Jan 2: Gen 3, 4 | Psa 3-5 | Matt 3, 4

Reading 1 - Gen 3:8,10

"Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden" (Gen 3:8).

Attempts to hide sin from God will always be unsuccessful: Jer 23:24; Heb 4:13; Amo 9:2,3.


"[In sin] we resort to the trees of the garden -- the affairs or amusements of the world, the forms and ceremonies of religion, or its wordy technicalities, or its fervors and passions, or its busy activities... whatever, in short, may serve to fill a certain space, and bulk to a certain size, as a barrier between God and the heart that shrinks from too direct an approach to him. And we soothe ourselves with the notion that this hedge... serves the same purpose on God's side as on ours..." (Candlish).


*****


"He answered, 'I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid' " (v 10).


The legacy of Adam's sin for all mankind was fear, more urgent, insidious, worse than death (which does not bother us for most of our lives). Fear fills our lives, our minds, warps our thoughts, weakens resolve, poisons relationships with others and with God, and hides us from the love and grace of our Lord. Fear aggravates disease and hastens death. Our habits, even our characters, are largely formed through fear. Some are aggressive, intolerant, talkative, arrogant, contemptuous of others, boastful, angry (as, for example, a mother's angry welcome to a child she feared was lost). Some are reserved, shy, silent, polite out of fear. Religion is distorted by fear: of upsetting God or the sect, fear of divine disapproval and punishment in this life or the next, or of sectarian displeasure or excommunication. Some hate, some love from fear. We fear losing things -- money, jobs, position, security, men's goodwill or respect, friends, loved ones. Do we fear losing our place in the kingdom? Do we fear not being "good enough" for our Saviour? Are we afraid our treasures of good works are not yet sufficient to protect us from condemnation, as we are afraid we have not sufficient earthly treasure to protect us from want? Fear fills hospitals, mental homes, refugee camps. Fear is at the root of divisions, wars, oppression, terrorism. Either to bring relief from fear, or to instill fear in others.


We are even afraid openly to acknowledge fear. Stress, anxiety, worry, shyness, reserve, inferiority complex, lack of self-confidence, depression: all these may be manifestations of fear. A score of euphemisms for "I was afraid and I hid myself"... in addictions to drink or drugs or self-pity?... taken for temporary but useless relief.


The remedy? "Fear not!" A true and sincere and full faith in God and His promises is the only real antidote to fear. This comes from reading the Bible, and believing it.


Reading 2 - Psa 3; 4

"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me" (Psa 3:5).

"Be not anxious for the morrow... your heavenly father knows that you have need" (Mat 6:32,34).


"He who did keep me waking

Has kept me still

Through the dark, silent night;

And now I thrill

To greet once more the light.


His power unseen, from sleep

Unlocked my eyes,

With strength afresh renewed;

And I arise

With song of gratitude.


Thus, if death's night at length

Should darkly close,

And in my earthly bed, confined and deep,

I take repose,

Stiller, profounder sleep,


To know a yet more marvelous waking,

A fairer morn...

May I with gladness say

'I slept, but wake new-born

To brighter day.' "


(NP Holt)


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"How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame [or 'dishonor my Glorious One']? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods [or 'seek lies']?" (Psa 4:2).


The glory of David's selection as king led to the downfall of Saul and his house, for which David was unjustly blamed (2Sa 16:7,8). Also, in becoming king, David was put in the way of receiving closer scrutiny and thus greater chastisement for his own sins. His sins regarding Bathsheba and Uriah brought shame on him, and led directly to the revolt of Absalom. Israel is condemned for changing the "glory" of God into the shame of idolatry (Psa 106:20; Rom 1:23).


Likewise, Christ's glory was turned to shame:


  • a procession of honor, in which Roman legionaries, Jewish priests, men and women, took a part, he himself bearing His cross;

  • derisive shouts were his only acclamations, and cruel taunts His only hymns of praise;

  • they presented him with the wine of honor -- the criminal's stupefying death-drink;

  • a guard of honor, who showed their esteem for him by gambling over His garments;

  • a "throne" of honor was provided for him upon the cross; and

  • the title of honor was nominally "King of the Jews," but this title was distinctly repudiated, and they really called him "King of thieves," by freeing Barabbas, and by placing Jesus in the place of highest shame between two thieves.

His glory was thus in all things turned into shame by the sons of men, but such "shame" would yet be his true "glory"!


******


"Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself" (Psa 4:3).


"We shall never attain salvation without developing a godly mind. A godly mind does not come naturally. It comes only by great effort and dedication and desire. We could be 'in the Truth' one hundred years, and still not have a godly mind. A godly mind is full of God, all the time. And it is not just sentiment, though that is vitally important. It is godly knowledge, deep knowledge from His Word reverently studied and pondered, which is equally important. A godly mind lives in the atmosphere of God. It sees God everywhere. Every creature has its natural habitat -- the surroundings where it is comfortable, and healthy, and happy. The natural habitat of the godly mind is God Himself: here only it is at home and at peace" (GV Growcott).


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"You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound" (Psa 4:7).


The assurance of God's protection brings greater joy to the righteous man than all manner of material bounty brings to the secular man! "It is better to feel God's favor one hour in our repenting souls, than to sit whole ages under the warmest sunshine than this world affords."


Reading 3 - Mat 3

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John consented" (Mat 3:13-15).

Why was Jesus baptized? The most obvious answer is the Scriptural one: in the words of Jesus himself, "to fulfill all righteousness". This calls to mind Mat 5:17: "I am not come to destroy [the law], but to fulfill." The work of Jesus, in all its aspects, was to fulfill, or complete, the righteousness of the law of Moses. The law of Moses was a "shadow" (Heb 10:1), pointing forward to the substance, the reality, which was Jesus. As Moses washed Aaron (Exo 30:20,21; 40:12), to sanctify and cleanse him for his work as a mediator, so John washed Jesus. If Aaron had entered the Most Holy without washing, he would have failed; if Jesus had offered himself as a sacrifice with no public baptism (signifying the denial of the flesh), he would likewise have failed. Although Jesus possessed the same nature as ours, he was absolutely without personal sin. The necessity of his baptism shows how far even sinful flesh alone separates man from God.


"He had no life of sin to leave behind in the waters of Jordan, but there he did bring to an end the home life of Nazareth, the quiet, peaceful years of preparation, and did accept as the 'righteous will of God' the storm and strain and sacrifice of the work which he had come to do" (Erdman).

 

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