To download the Bible reading plan that our faith family started on January 1st, visit this site. There is also a guide to personal worship that you can download from that site. If you haven’t been reading along thus far, no worries! Jump on in with the current day’s reading.

Readings for This Week
Genesis 14-20 & Matthew 13-19

Where We Are In The Story ~ Old Testament (Genesis)

As the first book of the Bible, Genesis explains that God is the all-powerful Creator who cares about His creation, and it teaches that God takes evil and transforms it for His glory (Gen. 50:20). Written by Moses when Israel was wandering in the wilderness, Genesis also provides the history of God’s covenant with Israel by telling about Adam and his descendants, which include Noah and Abraham. Genesis 12-50 specifically emphasizes the development of the nation of Israel by focusing on their founding fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This week’s readings focus on the life of Abram (a.k.a. Abraham) with Genesis 15 and 17 detailing God’s covenant with him. The Abrahamic Covenant includes promises to provide him with innumerable descendants, including kings, and to give their descendants the land of Canaan. Genesis 15 also includes prophecy of how Israel would serve as slaves in Egypt for 400 years. At the time of these promises, Abraham and Sarah were childless and in their 90s, so for them to trust that God would give them more descendants than the stars in the sky required great faith. But when God’s promises did not occur in their timeframe, Abraham and Sarah tried to take control of the situation by Abraham having a child with Sarah’s slave, Hagar (Gen. 16). Their sinful actions resulted in consequences that affected their family and generations after them. Likewise, God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18-19), and Abraham’s lie to King Abimelech (Gen. 20) demonstrates the sinfulness of man, God’s punishment of sin, and the grace and mercy He extends to sinners.

Genesis 14, 18, and 19 relay Abraham's interactions with Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 14, Abraham and the men in his household rescue Lot and the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah from an enemy who had captured them. This chapter demonstrates God fulfilling His promise to bless those who blessed Abraham and to curse those who cursed him (Gen. 12:1-3). Genesis 18--19 indicate that the King of Sodom was a wicked man, and in contrast, the King of Salem stands as a king and as a priest of God. The writer of Hebrews draws on this dual role of Melchizedek in describing Jesus as both king and priest (Heb. 5; 7). The focus of this chapter is whether Abraham would resist the world's opportunity for blessing or depend on what God would provide.

Genesis 18-19 contains the birth announcement for Abraham's son Isaac, but this joyful announcement follows with a pronouncement of judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. The angels' visitation to the city demonstrates the extent of the peoples' wickedness as well as how Lot and his family had become influenced by their surrounding culture instead of influencers. These two chapters also emphasize God's punishment of sin, but while God judges the guilty, He responds to the intercession of the righteous. God is able to do what He wants with what is His, and He is simultaneously just and good. We may not understand His actions, but we can trust His unchanging character.

Structure: Genesis is organized into ten sections (Gen. 2:4-4:26; 5:1-6:8; 6:9-9:29; 10:1-11:9; 11:10-26; 11:27-25:11; 25:12-18; 25:19-35:29; 36:1-37:1; 37:2-50:26), and each section opens with the phrase “these are the generations of” and serves as the beginning of a genealogy. The first person mentioned in the genealogy (“these are the generations of Adam”) describes the subject of the following narrative section. Genesis 14-20 focuses on Abraham and his son Isaac.

Where We Are In The Story ~ New Testament (Matthew)

Matthew is the first of four Gospels that tell about the life of Christ. As one of the twelve disciples (Matt. 9:9-13), Matthew focuses on demonstrating how Jesus fulfills Old Testament promises concerning the Messiah, and in this selection of readings, Matthew explains how the peoples' confusion regarding Jesus' parables was prophesied (Matt. 13:14-15, 25; Ps. 78:2; Isa. 6:9-10) as well as their response to Jesus' teaching and identity (Matt. 15:7-9; Isa. 29:13). Matthew also alludes to Isaiah's prophecy of how the Messiah would make the lame to walk and the blind to see in order to demonstrate how Jesus is the Promised Messiah (Matt. 15:29-31; Isa. 35).

Matthew 14-17 includes descriptions of Jesus’ miracles and tells of the growing hostility towards Jesus by the religious leaders. Matthew 16:21 introduces a transition in Jesus’ life and ministry. The declaration that He is the Messiah (Matt. 16:13-20) leads Jesus to prepare His followers for His coming death and resurrection, and the Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13 (when Jesus appeared in a glorified body with Moses and Elijah on the mountain) gives Peter, James, and John proof of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, His authority, and His power.

Structure: Matthew includes five collections of Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 5-7; 10; 13; 18; 24-25), and each of these sections concludes with a statement saying, “And when Jesus finished these sayings…” Matthew 13 includes the third collection of Jesus’ teachings, which consists of seven parables (earthly stories with heavenly meanings) that teach about the kingdom of heaven. The opening parable about the sower and the seed sets the stage for the rest of the parables in the passage, for it highlights four different responses that people have to the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18 contains the fourth collection of Jesus’ teachings and focuses on the theme of relationships with an emphasis on forgiveness and how to deal with conflict.