Day 2

Your First Question

Wisdom Psalm 2:1-12
New Testament Matthew 2:1-18
Old Testament Genesis 2:18-4:16


‘What is your first question going to be?’ I was preparing my cross-examination for one of the first criminal trials in which I was involved when I was working as a barrister. A senior and experienced lawyer was helping me prepare. He showed me the significance of a first question.


Psalm 2:1-12

Psalm 2

  1 Why do the nations conspire
   and the peoples plot in vain?
  2 The kings of the earth rise up
   and the rulers band together
   against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
  3 “Let us break their chains
   and throw off their shackles.”

  4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
   the Lord scoffs at them.
  5 He rebukes them in his anger
   and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
  6 “I have installed my king
   on Zion, my holy mountain. ”

7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

  He said to me, “You are my son;
   today I have become your father.
  8 Ask me,
   and I will make the nations your inheritance,
   the ends of the earth your possession.
  9 You will break them with a rod of iron;
   you will dash them to pieces like pottery. ”

  10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
   be warned, you rulers of the earth.
  11 Serve the Lord with fear
   and celebrate his rule with trembling.
  12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
   and your way will lead to your destruction,
  for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
   Blessed are all who take refuge in him.


1. The first question in the Psalms is about Jesus

It is all about Jesus. The safest place to be in life is close to Jesus.

Paul, preaching the gospel in Antioch, quotes this psalm. He says, ‘We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second psalm: “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”’ (Acts 13:32–33, quoting Psalm 2:7).

It is Jesus who is his ‘anointed’ (Psalm 2:2). The Hebrew word here is ‘mashiah’ (messiah). He is the Christ, the Son of God, whom we are to love: ‘Kiss his Son’ (v.12).

The psalm’s original context probably concerned a particular situation involving a human king of Israel. Yet, as we read it with a larger horizon in mind, we see that the first question asked in the Psalms points forward in anticipation to Jesus. Why do people ‘conspire’ and ‘plot’ against him (vv.1–2)?

This is exactly what we see happening in the New Testament, even in today’s passage, in relation to Jesus. Right from the start of Jesus’ life, we see rulers gathering together and conspiring and plotting in vain (Matthew 2:3–4).

Yet the psalm ends, ‘Blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) are all those who seek refuge and put their trust in him!’ (Psalm 2:12b, AMP). With all the storms of life, and supremely the storm of Jesus’ coming in final judgment, the only safe place to be is ‘in him’.


Lord, thank you that as I look to the year ahead and all the potential challenges, opportunities and possibilities, the safest place to be is in you.

New Testament

Matthew 2:1-18

The Magi Visit the Messiah

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

  6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
  for out of you will come a ruler
   who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 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. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

  18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
   weeping and great mourning,
  Rachel weeping for her children
   and refusing to be comforted,
   because they are no more.”


2. The first question in the New Testament is about Jesus

The whole of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus.

The Magi (often referred to as ‘the wise men’) sensed the significance of Jesus’ birth. They asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’ (v.2) They sought and found him. When ‘they saw the child… they bowed down and worshipped him’ (v.11). They recognised that Jesus was the fulfilment of all the hopes and dreams of the people up to his birth.

Jesus is the one who fulfils all God’s promises. Today we see three more examples:

  1. Place of his birth

    Matthew saw that even the place of Jesus’ birth was prophesied (Micah 5:2). It was out of Bethlehem that the ‘ruler’ and ‘shepherd’ would arise, ‘for this is what the prophet has written’ (Matthew 2:5–6).

  2. Exile in Egypt

    When Herod tried to kill Jesus, the family escaped to Egypt (v.13). Matthew writes, ‘So was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”’ (v.15; see also Hosea 11:1).

  3. Slaughter of the children

    When Herod ordered the murder of all boys under the age of two (Matthew 2:16), this fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (31:15) (see Pippa Adds – Matthew 2:17–18).


Lord Jesus, today I want to bow down and worship you. I want to offer you everything I have – my life, my all.

Old Testament

Genesis 2:18-4:16

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,

  “This is now bone of my bones
   and flesh of my flesh;
  she shall be called ‘woman,’
   for she was taken out of man. ”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The Fall

3 Now the snake was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”

2 The woman said to the snake, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the snake said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 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. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? ”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me —she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The snake deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the snake, “Because you have done this,

  “Cursed are you above all livestock
   and all wild animals!
  You will crawl on your belly
   and you will eat dust
   all the days of your life.
  15 And I will put enmity
   between you and the woman,
   and between your offspring and hers;
  he will crush your head,
   and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

  “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
   with painful labour you will give birth to children.
  Your desire will be for your husband,
   and he will rule over you. ”

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

  “Cursed is the ground because of you;
   through painful toil you will eat food from it
   all the days of your life.
  18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
   and you will eat the plants of the field.
  19 By the sweat of your brow
   you will eat your food
  until you return to the ground,
   since from it you were taken;
  for dust you are
   and to dust you will return.”

20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Cain and Abel

4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. ”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know, ” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. ”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over. ” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.


3. The first question in the Bible is about God’s goodness

Do you ever find yourself doubting whether God’s way really is the best? Do you find yourself wondering whether, even though God says it is wrong, something is worth trying anyway?

God gave to humankind everything they could possibly want. The whole created world was made for us to enjoy. Every possible need was catered for. The pinnacle of God’s creation was humankind. The need for community was solved by the creation of other human beings: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ (2:18).

It started with the beautiful gift of marriage: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (v.24). Marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman in which sex, another of God’s beautiful gifts, is to be enjoyed with intimacy and freedom, without guilt or ‘shame’ (v.25).

Yet despite this abundant provision of everything good, human beings looked for something more and they succumbed to the temptation to take forbidden fruit.

The temptation started with doubts about God. Here is the first question in the Bible: ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ (3:1). Behind this question is the demonic lie that God is withholding from you something that is really exciting.

Eve’s first mistake was to engage with the snake in conversation. We are created to converse with God, not the devil.

The devil, in the form of the snake, fools Eve into thinking that there will be no consequences to her sin – ‘You will not certainly die’ (v.4). He imputes bad motives to God: ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’ (v.5). It is often the case that you swallow a lie about God, before you swallow forbidden fruit.

The fruit looked ‘good’ and ‘pleasing to the eye’ and ‘desirable for gaining wisdom’ (v.6). This is often how temptation appears. Adam and Eve sinned and, as so frequently happens, cover-up followed the sin: ‘So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves’ (v.7).

4. The first question God asks in the Bible is about you

Adam and Eve’s friendship with God was broken. When they heard God coming, they hid (v.8). But God immediately came looking for them, and we find his first question in the Bible: ‘Where are you?’ (v.9) God did not give up on them.

Whenever you fall away from him, God comes searching for you, wanting the relationship to be restored.

He says to the snake that one of Eve’s descendants ‘will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’ (v.15b). Jesus is the one who will crush the head of the snake. But there will be a cost – ‘you will strike his heel’. We see here the first hint of what it will cost to restore the relationship. On the cross Jesus crushed Satan, but it cost him his life. His blood was shed so that you and I could be forgiven and our relationship with God restored.

5. The first question human beings ask is about responsibility

‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (v.9b). This is the crucial question for today. Do you have responsibility for others?

The result of the fall is a broken relationship with God. Adam and Eve blamed each other (vv.11–12), and in chapter four we read that their children also fell out with each other. Arguments, quarrelling and falling out with one another began here. It has blighted the human race ever since. Try to avoid arguments. You will rarely win one and they are so destructive.

Cain was angry with his brother Abel. God’s questioning continued: ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it’ (4:6–7).

You will either master sin (now through the power of the cross and resurrection and with the help of the Spirit), or else sin will master you. In Cain’s case, it did. He killed his brother (v.8). God asked him yet another question: ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ (v.9a).

In response, Cain asked the first question by a human being in the Bible: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (v.9b). Cain wanted to avoid responsibility. He was saying, ‘Do I really have responsibility for anyone other than myself?’

The biblical answer is that you do have responsibility for others. We cannot exempt ourselves from responsibility for what is happening around us – in our city, nation and the world. For example, we cannot accept that thousands of children die every day as a result of extreme poverty and simply say, ‘It’s not our responsibility.’

Not only do you have responsibility towards your fellow human beings, but it is your privilege to bring blessing and joy to your friends, family and all those around you, and to make a difference in the lives of as many people as possible.


Lord, thank you that you have created this wonderful universe for us to enjoy in relationship with you. Help me this year to fulfil the potential I have to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Pippa adds

Matthew 2:16

I always feel rather traumatised when I read Matthew 2:16:

‘When Herod realised 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.’

What a terrible thing Herod did to the vulnerable, just because he felt insecure about his own position. Are you ever in danger of putting others down to try and secure your own position?



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Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company All rights reserved ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica UK trademark number 1448790.

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