Old Testament reading: Joel
Joel is a power packed little book! So many great pictures, statements and lessons! Joel was written after God had sent a plague of locusts upon Judah (“My great army”-2:25). In Joel 1:8 God pictures the sorrow Judah should express for her sin, “like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.” Imagine the unspeakable and inconsolable grief of a young bride whose husband-to-be dies on their wedding day! Joel 2:13 contains a cutting rebuke to those who merely feign remorse for sin. The rending of one’s garments was a sign of great grief or distress (cf Gen 37:29, 34). We see Joel 2:13 at work in the actions of the high priest in Matthew 26:65. The phrase condemns those who shed crocodile tears. Joel 2:28-32 is the great prophecy of Pentecost, quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17-21. Of note also is that the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 marks the inauguration of “the last days.” Anyone who thinks we are entering or about to enter “the last days” need to be pointed to these two texts. Finally, Joel 3:14 is a text often used in the invitation to invite people to make a positive decision to follow the Lord. However, I believe the latter half of the verse indicates that the decision has already been made to the destruction of the multitudes, for “the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” “The day of the Lord” is synonymous with God’s wrath and judgment.
New Testament reading: Ephesians 1-3
“When you read, you may understand my knowledge” (Eph 3:4). The gospel of Christ, here identified as “the mystery of Christ,” was made known to Paul by direct revelation of Jesus Christ (cf Gal 1:11-12). Paul wrote down these things for the Ephesians with the understanding that, when they read his writings, they also would have the same knowledge as he. Contrast this with the Gnosticism of that day or with the Catholicism of the last 1500 years. These groups purported to have special knowledge that they withheld from the people to hold sway over their faith. Paul, a true apostle of God, never wanted his hearers to know less than he did. Rather, he encouraged them to read so that the mystery would be known by all. From this we also learn that we can understand the Bible and God’s intended message in it.