tractor preparing the fields September 30 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Matthew 2:1-23; Luke 2:41-52; Mark 1:1-8; Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:1-18


Farmers prepare the ground for planting. At this time of year in the northern hemisphere, immediately after harvest, they often turn over the soil so it will be easier to plant the next spring. Those who attend church services may experience something called the “Preparation for the Message.” Sometimes these are selected hymns played by the organ, piano, or some other instrument, or a song before the preaching service starts. The intent is to soften our moods, silence the fellowship of the believers (which can get pretty loud at times), push away our cares of the day, bring us into an atmosphere of subdued worship, and prepare the ground of our heart for the “seed” of the message. Not all worship is meant to be quiet of course, but the intent in this case is to make us ready to listen to the Word of God. Before Jesus came to this earth, God prepared the Jewish people for his coming and his message of salvation. Later, this gracious message was extended to all non-Jewish people who would believe.

In our last lesson we learned that the person of Jesus Christ was validated or authenticated through his family tree, fulfilled prophecies, historical records, and testimonies. More testimonies, times, dates and fulfilled prophecies validate his person in today's lesson.

Matthew 2 contains part of the Christmas story, particularly that of the magi, the famous wise men who came to see Jesus. When they came to Herod to find out where Jesus was born, Herod pretended to be interested in worshipping this new king. In reality, he was jealous and suspicious. He became an instrument of Satan to try and destroy him. From this episode we can learn that when the message of God is coming, we can expect opposition. Satan knows changed lives and hearts will be the result of God's Word being heard, and he will try to stop it. Jesus Christ is the Word of God personified.

After visiting Jesus the wise men were 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 us. Hearts must be changed. Over all the evil, however, we can see that God is Sovereign; He did not let Satan overcome his plan to save the world through his Son. All these events, and yes even the tragic events (prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15 and fulfilled in Matthew 2:18), were arranged to make preparation for the message of Jesus Christ. People would hear the fulfillment of these prophecies and wonder, who is coming? Where is he? How will we know him? People would live in expectation of a coming savior (though they were primarily looking for a physical savior from Roman rule to stop their oppression and get their land back).

Other preparations were also made for the ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist prepared the hearts of many people as he baptized them in the Jordan River. He worked with the Holy Spirit to bring about true repentance. He was 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 just need to trust him, be obedient in speaking the truth of the gospel, and live it.

As we might expect, even those who were falsely religious came to John. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two orders of clergy that came, 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 one's 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? James 1:21-22 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,” (NIV). Our hearts must be prepared ground for 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 prepare others for the message of God’s Word.
  • We should trust God and speak the truth boldly.
  • True repentance (brokenness) is required if we wish forgiveness from God (more...)
  • Our hearts must be prepared ground for service.

Today’s memory verse:

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

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