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tractor preparing the fields September 30 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Matthew 2:1-23; Luke 2:41-52; Mark 1:1-8; Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:1-18

Preparation

If farmers are not using the no-till method, they prepare the ground for planting by plowing. At this time of year, in the northern hemisphere farmers are getting ready for harvest. Immediately after reaping, plows are used again to turn over the soil in order to give more nutrients to the ground.

Those who attend church services may participate in something called the “Preparation for the Message.” Sometimes, these are selected hymns played by an organist, pianist, or other instrumentalist. Other times, preparation songs are spiritual songs or hymns sung as a solo, duet, ensemble, choir, or the entire congregation before the preaching service starts. The intent is to soften the moods of the attendees, silence the fellowship of the believers (which can get loud), push away cares of the day, bring them into an atmosphere of subdued worship, and prepare the ground of their hearts for the “seed” of the message. Not all worship is meant to be quiet of course, but the intent in this case is to help the congregation to be ready to listen to the Word of God.

In today's Bible reading, before Jesus comes to this earth, The LORD prepares the Jewish people for his coming and his message of salvation. Later, this gracious message will be extended to all non-Jewish people who believe, trusting in Jesus for their salvation.

In our last Bible study, we learned that the true identity of Jesus Christ was proved by his genealogy, fulfilled prophecies, historical records, and testimonies. More testimonies, times, dates and fulfilled prophecies prove his identity in today's Bible reading.

Magi (astrologers), referred to as wise men from the east, see signs in the heavens of a coming king. They follow a particular star (or perhaps a comet) to Jerusalem. When they appear before King Herod to find out where the King of the Jews is born, Herod pretends to be interested in worshipping him. In reality, he is jealous and suspicious. He will soon be used by Satan to try to stop God's plan.

When the LORD is at work, Satan tries to oppose him. He knows that when God's Word is heard, the result is changed lives and hearts. He will try to stop it. Jesus Christ is the Word of God represented in human form (John 1:14).

After visiting Jesus, the wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi (Matthew 3:16, NIV).

Why did God allow this? We don't know. God does not choose to stop all evil in the world. Innocent babies of greater number are killed every day in America and other parts of the world. The problem is not with him—the problem is with humanity—our hearts need to be changed. Over all the evil, however, we can see that God is Sovereign; he does not let Satan ruin his plan to save the world through his Son. All these events, and yes even the tragedies (prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15 and fulfilled in Matthew 2:18), are arranged to make preparation for the message of Jesus Christ. People will hear the fulfillment of these prophecies and wonder, who is coming? Where is he? How will we know him? They live in expectation of a coming savior (although they are primarily looking for a physical savior from Roman rule to stop their oppression and return their control of the land).

Other preparations are also made for the ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist prepares the hearts of many people as he baptizes them in the Jordan River. He works with the Holy Spirit to bring about true repentance. He is bold to speak the truth with convicting messages. If we are Christians, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2Timothy 1:7, NIV). We need to trust him, be obedient in speaking the truth of the gospel, and live it.

As we might expect, even those who are falsely religious come to John. The Pharisees and Sadducees are two orders of clergy which come, not to repent, but to check out the scene. What does God require for repentance—a religious show or expressions of regret? No—true repentance is an honest, brokenness over sin that results in a changed life (Joel 2:12-13; Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:10-14). Are we hanging onto our sins and entering into worship? The Apostle James says, “... get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves” (1:21-22, NIV). Our hearts must be prepared ground for worship and service.

Lessons to Live By

  • We must prepare ourselves for the message of God's Word in our lives.
  • If we are in position to do it, we should also prepare others for the message of God’s Word.
  • We should trust the LORD and speak the truth boldly.
  • True repentance (brokenness) is required if we wish forgiveness from God (more...)
  • Our hearts must be prepared ground for worship and service.

note: In his book, The Great Christ Comet, Colin R. Nicholl, a theologian and scientist, makes a compelling case that the star seen in the east by the Magi, which moved across the heavens and pointed out a particular house in Bethlehem was a comet. He has eleven conclusive reasons for this in chapter five, pp.132-141. In chapter 6 he counters the argument that comets are not considered stars. He writes “In the ancient world comets were often called stars..., and then cites several examples” (pp.148-149).

Focus Verse

Matthew 3:3b: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him”

Here is a song that goes well with today's Bible study: Here He Comes!

Here is a video of the visit of the Magi

praying hands Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to mtbiblestudies@gmail.com

A Look Ahead: Now if our hearts are prepared to listen to the message of the Lord, what should we do to show our Commitment to him? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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