Daily Bible Readings – Monday, November 25, 2013

Prayer Psalm: 106

Prayer Point.  I can’t read this psalm without hearing of the voice of the crucified thief pleading with Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Like us, he was a sinner in need to God’s forgiveness. Psalm 106 speaks of Israel’s sins, but what are yours? Confess them to God and ask him for his forgiveness and the hope of eternal life.

Matthew 19:1-12

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? Using the following background as a guide.

Background. There was a raging debate among Jewish rabbis about divorce in Jesus’ day. Some rabbis believed that it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife only for infidelity. Others believed that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, even if she burned the soup! The Pharisees bring the question to Jesus because they are trying to pigeonhole him by forcing him to take sides and turn certain factions against him.

Does Jesus fit into either camp, why or why not? Why did God create a divorce law for Israel?
The Law of Moses was concerned with protecting divorced women to ensure that they were not turned out on the street without means of support. The law never encouraged divorce, instead it tried to minimize the impact of divorce.

How much value does Jesus place on marriage? How does Jesus feel about divorce and remarriage?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

1 Peter 1:1-12

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. 1 Peter was a circular letter written by the Apostle Peter and passed among the churches in what we call Western Turkey today. The church was rapidly expanding during this time and the Apostles oversaw and cared for growing numbers of churches scattered around the world. Letters such as these were a means for the Apostles to guide these churches while they were away.

What does Peter call these Christians in verse 1?

Peter mentions all three members of the Trinity (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in relation to this church. Notice how the three members of the Trinity work together:

_____________ according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.
through _________________________________ of the Holy Spirit.
For ________________________ to Jesus Christ and ______________________.

Peter’s letter in typical fashion of his time follows a familiar pattern: Author, recipient, greetings and now in verse three Peter begins with a blessing.

What has God the Father done that causes Peter to praise him? What are we born into through Christ? What is special about the inheritance we receive? How does this inheritance give Peter’s readers hope even though they are presently suffering? What good can come of trials?

When Peter speaks of prophets, he means the prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Moses, etc.)  What guided these prophets? What two things did they point to? Whom were they serving?

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

Joel 3:1-2, 9-17

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you are reading.

Read. Read the passage slowly either alone or in a group and answer the following questions:

Listen. What is the passage saying? What are the main points? You can use the following background to help you understand the main points of this passage.

Background. What is Joel calling the “nations” to do? (He is telling them to prepare for war. Actually, I think the LORD is taunting the “nations” just to get them to where he wants them: The Valley of Jehoshaphat.)

Can you explain verse Joel 3:10? (I ask this question because we have seen the reverse of this imagery in Isaiah 2:4: “he shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (ESV) In both cases the LORD is contemplating judgment against the “nations”. Interestingly enough, Isaiah was written about 130 years before Joel proclaimed his message. And that is not all: Micah also uses Isaiah’s words, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away and they shall decide for strong nations; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore…”(Micah 4:3 ESV) Micah also lived during the time of Isaiah. Joel may have had two sources for his words. Now the tables are turned. Prepare for war. The LORD is speaking to the “nations”. )

What is being described in Joel 3:11-16? (This is another description of the LORD bringing the nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment.)

What does the LORD “roar” from Zion and from Jerusalem? (“So you [Israel] shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it..” (Joel 3:17 ESV))

Obey. What is God asking me to do?

Repent. How have I failed to obey what God is asking me to do? Confess those failures to God and ask for his forgiveness.

Believe. Which of God’s promises would I need to believe in order to obey and share what I have read?

Share. What can I share and with whom can I share it?

Final Prayer. Pray for the faith to believe the promises of God so that you might obey and share what you have learned.

 

Advertisements

Daily Bible Readings – Saturday, November 17, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 87

Prayer Point: Rahab (Egypt), Babylon, Philistia, Tyre and Cush were all former enemies of Israel and yet in this psalm, they have all been adopted into the family of God (see verse 5). Can you imagine if those we fear became followers of Jesus? Pray this dream for the enemies of our country today.

Luke 16:10-18

We are not owners of our possessions. Everything we have is a gift from God entrusted to us to be used in his service on earth. What is promised to those who handle the little things (worldly wealth) well?

If we believe that we own our money, our money will own us and become our god. What is impossible for those who serve money? Why do you think the Pharisees, who were very moral people, sneered at Jesus’ teaching?

Although the Pharisees were known as zealous law-keepers, they were known for creating convenient loopholes. Divorce law is one example. The Pharisees created “escape clauses” for their marriages, allowing divorce (for men only) for the most minor of reasons. If you need to obey God’s law in order to win his acceptance, the temptation to water it down will be irresistible. How is Jesus’ view of marriage superior to the Pharisees?

James 2:1-13

Why is James troubled by the way the rich and poor are treated in the church? Why should the poor be honored? Why should the church be reluctant to idolize the wealthy? What law is violated when favoritism is shown (see James 2:8-11, Deuteronomy 16:19-20, and Matthew 22:36-40)? What do we need to show in our lives in order to avoid judgment without mercy from God?

Joel 3:9-17

What is Joel calling the “nations” to do? (He is telling them to prepare for war. Actually, I think the LORD is taunting the “nations” just to get them to where he wants them: The Valley of Jehoshaphat.)
Can you explain verse Joel 3:10? (I ask this question because we have seen the reverse of this imagery in Isaiah 2:4: “he shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (ESV) In both cases the LORD is contemplating judgment against the “nations”. Interestingly enough, Isaiah was written about 130 years before Joel proclaimed his message. And that is not all: Micah also uses Isaiah’s words, “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations far away and they shall decide for strong nations; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore…”(Micah 4:3 ESV) Micah also lived during the time of Isaiah. Joel may have had two sources for his words. Now the tables are turned. Prepare for war. The LORD is speaking to the “nations”. )
What is being described in Joel 3:11-16? (This is another description of the LORD bringing the nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment.)
What does the LORD “roar” from Zion and from Jerusalem? (“So you [Israel] shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it..” (Joel 3:17 ESV))

Daily Bible Readings – Friday, November 16, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 88

Prayer Point:  Psalm 88 is a prayer of someone drowning in darkness and grief. Do you know someone in this place? Pray this psalm on their behalf.

Luke 16:1-9

Jesus taught that our possessions belong to God. We are only managers of God’s stuff, not owners. Some day we will have to make an account of what we did with his things.

This parable is a strange one because the master seems to praise his manager for his dishonesty. If you read it straight this story will confound you. Jesus’ stories are meant to throw us off our game in order to help us see the world through new eyes. This story drips with irony giving it an edge that drives the point home.

What causes the manager to change his approach to handling the rich man’s possessions? What is the manager’s new approach to his master’s possessions? How does the master feel about having his money given away? How do you think our heavenly Father feels when we give his stuff away? What do you think it means to “mismanage” the possessions that God has entrusted to us?

James 1:16-27

Who is the source of every good and perfect gift?

It appears that James is speaking of the gift of salvation. We are born (again, see John 3:3-8) by the Word of God (Jesus). When that happens we become “the firstfruits of all he created.” God is in the process of re-creating his world by purging it from evil and restoring it to its original purpose. When God saves us through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we become part of this new creation. The process has begun where God is cleansing us from sin and making us into the people who will enjoy God forever in the new heaven and new earth.

In what area of our life should we be quick? Where should we be slow? Why is anger dangerous?

What should we get rid of in our life? What should take it’s place?

James is not satisfied with understanding the teachings of Jesus. He wants us to do what it says. What does true religion look like? What is restrained? What is practiced?

Joel 2:28-3:8

On whom will the Lord pour out his Spirit? (“…I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” (Joel 2:28 ESV) We tend to think of passages in the Old Testament as being obscure; I think this one may qualify. However, something happened about five hundred years later which must have been so dramatic as to cause one of the witnesses of the event to quote this passage from Joel. “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day [9:00 A.M.]. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dreams dreams.'” (Acts 2:14-17 ESV) The event Peter is talking about is Pentecost — the descent of the Holy Spirit. Here the Holy Spirit makes his own rather dramatic entrance upon the drama of the history of humanity. While he had shown himself in times before, never had these appearances been more than temporal. We have seen Moses, Samson, Saul (the king), David, and, of course, Solomon. All of these men were gifted from time to time with the Spirit “upon” them. What happened at Pentecost was to prove a permanent presence of the Holy Spirit both among and “in” man. This is why Peter (and I say as moved by the Holy Spirit) refers to Joel to describe Pentecost. — j.t.)
Do you notice anything curious about verse Joel 2:29? (The curious thing here is that Joel says that this Spirit will be poured out on even the male and female slaves. The prevailing thought at that time was that, while God was considerate of and rather fond of the less fortunate, he did not number them among the “seers” and prophets. As for the women partaking in such grace, that was demonstrated very limited in the Old Testament (e.g., Miriam [Moses’ sister], Deborah, and Huldah [??] {– just so that you know, Huldah was the prophetess to whom emissaries from Josiah went to see regarding what should now be done now that we have rediscovered’ the law — see 2 Kings Chapter 22}.) Let’s just say, women were not considered as candidates for such missions. — j.t.)
What will the LORD show in the heavens and on the earth? (“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” (Joel 2:30-31 ESV) With imagery like this it is little wonder why people dread “the day of the LORD”. While this may be a day of dread for what we call the ‘unsaved’, it should be a day of great glory for the saints (that means you and me). — j.t.)
What hope does the LORD hold out for those who call on his name? (“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” (Joel 2:32 ESV) The key word here is perseverance — “there shall be those who escape…” There is our hope and our good news. — j.t.)
What are the LORD’s plans on this “day of the LORD”? (The LORD will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. This “restoration” could mean at least one of two things. The most immediate meaning would be a return to the prosperity of the days of Solomon; days of peace and wealth. The more far-reaching meaning would be a restoration of the world to the idyllic time of the Garden of Eden. The LORD is also going to hold a judgment rally in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (“refers to a place of final judgment rather than a known geographical location” (ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1652). There he will gather all the nations and render to them for their treatment of his people. These nations scattered God’s people throughout the earth and divided his heritage. They have cast lots for the people (“heads I win; tails you lose!). Their disregard for human life represents itself in you “have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.” (Joel 3:3 ESV) I think that today, we have sunk much lower than that. — j.t.)
Verses 3:4-8 recount in greater detail what the Philistines had done to Judah and the reward the LORD has planned for them.

Daily Bible Readings – Thursday, November 15, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 83

Prayer Point:   Psalm 83 is a call for God’s judgment to be poured out on enemies. Meditate and pray this psalm following these lines of thought: How am I deserving of the judgment described in this psalm? In what way did Jesus endure this wrath in our place? Finally, pray to surrender all matters of justice to God.

Luke 15:11-32

Jesus offended the religious leaders of his time by scandalously eating with “lost” sinners and tax collectors. Jesus responds with three stories that reveal God’s heart for those who are lost in their sin. The third and most famous of these stories, the Prodigal Son, is recounted in today’s reading.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you read this story:
There are two lost sons in the story. One is more obvious than the other.
Demanding inheritance from your father while he is living is the same as saying, “I wish you were dead.”
Respectable men did not humiliate themselves by running in public.
God is the Father in this story. The two sons are two ways of being a “lost” sinner.

How would you describe the lostness of the younger son? What causes him to come home?

Imagine you are the father watching the son who wished you dead come stumbling home having squandered your honor and half the family fortune. How would you have responded? What did it cost the Father to embrace his son? What did it cost God to embrace us? In what way was God humiliated? See Luke 23:26-46.

Why does the older brother miss the celebration? In what way is the older brother like the Pharisees of Luke 15:1-2? In what way is the older brother like us?

James 1:1-15

The book of James was written by James, the brother of Jesus. He was well respected in the Jewish community as both a righteous man and a pillar of the church in Jerusalem. His writing, as you will see, is practical. He wants to see the teachings of Jesus lived out by his followers.

How are Christians to view suffering? What good can came from trials?

How should we approach God to ask him for wisdom?

Why is wealth considered to be a low position? How should poor Christians view their poverty? Compare this teaching to Jesus’ (see Luke 6:20-26).

What blessing is promised to those who persevere through suffering?

What is the source of our temptations? Where does sin lead if it goes unchecked?

Joel 2:20-27

What is the Lord going to do? (He will remove the northerner [invader?]; drive him to a parched land and his guards (vanguard and rear guard) into the sea (eastern sea: Dead Sea; western sea: Mediterranean Sea); the pastures will be green; trees will bear fruit; the vine will yield grapes — the return of prosperity.)
How will the LORD bring about all this abundance? (He will send abundant rains; “the threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.” (Joel 2:24 ESV) He will restore what the locusts (or what the armies) had destroyed.)
What does the LORD promise in verses Joel 2:26-27? (“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” (Joel 2:26 ESV))

Daily Bible Readings – Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 119 97-120

Prayer Point: Pray that we might love and devour the Scriptures the way the poet of Psalm 119 delighted in them.  May our church dedicate ourselves to feasting on the Word of God, internalizing the teachings of Jesus, and being shaped into his image.

Luke 15:1-10

The Pharisees were a group of well-respected religious leaders in Israel. They were known for their zealous law keeping and righteous lives. Tax collectors were rightly reviled as sell-outs and crooks who became rich by working for the Roman government and overcharging their neighbors.

How did the company Jesus kept manage to offend the Pharisees?

How do the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin shed light on God’s heart towards “lost” sinners? How might we emulate the Father in the way we live our Christian lives?

Revelation 19:11-21

John sees a final and startling image of Jesus Christ as the victorious rider on the white horse coming to put an end to the evil forces who had tormented his people and distorted his Creation. Compare the white rider to description of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-18. Compare the rider’s name to the opening of John’s gospel (John 1:1). What title is written on Jesus’ robe and thigh?

In what way is this image terrifying? Why do we need to know this side of Christ?

Joel 2:12-19

What does the LORD want of his people? (“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” (Joel 2:12-13a ESV) Notice not a syllable about “burnt offerings” but rather a healing of the heart.)
Why is Joel yearning for the people to return to the LORD? (“Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him…” (Joel 2:14 ESV))
Whom does Joel call to a “solemn assembly”? (“Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:16 ESV) In other words, everyone.)
What is the prayer of the priests and ministers of the LORD? (“Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations.'” (Joel 2:17 ESV) When was the last time you wept over your own sins?)
How does the Lord answer their prayer? (“Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, ‘Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.'” (Joel 2:18-19 ESV))

Daily Bible Readings – Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 78

Prayer Point:  “… What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us … we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD … so the next generation would know them … and they in turn would tell their children … then they will put their trust in God.” Pray that this vision will become reality, that we might see the faith passed down from parents to children and to grandchildren in our church and in our world.

Luke 14:25-35

Jesus’ understanding of a true Christian is one who is a disciple. Disciples were common in Jesus day, they were the young apprentices who studied under the rabbis. Disciples sought more than knowledge, they wanted to become like the rabbi they followed. This has huge implications for us. A disciple is more than someone who knows that Jesus exists or the facts of Scripture. He wants to become like Jesus.

What is the cost of being a disciple of Jesus? What must we be willing to give up?

Salt was used in the ancient world as both a preservative and a flavor enhancer. For Jesus it is a description of a disciple’s role in our fallen world. We are to bring the flavor of God’s grace to an unforgiving world and our acts of love help preserve a world that has fallen into sin. That is how we should be. What will happen to us if we cease to be salt?

Revelation 19:1-10

The final destruction of Babylon (symbolic of the world system that oppresses God’s people) ignites a celebration in heaven. Look at the themes in the songs of the multitudes (19:1-3), the twenty-four elders (representing faithful Israel and the church that has died and entered the presence of God – 19:4-5) and the great multitudes (19:6-8). What acts of God and characteristics of God are they responding to? Consider offering your own prayers of worship to God following these same themes.

The Lamb of God is Jesus and the bride is God’s faithful people (faithful Israel and the church). The wedding feast is the culmination of world history when Jesus the groom will “marry” his people and live with them forever in peace and prosperity.

What happens when John attempts to worship the angel?

Joel 1:14-2:11

What is the other thing which underscores the importance of what Joel is telling the people? (The further admonition for the priests to fast also underscores the importance of the message. (Joel 1:14))
Finally we get to the meat of this prophecy. What is the important message as found in verse Joel 1:15? (Joel is warning about “the day of the LORD “. “Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.” Let’s face it, when the term “the day of the LORD ” is employed, it is not good news. Israel (the returned exiles) may have their sins, but their neighbors will also have to answer to the LORD for their treatment of the Jews when they were under judgment.)
Describe the substance of verses Joel 1:17-20. (Seeds do not produce harvest; thus the storehouses are empty; no grain nor granaries; cattle groan because there is no pasture; sheep suffer; fire has destroyed the pastures; and drought. The fire in the wilderness must have been severe enough to warrant a second mention (verses Jonah 1:19a and 20b))
As if on cue, what does Joel say about how one should feel about “the day of the LORD”? (Joel calls for the trumpet to be sounded. The trumpet was used to call to people to prepare for war, or for a national calamity. But the next line should cause people to be nervous: “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near…” (Joel 2:1 ESV))
How does Joel describe this “day of the LORD “? (“…a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!” (Joel 2:2a ESV))
How does Joel describe the land “before and after”? (Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.” (Joel 2:3 ESV))
Joel has likened the army to locusts. How else does he describe this army? (From The ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1649: “like … horses. (cf. Job 39:19-20; Jeremiah 51:27.) Locusts and armies have an analogous appearance, movement, and sound; both are used by Joel to capture the presence of the ultimate powerful army (lit., ‘mighty people’ [Hb. ‘am ‘atsum].)
Can you see why an alarm is sounded when we consider verses Joel 2:6-11? (These verses describe a devastating and ruinous picture. People would actually want the mountains to fall on them if the “day of the Lord” is even close to this description: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17 ESV) It is important to realize that what is described here in Revelation is, in fact, “the day of the LORD “. “For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11 ESV))

Daily Bible Readings – Monday, November 12, 2012

Prayer Psalm: 80

Prayer Point:  ”Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us that we might be saved,” cries Asaph on behalf of a broken people. God’s judgment has swept over his people, his vineyard, but there is still hope. Take stock of your life, your family, your community and your world. Where do we need restoration? Lift these areas to God in prayer and pray that he might revive us again.

Luke 14:12-24

Jesus turns the practice of throwing a party on its head. What motivates people to invite their friends, relatives and rich neighbors? Why should we invite the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind?

If you invite the A list, you’ve already been _________.
If you invite those society rejects, you will be ________ in the future.

Jesus is not just talking about the feasts we enjoy today (Thanksgiving is just around the corner), he also speaks of the Great Feast that we will enjoy on the day of his return. It is a blessed thing to “eat at the feast of the kingdom of God.” Sadly, not all will enjoy this feast as Jesus’ story illustrates.

Why do so many of the invited guests miss out on the feast? Do these problems exist in our time? Who is invited to replace those who scorned God’s invitation?

Revelation 18:15-24

The lamb is a personification of Jesus in the book of Revelation. Jesus’ faithful people, true Israel and the church, are described as the bride of the lamb. These images have their evil counterparts. The beast, Satan, is a distortion of Jesus the lamb. The whore of Babylon, Satan’s world system, mocks the bride of the lamb.

The name Babylon is significant in Israel’s history, as it was the kingdom that destroyed Jerusalem, the temple of God, and carried God’s people into exile. Babylon represents the Satanic system that has historically opposed and oppressed God’s people.

Who mourns the demise of the whore of Babylon and why? Who is called to rejoice and why?

Think about this. We live in a time where there is great fear that the world economic system may collapse. Should Christians dread this event as our neighbors do?

The image of the angel throwing the millstone into the sea announces the final and complete demise of the whore of Babylon. What sins has Babylon committed that warrants such complete destruction?

Joel 1:1-13

What do we know about Joel? Apparently very little. From The ESV Study Bible p. 1643:
“‘Joel the son of Pethuel,’ whose name means ‘Yahweh is God’, gives the book its title. Little is known of Joel except what is learned from the book itself. His references to Judah (3:1, 6, 8, 18, 19, 20) and Jerusalem (2:32; 3:1, 6, 16, 1, 20), along with his knowledge of the activities of priest and temple (1:9, 13-14, 16; 2:14-17), suggest that he was from Judah or perhaps even Jerusalem. His addresses to priests (1:9, 13;2:17) and elders (1:2, 14; 2:16) likely eliminates him as a member of either group.

Date
“Estimates for dating the book of Joel range from the ninth to the fourth centuries B.C. While no consensus has been reached, most scholars hold to a date after the exile (586 B.C.) for the following reasons: (1) the exile is treated as a past event (3:2-3); (2) the conquest of Jerusalem is mentioned (3:17); (3) no king is mentioned; (4) the temple plays a positive function, while there is no prophetic denunciation against idolatry and syncretism (a blending of true and false religious worship) mentioned in Hosea and Amos; and (5) the anger expressed toward Edom is best explained by its treatment of Judeans during the Babylonian conquest (Joel 3:19; Obadiah 1-21).

Theme
“The ‘day of the LORD’ is the dominant theme of the book of Joel. Both the nations (3:2-3) and Israel (1:15; 2:1-2) experience this judgment. However, for the repentant community, the ‘day’ also holds out the hope of restoration (2:12-14). Ultimately, the LORD’s covenant faithfulness is expressed in is promises of abundance and protection (2:23-26;3:1), which evidence his dwelling in the midst of his people (2:27; 3:17, 21). This is epitomized in the great promise of ‘my Spirit that would be poured out on ‘all flesh’ (2:28, 29; cf. Acts 2:17-21).

Purpose, Occasion, and Background
“Joel calls all the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem to lament and return to the LORD during a time of national calamity. This crisis is precipitated in the first instance by a locust plague that has destroyed both wine (1:5, 7, 12) and grain (1:10) and therefore threatens the ability of the people of God to present offerings in the temple (1:9, 13, 16) Given this background, Joel may have served as a lament in the ongoing life of God’s people during other times of national tragedy.”

This book is written completely in verse. A general “guestimate” of fifty to fifty-five per cent of the prophets wrote in poetic verse.
What is the source of the prophecy from Joel? (“This message has a divine source, and the prophet is given the privilege and responsibility of bearing that message to his hearers.” The ESV Study Bible Notes p. 1646. Note that Joel, unlike Jonah, is not reluctant to deliver his message to his audience.)

To whom is Joel addressing his words? (Actually Joel is addressing his words to everybody although he singles out the “elders” among the “everybody”. The “elders” were perhaps among the “retired” set (over 60 years of age) who had gained considerable experience throughout their lives. While they are not officials, the “elders” would have been sought out for their wisdom.)

What are the people to do with these words of Joel? (“Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.” (Joel 1:3 ESV) It is important even for us today, to bring the gospel message to our children and to their children, else how will they know?)
How many “kinds” of locusts does Joel describe in verse Joel 1:4? (Joel describes (1) cutting locusts; (2) swarming locusts; (3) hopping locusts; and (4) destroying locusts. We will see later that Joel delivers his message to the Jews after the exile (postexilic). This is important because the advent of locusts are generally harbingers of judgment. It is possible that Joel is not speaking so much of four different locusts as of four different plagues of locusts.)

Why would Joel direct some of his remarks to “drunkards” and “drinkers of wine”? (The psalmist tells us: “He [the LORD] makes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face to shine, and bread that sustains his heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15 NIV) This may just be a call to waken the populace to an imminent threat.)

To what are the locusts likened? (“For a nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness.” (Joel 1:6 ESV) My guess is that this nation invader is Greece under Alexander the Great (d. 323 B.C.) So Joel is speaking some time before Alexander. The locusts may refer to the invading armies.)

What will the invading army do? (“It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree…” (Joel 1:7ESV) The significance of grapes (vine) and figs is that they represent prosperity from the LORD.)

What does Joel call on the people to do? (“Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth. The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the LORD.” (Joel 1:8-9 ESV) The call for the people to don sackcloth was a signal to them of the seriousness of the message. The use of sackcloth became popular during the Middle Ages for people who wanted to mortify their flesh for the sins of their countrymen. The grain and wine were the elements of sacrifice in the temple as well as the animal sacrifices.)

Why would Joel tell us that the priests mourn? (It would be encouraging if the priests were mourning for the sins of the nation, but it is more likely that they are mourning the loss of the gifts which are brought to them for offerings to the Lord. It was their portion. Vested self-interest!)

What does Joel want the tillers of the soil and the vinedressers to do? (Joel is telling the tillers and vinedressers to “be ashamed”. From The ESV Study Bible: p.1647 “1:11-12 Be ashamed (Hb. hobishu) sounds like dries up (Hb. hobish, used to say the ‘vine dries up’ in v. 10 and ‘gladness dries up’ in v. 12; also Hb. hobishah, used to say ‘the vine dries up’ in v. 12). The loss of harvest means a loss of joy.”)

What is Joel’s message to the priests? (“Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.” (Joel 1:13 ESV))