Matthew 1-2, Psalm 81
Each portion of Scripture has it's own difficulties and challenges. We just finished the Old Testament where if people aren't careful they can question it's relevance, now that Jesus is on the scene. But the challenge in the New Testament is familiarity. Many of the stories that we read we have read and heard over and over again since we were kids. Nothing is more true of this than the Christmas story in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke. If we are not careful, it is easy to gloss over portions of Scripture, saying to ourselves, "I know this already". With that mindset, nothing new can be learned. As I witness to many of my patients, what I always stress at the conclusion of our discussion is the importance and necessity of getting into God's Word on a daily basis. Many come from a traditional religious background (Catholic or Protestant) but have never sought a relationship with Jesus. Many want to get to know Jesus first. I always warn them, though the stories may be familiar, read them with a freshness as though you are reading them for the first time. If Scripture is approached that way, then you will open yourselves to be taught something new by the Holy Spirit every time.
Though Matthew was not the first book in the New Testament chronologically, it is placed first since it links the Old to the New more than any other book. The Old Testament is quoted over 120 times in this book, with phrases like, "that it may be fulfilled", and "that which was spoken" throughout it's pages. In these opening chapters, multiple prophecies are fulfilled. In the genealogy, we read of His fulfilling those prophecies requiring the Messiah to be from the line of Abraham, Judah, and David. We read the prophecy of His birth to a virgin, in Bethlehem, then going to Egypt, then settling in Nazareth. As we continue, we will see that Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies at the time of His first coming. Mathematician, Peter Stoner, said that the probability of one person fulfilling just 8 of these prophecies, was 10 to the 17th power. If that number makes no sense to you, it would be the equivalent of filling the entire state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep. Then marking one of these silver dollars. This number is the same chance as sending a person, blindfolded into this sea of silver dollars and that person finding it on the first chance. To further put this number into perspective the chance of being struck by lightning on any given day is 1 in 250 million, a much better chance. Peter Stoner concludes that even 8 prophecies would be mathematically impossible, let alone 300.
We live in a very distracted world, where we want our information quick. But Scripture is not meant to be approached that way. We can not hear from God unless we approach it with freshness and enthusiasm, along with fear and trembling, wondering what the Holy Spirit may blow us away with today. Consider what might have happened if Joseph was distracted on his cell phone or listening to music or watching TV, and not available and sensitive to God's calling as he was led to move in the life of his step-son, Jesus through dreams in Matthew 1:20, 24; 2:13and 19. Likewise, distraction ruins our opportunities to hear from God. As we spend the remainder of this year immersed in the New Testament, let's approach it with freshness and wait upon the Holy Spirit as He moves through us, empowering us for a life focused on Him.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: