Malachi 2:10-4:6; Joel 1:1-3:21
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Today we finish the book of the prophet Malachi! The first half of Malachi chapter 3 verse 1 is prophesying 400 years in advance of the coming of John the Baptist, who will prepare people's hearts for Jesus by preaching repentance of sins: ""Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me." This is a great thing to reflect on as we close out one year and begin anew. Do we need a messenger from God to encourage us to repent from our sins? Will we listen to that messenger and make way for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and lives? The second half of verse 1 then prophesies that Jesus is indeed coming to usher in the new covenant, or the new testament: "The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming," says the LORD Almighty." The Good News for us today is that Jesus has come already for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus is coming again in glory!
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Verse 2 tells us this about Jesus: "For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal or like a strong soap that whitens clothes." Will you allow Jesus to refine you through his holy fire? And make you pure through his holy soap? (Okay, I realize this is a bit cheesy wording here - has anyone ever called Jesus holy soap before?? :) Actually, would you believe it - I found an image of "Jesus soap" online, as you'll see below! How this all ties into our Malachi readings today I've lost track of... I apologize for my end-of-year giddiness... :)
Verses 6 & 7 are so powerful for us to reflect upon: ""I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my laws and failed to obey them. Now return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty." As I reflect back upon our One Year Bible readings this year, it is so true that God does not change. He has shown so much compassion over and over again to the Israelites in the Old Testament. And he continues to show so much compassion to us today over and over again. In light of God's holy and unchanging love and compassion for us, will we return to Him? As you look back on our Bible readings this year, do you agree with God's statement here that He does not change?
Verse 10 is one of my favorites and one of the most challenging in the Bible: "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do," says the LORD Almighty, "I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won't have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!" This verse has and will continue to be interpreted so many ways. Check out the NIV translation of Malachi 3:10 (slightly different than the NLT version above) - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." It is very rare in the Bible that God says "test me" and follows it up with an incredible promise of a blessing. In 2011, will you test God with a tithe? In 2011, will you trust God with your tithe?
Chapter 4 verse 2 makes me smile with the metaphor of us being compared to a calf frolicking in a field: "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." Do you want to be set free? Truly free from your burdens and doing things that you do not want to do? Will you entrust your life to the Sun (Son?) of Righteousness, Jesus? And then - are you looking forward to leaping with joy like a calf let out to pasture?? :) I love this metaphor... it will stick with me.
Today we start and finish the book of Joel! The book is basically about locusts. :) Well, okay, more than that. This book was written by pretty much an unknown author. There are 12 other Joel's mentioned in the Old Testament, and none are thought to be this book's author. Joel's name means "The Lord is God" or "Yahweh is God." Not a bad name eh! This name is actually the reverse of Elijah - "God is Lord/Yahweh". Different commentators estimate that this book was probably written between the 8th and 5th centuries B.C. And, yes, since you know I like images on this blog, will you please indulge me in one locust swarm picture? :)
~ Joel ~
Date: Ninth century B.C.
Content: This beautifully written book uses a plague of locusts to describe symbolically God’s coming judgment on Jerusalem. Just as locusts devour the land, so will the enemy armies devour Jerusalem unless the nation repents of its sins. If the people do respond, there will be a time of prosperity and a return of God’s favor. God’s favor is seen as going beyond the immediate future to a time when God would pour out his Holy Spirit upon all flesh. The New Testament sees this as being fulfilled at Pentecost.
Theme: Joel’s message is one of coming judgment if Jerusalem does not repent. Just as surely as the locusts strip the trees bar, so will God strip bare the land. Joel also speaks of coming prosperity, and final blessing, if the people respond in faith. (Above commentary is from “The One Year Bible Companion” pp. 15-16) A wonderful commentary on the book of Joel by Hampton Keathley IV is at this link. Below is an image of Joel prophesying when Israel had just been struck by two plagues - locusts and drought - from a 14th century illuminated Bible:
Joel chapter 2 verse 13 stood out to me in today's readings: "Don't tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you." I like that - tear your hearts. One of my favorite musicians, David Wilcox, often talks and sings about hearts not working right - until they are broken. I think he's actually preaching the Gospel message with this thinking. When we finally get to the point of surrendering our lives to Jesus, we come with broken-open hearts. Hearts that have been torn. We've given up our pride. We're reading for God to fill our hearts instead. And as this verse tells us - God is gracious and merciful. Has your heart been torn for God?
Joel chapter 2 verses 28-32 are amazing! ""Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike. I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth--blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon will turn bloodred before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives. And anyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved. There will be people on Mount Zion in Jerusalem who escape, just as the LORD has said. These will be among the survivors whom the LORD has called." I didn't realize until recently that these verses were quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost - seven weeks after Jesus' resurrection - in the book of Acts. Check out the similarities at this link, Acts Chapter 2 verses 16-21. Back to Joel chapter 2 verse 29: "In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike." We are in those days... Has God's Spirit been poured out upon you? Into your heart?
Worship God: Today's readings reminded me of the song "Do Not Fear (Isaiah 43):"
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!