I belong to a squash club, which is also a gym. Each year on 1 January they bring in extra gym equipment. The place is packed out. By about 7 January, they move out all the extra equipment, as most people have given up their New Year’s resolution, and the club returns to normal!
There is nothing wrong with making these common New Year’s resolutions. Of course, all of us make resolutions that we fail to keep.
The good news is that each year is an opportunity for a fresh start. But then so is each week. Every Sunday is the first day of the week – a new beginning. Actually, every day is an opportunity for a new beginning.
The first three words in the Bible are, ‘In the beginning…’ (Genesis 1:1). Each of the passages for today tells us something about new beginnings and new opportunities, and suggests some possible New Year’s resolutions.
If you are beginning the challenge to read the Bible in One Year, this psalm has encouraging words for you.
The promise is that if you ‘delight’ in God’s Word and ‘meditate’ on Scripture ‘day and night’ (v.2, MSG), your life will be blessed. Happiness comes from what happens to you. Blessing is what happens to you through knowing God and meditating on his words.
God promises you fruitfulness (‘which yields its fruit in season’, v.3b), vitality (‘whose leaves do not wither’, v.3c) and prosperity ('whatever they do prospers', v.3d), though not necessarily material prosperity!
This message is backed up by a glance across at the ultimate fate of ‘the wicked’. The psalmist does not try to pretend that the wicked don’t sometimes prosper. He simply reminds us of the transitory nature of their prosperity – ‘they are like chaff that the wind blows away… [they] will perish’ (vv.4,6).
The key to lasting – and ultimately eternal – fruitfulness and vitality lies in your relationship with God. As you seek to follow ‘the way of the righteous’, you are assured that the Lord himself will watch over you (v.6).
Lord, thank you for your wonderful promises as I resolve to make a regular habit of delighting in your word and meditating on it.
Resolve to focus your life on Jesus. The Bible is all about Jesus. The New Testament opens with his family tree.
As we read the list of Jesus’ ancestors, it is encouraging to see that they include Tamar (the adulteress), Rahab (the prostitute), Ruth (the non-Jewish Moabite), Solomon (who was conceived after King David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba), as well as many others. Thankfully, God uses sinful human beings and, therefore, can use us. Whatever your past, however broken your life may seem right now, God can use you to do something great with your life.
The very name ‘Jesus’ means, ‘he will save his people from their sins’ (v.21). Every time we use the name Jesus it reminds us that our greatest need is not for happiness or contentment (although these may both be by-products). Our greatest need, as with Jesus’ ancestors, is for forgiveness. Therefore, we need a Saviour.
The beginning of Matthew shows us that Jesus is the completion of all that is recorded in the Old Testament:
Jesus is the climax of history
Matthew opens his Gospel by summarising the Old Testament story in terms of Jesus’ ancestry (vv.1–17). The Old Testament tells the story that Jesus completes. Matthew sets out the history of the people of God in terms of three equal periods: fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile and fourteen from the exile to Christ (v.17).
In the genealogy, biological generations are skipped over (as was quite common in Old Testament family trees). Matthew was pointing out that Old Testament history falls into three approximately equal spans of time between crucial events. Jesus is the end of the line as far as the Old Testament story goes – the climax has been reached.
In Jesus, all the promises of God are fulfilled
Jesus is not only the completion of the Old Testament story at a historical level, he is also the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies and all of God’s promises.
Matthew concludes each of five scenes from the conception, birth and early childhood of Jesus by quoting the Hebrew Scriptures that have been ‘fulfilled’ by the events described (Matthew 1:22–23; 2:5–6,17,23; 4:14–16).
The first one is the fulfilment in the conception of Jesus: ‘All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”)’ (1:22–23).
All of history, prophesy and promise, is completed in Jesus. Your whole life is completed in Jesus. Every part of your life: your work, family, relationships, friends, memories and dreams are completed in Jesus.
Lord, thank you for this promise for the new year – that, in Jesus, you are with me. Help me to focus my life on you in the year ahead.
You are not here by chance. This universe is God’s creation. You are made in his image.
Genesis gives an account of the beginning of the universe. It goes way beyond the scientific theories of ‘how?’ and ‘when?’ It answers the questions of ‘who’ and ‘why?’ Scientific theories do not prove or disprove this explanation. Rather, they are complementary.
Reading this passage through the lens of the New Testament we see the whole Trinity involved in creation. The Hebrew noun for God (Elohim) is a plural noun. The Holy Spirit was involved in creation (1:2). It was through Jesus that creation came into being: ‘And God said…’ (v.3a). Jesus is God’s Word and through him the universe was created (see John 1:1–3).
In the midst of this account of the creation, there is an amazing throwaway line showing the immense power of God: ‘He also made the stars’ (Genesis 1:16). We now know there are probably between 100 and 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and our galaxy is but one of around 100 billion galaxies. He made them all, just like that!
The pinnacle of his creation was human beings. You are made in the image of God (v.27). If we want to know what God is like, it is men and women together (‘male and female’, v.27b) who reflect his image.
Every human being is created in his image and should be treated with dignity, respect and love. Your ability to communicate with God is a reflection of the fact that you are made in his image.
God approves of all that he created. He said, ‘It is good’. Many people feel worthless, insecure and of no value. But God did not create rubbish. God created you. He loves you and approves of you. He may not approve of everything you do, but he loves you unconditionally, wholeheartedly and continually.
We see in this passage that work is a blessing: ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’ (2:15). Work is part of God’s good creation – not a result of the fall. This passage also reminds us that taking care of the environment is right at the heart of God’s plan for human beings.
Rest is not an optional extra. It is what God did (‘he rested’, v.2). These days of rest (days off, holidays) are days of special blessing: ‘God blessed the seventh day and made it holy’ (v.3). Holidays are holy days. They point to the fact that life is primarily about being rather than doing. Don’t feel guilty about taking time off. Holidays are good in themselves. They are also a time to recharge spiritually.
Don’t work too hard. God took time to rest and enjoy what he had made. You are not supposed to work constantly. You are created with a need for relaxation and rest – taking the time to enjoy your work and the fruit of your work.
In Genesis 2:16–17 we see that God gave Adam and Eve far-reaching permission (‘you are free to eat from any tree in the garden’, v.16), with one prohibition – ‘but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (v.17a). He warned them of the penalty if they disobeyed (‘when you eat of it you will surely die’, v.17b). You do not need to know and experience evil. God wanted you to know only good.
Lord, thank you for this universe that you have made. Help me to keep well away from evil and to enjoy all the good things you have given us to enjoy.
How difficult this must have been for Mary, her parents and Joseph. They must have felt embarrassed and ashamed. We see why Joseph was chosen to be Mary’s husband – he was very impressive. The girl he was about to marry was pregnant; he would have been justified in being furious. Yet, he didn’t want to humiliate her – he planned to ‘divorce her quietly’. We see how he acts after an angel appeared in a dream and told him to marry Mary (v.24). It must have taken faith to put aside what people thought and raise a child that was not his own.
‘The Lord watches over you’ (Psalm 1:6).
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