’s creation of light on the first day might refer metaphorically to his creation of the angels. He reasons this because while Genesis 1:3 records God’s creation of light and in Genesis 1:4 notes that God called the light good, never does the passage say that God created the darkness, nor does he call it good. He only separates the darkness from the light. Whatever the case, already at the very beginning, a shadow stretches over God’s good creation.
Sing or pray Psalter #288.
January 2—A God-Ordained Institution
Read Genesis 2
Genesis 2 returns to the creation of man, describing it in more detail, and teaches that marriage is a creation ordinance. I recently read of a man who proposed to his girlfriend by asking her if she would live with him in an institution. That’s certainly an unconventional proposal, but it’s not unbiblical! Marriage is a God-ordained institution, a law that is as basic to human morality as the law of gravity is to our physical existence. God himself determined the clear boundaries of this institution. A man and woman enter it when they make their marriage vows, and there they remain until one of them dies. Within marriage, the sexual relationship is “safe and fruitful.” Without that institution, sexual activity is “dangerous and destructive” (Ash, Married for God.
Why did God institute marriage? It’s commonly presumed that he did so because Adam was lonely. The Bible doesn’t say that Adam was lonely, however. It says that he was alone and that he needed a helper. God created man to be fruitful and to rule over his creation. Adam wasn’t capable of fulfilling that high calling by himself: he needed a woman to help him. In short, God didn’t create marriage to meet our needs. God instituted marriage so that man—male and female—could better serve him.
Sing or pray Psalter #86.
January 3—Nakedness and Shame
Read Genesis 3
The Bible never beats around the bush. Already its second chapter ends with a sentence that can trigger smirks around the supper table: “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Nakedness indicates vulnerability. Adam and Eve were created without sin: they had nothing to hide from one another or from God. But as soon as they fell into sin, their nakedness became a cause for shame: there was much that they desired to hide from one another and from God. That doesn’t seem to be the case with many in our world today, does it? In fact, the word “naked” is rarely used; the euphemism “nude” is preferred. Nudity is nakedness portrayed in an “artful” way with the intent to deceive and manipulate. It is sin stripped of its shame.
Adam and Eve learned that they were unable to cover their nakedness themselves, nor could they hide from God. Nor can we, for “neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb 4:13). The covering of their shame—and ours—required a blood sacrifice, the bruising of the heel of the promised Seed.
Sing or pray Psalter #142.
January —Knowing and Taking
Read Genesis 4—4002 BC–3372 BC
I began yesterday’s meditation by stating that “the Bible never beats around the bush.” Nor does the Bible employ euphemisms, though it might seem as if Genesis 4:1 does exactly that: “And Adam knew Eve his wife…” Perhaps the word “knew” in that context seems prudish or archaic to us. In fact, it’s a beautiful expression for the exclusive, intimate physical relationship that belongs to husband and wife. The Hebrew word translated “knew” in Genesis 4:1 is the same word David uses in Psalm 139 in his attempt to describe the intimate and inexhaustible knowledge that Jehovah has of him. That’s the secure, self-sacrificial context in which God intended sexual relations to take place.
But how quickly fallen man deviated from what God calls good! In Genesis 4:19 we meet the first recorded bigamist, Cain’s vengeful, boastful great-great grandson, Lamech. Lamech didn’t “know” his wives: he “took” them. His relationship with his wives resembled the majority of contemporary sexual relationships, relationships that consist of the self-serving exploitation of another to satisfy one’s own lusts. Such is the sad case when man makes himself god and reserves the right to determine what is good and what is evil.
Sing or pray Psalter #384.
January 5—After His Image
Read Genesis 5
In Genesis 1:26, the triune God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And so he created man a moral, rational creature, a ruler who resembled the sovereign King, his Father. Strikingly, the backward genealogy in Luke 3 begins with Jesus Christ and ends this way: “Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (v. 38). But Adam forfeited his Father’s image when he fell. He wasn’t content to be just an image of the one true God: he desired to be God himself. Sadly, he remained only an image, but now the image he bore was that of the devil (John 8:44). Instead of calling order out of chaos as God had done, his rule would create more chaos. Man was called to be fruitful and multiply: he proliferated wickedness and filled the earth with violence.
God restores his image in all those who are elect in Jesus Christ, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3). They are his children, in whom his Spirit dwells, bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
Sing or pray Psalter #243:1,2,5,6 and 15.
January 6—Godlessness and Grace
Read Genesis 6—2468 BC
The history of the human race from Genesis 3 through Genesis 6 is an increasingly downward spiral. The blurring of the antithesis between the seed of woman, “the sons of God,” and the seed of the serpent, “the daughters of men,” leads to God’s assessment of mankind in Genesis 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Though he is longsuffering (1 Pet. 3:20), he determined to destroy mankind “with the earth.” (Gen. 6:7 and 13). But—and thank God, there is a “but”!—“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 8).
This grace that Noah found when he looked into the eyes of Jehovah came not on account of any works of righteousness that he had done; it was the fruit of Jehovah’s saving mercy. God saved Noah by the flood, a picture of the washing of regeneration, “which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” We, with Noah, are “justified by his grace,” and “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:6–7). Praise him!
Sing or pray Psalter #211.
January 7—The Fire Next Time
Read Genesis 7—2348 BC
Of all the stories in the Bible, perhaps none is subject to as much ridicule and unbelief as the story of Noah’s ark and the great flood. That’s ironic, because there’s more at stake than the factualness of the biblical account of Noah. The story of the flood encapsulates the entire gospel. The ark was Noah’s only hope for salvation. God commanded him, “Come thou and all thy house into the ark.” Similarly, the gospel calls men to their only hope for salvation: Jesus Christ. There was nothing in Noah himself that made him worthy of this gracious salvation. Soon we’ll see him, this second Adam, in a garden and then naked and ashamed. But God made a covenant with him that he would not break. Noah stepped into the ark, and God closed the door.
Jesus said that the days before his second coming in judgment would be like the days in which Noah lived. Unbelieving men and women will eat and drink and marry and mock at their only hope of salvation. To them comes this warning: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water, the fire next time” (James Baldwin).
Sing or pray Psalter #76.