Today’s Bible Reading: Joel 1-3:21; Revelation 1:1-20; Psalm 128:1-6; Proverbs 29:18
Today we read the book written by the prophet Joel. It was written in approximately 835 BC which was prior to the exile of either Israel or Judah. In this book Joel describes the current condition of these nations and warns them about what is to come.
God had recently sent a plague of locusts to get the people’s attention but the people were too consumed by their sin to understand (Joel 1:4-7). The best way to understand what is going on in the world and our own individual lives is to maintain a relationship with God by studying His word. When we don’t do that, sin takes over our lives and it is like we are drunk – unable to comprehend.
Joel warns the people to repent and turn back to God because a time of worse judgement was coming (Joel 1:8, 11, 13-15). God’s goal is not to punish. His goal is to correct. How much pain we have to go through to be corrected is up to us. We can be open to correction and thereby receive minimal discipline. Or we can be like a stubborn child who doesn’t learn his lesson until after many rebukes. I think it is safe to say that most of us are like the latter.
But God is eager to relent and withhold discipline (Joel 2:13). This is the opposite view many have of God. They think He is looking for any reason to punish us. But this is not true. No where in the Bible is God depicted this way. For the past 340+ days we’ve read that God is motivated by love for us. He wants to see us on the right path. And if we get on that path with just a warning, then God is satisfied. All He wants is the best for us.
At this point in Israel it was not time for business as usual (Joel 2:16). God was calling the people to take a break from their normal lives and refocus on Him as they had strayed too much. This is still a good lesson today. We are so busy “doing life” that we lose sight of God. What we really need is to take a break and seek God. He will never turn anyone away who sincerely seeks Him and asks Him to save them (Joel 2:32).
What a great promise! Anyone who repents and asks God’s forgiveness receives it unconditionally. No questions asked. Male or female. Gay or straight. Young or old. God rejects no one who accepts Him. In fact, this is the exact thing He is eager to do. He is not eager to punish you. He is eager to accept you into His family.
We’re down to the final book of the New Testament: Revelation. In the original Greek this book is called “apokalupsis” which means “revealing”. It is the word from which we get our English word “Apocalypse”. Revelation is the revealing of what will take place (Revelation 1:1). This book was written in approximately 90 AD yet the things in it have not yet come to pass even though Revelation 1:1 says they will happen “soon”. This does not reduce the credibility of the Bible at all. “Soon” is a relative term and is based on God’s eternal timetable, not our short-lived earthly timetable.
Revelation was written by John while he was on the island of Patmos where he had been exiled for preaching God’s word (Revelation 1:1, 9). John was the last remaining of the twelve original disciples and was the only one to die a natural death. All the others had been martyred for their faith with the exception of Judas who betrayed Jesus and subsequently killed himself. Once Emperor Domitian died in 96 AD, John was released from Patmos and it is then that he likely delivered these letters to the churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4, 11).
Notice that John received all the information he will record directly from Jesus (Revelation 1:1, 11 17-20). Jesus died on a cross, was put into a sealed tomb, rose to life three days later, ascended into heaven where He exists today. And while He is there He is still actively engaged in people’s lives (Revelation 1:18).
Notice too that Jesus came to John while he was on this desolated island – alone, lonely, without much food or water. Patmos is a rugged, inhospitable island. It was used as a penal colony by Rome. Yet Jesus had not forgotten about John. In the midst of his suffering He was right there.
Its interesting that churches are compared to lampstands (Revelation1:20). Lampstands don’t emanate light. They make light more visible by raising it up high. Jesus is the light of the world. Churches are the way the world sees this Light. It is the job of the church (all the believers in the world) to raise Jesus up high – by what we do and say as well as what we don’t do and don’t say – for all the world to see.
When I read Proverbs 29:18 I couldn’t help think of the youth of today. They have been brought up by parents who have not taught them the Bible and we can see the effects of this. I spend a lot of time at high school athletic events and am often dismayed at the things the kids chant from the stands – all right in front of parents, coaches, security guards. No one asks them to stop. I also follow a couple hundred of these athletes on Twitter and couldn’t even repeat the things they tweet. Without guidance from God, people – not just teenagers – run wild.
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