Luke 1-3

Luke 1-3

Luke’s gospel opens with an explicit statement of the evangelist’s purpose — to provide certainty to one Theophilus through an orderly account of the life of Christ (1:1–4). Apparently, several stories about Jesus were circulating at the time, probably records of individual episodes in His life, and Luke wanted to offer a more complete history of the Savior’s ministry to Theophilus and other readers. Using these fragmentary records, the other gospels, interviews with eyewitnesses, and so on, Luke sat down, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, to give Theophilus a written document that would address his concerns.

As we would expect, our Father’s providence uniquely equipped Luke to record an orderly account of our Savior’s life and ministry. As Paul’s most faithful traveling companion (2 Tim. 4:11), Luke must have received a great deal of information about Jesus not only from Paul himself but also from the apostles with whom Paul had contact. We also know that Luke was a trained physician (Col. 4:14) whose education would have been an invaluable asset for helping him do the research and writing necessary to compose his gospel. Furthermore, God was the one who provided Luke a friend in Theophilus, a man whose concerns about Jesus needed to be addressed. This circumstance gave Luke the motivation necessary to write a gospel to deal with Theophilus’ questions and give us a glimpse at the purposes of God that we might not otherwise have received.

For instance, Luke demonstrates that the God of Israel, Yahweh, is Lord also of the Gentiles and deeply concerned with their plight. Matthew, Mark, and John make this point as well, but it is particularly evident in Luke’s work. The Greek of his gospel is refined and of a literary quality, which we would expect from someone of Gentile descent, though Luke may have converted to Judaism before hearing of the Christ. Is there a better way for God to demonstrate His love for the Gentiles than to inspire one to record the life of His Son? Luke also brings out Yahweh’s concern for the nations in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23–38. The evangelist traces the ancestry of Jesus according to the flesh all the way back to Adam, revealing that the Jewish Messiah is also of Gentile stock, for everyone between Adam and Abraham was a Gentile.

The third evangelist also shows the Father’s love for the nations through his special concern for world history. Of course, all four gospels, along with all the books of Scripture, are historically accurate and concerned with God’s work in recorded time. Yet the historical structure of Luke’s gospel gives us a unique look at our Creator’s intent to redeem people from every nation. Structurally speaking, a three-stage progression of God’s work in world history is discernible in Luke’s writings, which includes his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke 1:1–3:22 emphasizes the work of the Almighty in Israel; thus, the first stage of world history is the era of the Jewish nation in which God prepared a holy people to give birth to the Savior. Luke 3:23–Acts 1:26 represents the era of Christ’s earthly ministry, the second stage of world history in which Jesus defeated the power of sin, death, and Satan and witnessed to God’s glory before the Jews and Gentiles such as Pontius Pilate. Acts 2–28 and all of church history until the return of Jesus (implied in Acts 28:28) is the time for the salvation of all peoples, which God accomplishes through the work of the Spirit-empowered church. During this third stage of human history, the gospel goes forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth as the Holy Spirit moves the church to proclaim God’s grace in Christ to all the nations.

Nehemiah 11-13

Nehemiah 11-13…Heart change.

Having rebuilt the wall, Nehemiah recognized that a physical defense for the city would be no good without a change in the hearts of the people. So he gathered the people together to hear Ezra read the law of God and express repentance for the sins that had put them into exile in the first place. There was also a great celebration at the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem, for the Lord had been faithful to grant the people success in their important endeavor (Neh. 12:27–47).

Consistent preaching of the gospel both to ourselves and to the world around us is necessary if reformation is to endure. We need to be reminded of the gravity of our sin and the greatness of our Savior in order to live in grateful obedience to His Word. Others must realize their lack of trust in Christ, so that they might become converted and their lives transformed. There will never be a point in this life when the gospel is unnecessary.

Deuteronomy 32-34

Deuteronomy 32-34…The song of Moses, and his death.

Moses’ final words to Israel include a reminder of their history, an outline of God’s blessings on them, and a dose of reality regarding God’s sovereignty and wrath. This section in Deuteronomy contains the famous verse in 32:35, which the Lord used powerfully during The Great Awakening in early to mid-18th century New England. Jonathan Edwards used this text when he preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut during the summer of 1741. It is probably the most famous of all American sermons. The sermon lays out the dreadful consequences of man’s sin, and Edwards sought to persuade his listeners that they might at any moment be called to judgment for their sins. Reportedly some in Edwards’s audience cried out in response to his terrible imagery. At the end of the sermon, though, Edwards preached about “an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open.”

This serves as an example to us in our evangelism. The objective reality of both God’s wrath against our sin, and the amazing grace He has extended us in Christ need to be presented. We certainly want to hold out the hope of being with God in heaven as a reason for repentance and faith in Christ. We should also emphasize that we were made for something more than what we can see with our eyes today. However, we do not want to neglect the whole truth, and the bible is clear about hell. In fact, no one in the bible talked more about hell than Jesus. So, while it is not popular, the doctrine of hell needs to be woven into our evangelism. A right view of hell should in fact motivate us to tell others about Christ, because according to Deuteronomy 32:35, “their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” Outside of Christ, God wrath is terrible; and this life is short, so we should seek to share the gospel with those God has placed in our lives today.

Deuteronomy 8-10

Deuteronomy 8-10…Remembering God and His grace, and the importance of heart change.

Chapters 8-10 in Deuteronomy outline the key components of the gospel. Israel did not have the full revelation of God’s plan of salvation that we have, but the call to turn to the Lord and away from their sins is the same. Here are the key components of the gospel laid out in this text.

1) The objective reality we see in these chapters is that the Lord is their God. Regardless of what we believe, this is true for us as well. He has authority as creator to require our obedience, as we’re living in His kingdom.

2) Israel rebelled and stubbornly refused to submit to His authority. We are the same, and according to Deuteronomy 8:19, we “forget the Lord and go after other gods and serve them and worship them.” The warning here is that we will “surely perish.” He’s not talking merely about a physical death, although that is a component of the result of our rebellion against a perfectly holy and perfectly just God. The main point is that there is eternal punishment for our souls because we do not love God and obey Him like we should.

3) But God, being rich in mercy and abundantly patient and gracious, provides a rescue plan. Israel didn’t yet fully understand how God would execute the promise made in Genesis 3:15, but some believed, and the righteousness of Christ was counted as their own. God makes it clear that the people did not have a righteousness of their own to offer, and that it was only because of His faithfulness and love that they could be saved (Deuteronomy 9:5):

“Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

4) The way for us to be made right with God is not by our own righteousness. This is true for us, and was true for Israel. We see this clearly in Deuteronomy 9:6:

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.”

The right response to knowing that we need a righteousness outside of ourselves, is to turn from our sins and believe God’s promise of salvation. Those saved in the Old Testament had faith in God, and He credited to them as righteousness. We can look back today and clearly see that this perfect righteousness came from God the Son, and is imputed to us if we repent and believe.

Exodus 20-22

Exodus 20-22…The ten commandments and the judicial laws.

Following the commandments of God is one mark of the true Christian. After all, Christ lives in His people (Gal. 2:20), and since Jesus’ food is to do the will of His Father (John 4:34), He certainly works in us so that we see following God as essential to our sustenance. Yet may we never forget that our obedience is always grounded in grace, for apart from the Lord changing our hearts, we have no desire to please Him (Rom. 8:7–8). Following God’s law, therefore, does not mean obeying it to secure our right standing in His heavenly court, for we can stand before Him by His grace alone (Eph. 2:8–9). Also, following God’s law does not mean obeying it in order to boast of how we are more godly than others. We are always to confess our failures and remember that “there but for the grace of God go I” (Luke 18:9–14).

Until we trust Christ, God’s law can merely restrain the extent of our sinning, encourage us to love sin, and condemn us as sinners who need the Savior (Rom. 7:8; Gal. 3:23–25; 1 Tim. 1:8–11). But once we are converted, God’s law becomes something in which we rejoice. Redeemed hearts no longer experience the Lord’s regulations as burdensome (1 John 5:3), and they see the importance of keeping “the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). Through obedience, we thank Him for the right standing granted to us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 5:12–6:14).

Exodus 17-19

Exodus 17-19…God brings about water from the rock, Jethro visits Moses, and God instructs Moses at Mount Sinai.

The Rock is one of the titles of Jehovah (Deut. 32:15). In 1 Corinthians 10:1–4, we read that the Rock (of Horeb) was Christ. Christ would stand in our place, the place of the accused, and bear judgment for the sins of His people. The rod is a symbol of judgment—in this case, divine judgment, for Moses was God’s representative. By the rod, Jesus was smitten, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) from sin. In the same way, by the smiting of the rock at Horeb, water flowed forth, just as the Holy Spirit flows forth from Christ to nourish and equip His church. And so, in the Old Testament, we see this beautiful picture of God’s grace in the salvation of His people, for He stands in our place so that by His wounds we will be healed.

In Exodus 19, Moses gives us an inspired account of what happened at Sinai when the Israelites arrived. God made His presence known on the beginning of the third day, descending as fire and enveloping the mountain in lightning, thunder, cloud and smoke (vv. 16–19). This was truly an awesome sight, and it was meant to remind the people that the God who set them free was no deity to be taken lightly. Other passages of Scripture tell us that angels were also present (Galatians 3:19), their submission to the Lord being a further indication of His glory and power. God’s holiness is also demonstrated in His appearance to the people at Sinai, as the need for the people to be purified is stressed. They are also forbidden to touch the mountain lest they be destroyed (Exodus 19:9–15).

Our need for a Savior is woven throughout these chapters. Each day, we need to be laid low, humbling ourselves before God in repentance, and esteeming Jesus greatly. The more we grow in our understanding of the massive chasm between God and us because of our sin and His holiness, the more we’ll love Christ. If we believe in Him for any other reason, we’ve missed the entire point of Christianity.

Exodus 14-16

Exodus 14-16…The Lord parts the Red Sea, the song of Moses and Miriam is sung, and the Lord sends manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert.

Three observations about these chapters:

1) God’s judgement is certain for those who disobey.

The Lord delivers the Israelites by parting the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptians. Just like the Egyptians, we have a certain, pending doom if we don’t repent and believe. This should motivate us to share the gospel with friends and family who do not believe. They will face an eternal judgement far worse being drown by the Red Sea. If we love them, we need to not only tell them with our words, but also show them with our actions, that there is great power in the gospel to redeem.

2) A right response to understanding His judgement involves being laid low before Him.

Notice the end of Exodus 14 (verses 30-31), which leads into a prayer of praise to God.

“That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”

If we’re to truly place our faith in the Lord, we must understand His power and wrath against our sin. The Israelites did, and in Chapter 15, Moses and Miriam lead the people in a song about how great and powerful He is. This is what turning to the Lord in authentic faith looks like. Being laid low, rightly grasping our nothingness, then proclaiming our desperate need for Him.

3) Like the Israelites, we grumble and complain because of our unbelief, yet God continues to extend us mercy.

Despite this initial burst of faith, the Israelites become lukewarm. They distrust the Lord’s goodness, and quickly forget His mercy and grace. Yet, He is faithful, slow to anger and abounding in love. He blesses them because of an intercessor; Moses communicates with the Lord on their behalf, which is a picture of what Christ does for us. Moses was interceding on a micro level in Exodus 16, whereas Christ intercedes in the most important way possible. His perfect life is what the Lord sees when He looks upon us.

Exodus 11-13

Exodus 11-13…The death of the first-born is threatened and then brought to fruition, the passover instituted, and the Israelites flee and are rescued by God miraculously parting the Red Sea.

The death of all the first-born in Egypt had been the first threatened, but the last to be executed. See how slow God is to anger. Also, notice that this was for everyone. The prince was not too high to be reached by it, nor the slaves at the mill too low to be noticed. God does not change. He has this same patience with us. We too, are not exempt from His wrath. It doesn’t matter if we grew up in church, know all the Bible stories, and prayed the sinner’s prayer. We desperately need Jesus. The fruit that comes from submitting our lives to Him should be evident. We cannot just agree with the gospel in principle, but need to be transformed by it in our daily lives.

In Exodus 12, the passover was instituted. It was to be kept every year, both as a remembrance of Israel’s preservation and deliverance out of Egypt, and as a foreshadowing of Christ. Their safety and deliverance were not a reward of their own righteousness, but the gift of mercy. They would be constantly reminded that all blessings came to them through the shedding and sprinkling of blood. It is that way for us with Christ. His perfect life had to be laid down for us to be made righteous. Apart from the loving sacrifice of our Savior, we are not safe, and have no hope.

There were two ways from Egypt to Canaan. One was only a few days’ journey, and the other was much further. Through the wilderness was the way in which God chose to lead his people Israel. The Egyptians were to be drowned in the Red sea, and the Israelites were to be challenged and humbled in the wilderness. God’s way is the right way, though it can sometimes seem more burdensome and tortuous. In some of our trials, we may not ever understand God’s purposes this side of heaven. But, God’s wisdom will clearly appear when we come to our journey’s end.

Exodus 1-4

Exodus 1-4…The Israelites are oppressed in Egypt, Moses is born and flees to Midian (Northwest Saudi Arabia today) after killing an Egyptian, Moses encounters the Lord in a burning bush, and Moses returns to Egypt with Aaron.

God had blessed His people in Egypt through Joseph. But, in Exodus 1, when Joseph died and a new king took over, things changed. The Israelites went from being exceedingly fruitful in all things, to being oppressed. This was part of God’s plan for them, just as trials are part of His plan for us. It is not a matter of “if” trials come for us, it’s when.” We know based on James 1:2-4, that we can trust the Lord in trials, and even take joy, because He’s using them to make us more like Christ:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

All of these very unlikely circumstances (in both Genesis and Exodus), including Moses being placed into the Nile in a basket, and ending up being raised by Pharoah’s daughter, were for God to make Himself and His glory known. We need to trust His providential hand, and not grumble and complain, because we don’t know always know what His plan is. He often uses difficulties and trials to bring about His glory.

Moses flees to Midian, and marries Zipporah, then God appears to him in the burning bush. He reveals to Moses a name that denotes what He is in Himself; I AM THAT I AM. This name signifies four things in particular:

1. That He is self-existent: He has His being of Himself.

2. That He is eternal and unchangeable.

3. That He is incomprehensible; we cannot fully understand Him.

4. That He is faithful and true to all his promises.

In Exodus 4:13 we see Moses’ fear of man when he says, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” It is just like God, to take a man fearful, meek and afraid, and turn Him into a servant-leader. Are you praying the Lord would use you in the lives of others for their spiritual good? If you are afraid, remember Moses, and pray that God would take away your fear of man. If you don’t have an interest in the spiritual well-being of others, and aren’t spending time on this important piece of the Christian life, then repent and obey God’s word.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11

“He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Genesis 48-50

Genesis 48-50…Jacob puts Joseph’s younger son first, instead of his firstborn, Jacob blesses his own sons, then dies, and Joseph reassures his brothers that he will show them mercy and kindness.

At the end of the book of Genesis in chapters 48-50, we see three themes which are indicative of the entire book, as well as the whole of scripture.

1) God fulfills His promises despite man’s sin

In Genesis 48:3, Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’” God is perfectly faithful. He promises us that He will preserve us until we die, or Christ return, whichever comes first. The God who we read about in Genesis, who did everything He said He would do despite a hard-hearted people, is the same God who came and rescued us, and offers the promise of eternal life in Christ. We should be filled with joy and thanksgiving because of his grace and mercy to us, in saving us from our sins.

2) God’s ways are not man’s ways

As humans, we’re all wired to think that God is like us. But, He doesn’t tend to choose those who are important from a worldly standpoint. This is the opposite of how we tend to think. In other words, the people we’ll be most likely to care for and love are the ones who are important. In Genesis 48, Jacob chooses Joseph’s youngest son to bless, which is a picture of God blessing the least important. It is this perspective that we often miss, because we want to appear as being important and worthy. The Pharisees thought this way, and pretended to love God to appear righteous. We’re no different, and like to get cleaned up each Sunday, and go to church to show that we’ve got it all together. But we don’t have it all together. We need a Savior, desperately. And, we need to pursue God each day, with just as much fervor as we do when we get excited about our favorite songs at church.

3) God’s people will take on God’s character

If we are saved, we will grow in holiness. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). This applies not only to our vertical relationship with God, but also to our horizontal relationships as well. In Genesis 50:19-21, Joseph displays God’s mercy and love. He says to his brothers:

But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

We are not justified by our own holiness, but Christ’s. Therefore we need to run to Him daily, and place our faith in Him. If we do, we will grow in becoming more like Him.