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Joel 2:28-3:21; Isaiah 44:12-28; 2 Timothy 3
An attack by an army of locusts must be so frightening! What descriptions! And even worse when God is bringing the attack as an act of judgement. Yet Joel offers hope. He encourages the people to come back to God and beg for the Lord’s help. We will pick up today re-reading the famous part of Joel 2.
In the first part of this chapter God said:
Is. 44:3 NLT For I will pour out water to quench your thirst
and to irrigate your parched fields.
And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants,
and my blessing on your children.
4 They will thrive like watered grass,
like willows on a riverbank.
5 Some will proudly claim, ‘I belong to the LORD.’
Others will say, ‘I am a descendant of Jacob.’
Then God gave a lecture on the futility of idols. I love the irony in the verses we read today:
Is. 44:19 NLT The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,
“Why, it’s just a block of wood!
We heard the wonderful encouragements to Timothy in chapter 2. Note that Paul did not explain everything to Timothy, but invited him to ponder what he had said. I urge all of us to similarly ponder and spend time meditating on what Paul said.
Note what Paul says about God’s Word in contrast to his being in chains: “The word of God cannot be chained.” Yay, God! May your Word accomplish what you have sent it to do!
GNT Translation notes:
2Tim. 3:8 As Jannes and Jambres were opposed to Moses, so also these people are opposed to the truth—people whose minds do not function and [what they believe doesn’t even make sense//who are failures in the faith].
10 But you have followed my teaching, my conduct, and my purpose in life; you have observed [how I believe//my faith], my patience, my love, my endurance,
15 and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through [believing//faith] in Christ Jesus.
Joel 1-2; Isaiah 44:1-18; 2 Timothy 2
I feel the need to comment about chapter 9 of Esther and how the Jews “got rid” of their enemies. Remember that those Jews were not Christians. (I know how silly that sounds, but it is actually a common supposition among naive Christians.) The revelation of God’s will did not come all at once, and the Jews did not have the pleasure of knowing what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount or other pertinent NT passages. They most certainly did NOT ‘get rid’ of their enemies, except in the short run. All the relatives of the enemies slain raised up succeeding generations of people who hated the Jews even more fiercely than the first enemies did. We Christians must read Esther 9 remembering how the Jews had been slaughtered and then taken away from their land by force put into slavery in Babylonia. It is just amazing to me how the cycle of ‘getting rid of enemies’ has continued, right up to Hitler (the modern Haman), and right up to the conflicts in the middle east today. The cycle will stop and real peace will only happen when the True King returns.
Joel is the second book of the minor prophets in the Old Testament. We read the first one— Hosea, about two months ago. From now until the end of the year, we will start every day with a reading in the minor prophets. Joel’s name means “Yahweh is God.” It is quite possible that Joel is one of the earliest of the prophets. He is called the ‘prophet of Pentecost’, since Peter quoted from Joel in his speech in Acts 2. The occasion of Joel’s message was a devastating plague of locusts which foreshadows the ‘Day of the Lord’— a time not for comfort for God’s people, but for punishment because of their sins.
According to the NLT, in Is. 43:14 God said,
43:14 NLT “For your sakes I will send an army against Babylon,
forcing the Babylonians to flee in those ships they are so proud of.”
This is a very difficult verse to translate, and GNT’s translation can also be defended:
43:14 GNT Israel's holy God, the Lord who saves you, says,
“To save you, I will send an army against Babylon;
I will break down the city gates,
and the shouts of her people will turn into crying.
God said that the people of Israel had become tired of God and tired of bringing sacrifices. God will do something new:
43:25 NLT “I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake
and will never think of them again.
These frequently quoted words are from the beginning of the chapter:
43:1b NLT “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
What was the spiritual gift that Timothy received when Paul placed his hands on him? Paul wanted Timothy to fan that gift into flame. (2Tim. 1:6) Is there a clue to what the gift was in the next verse?—
2Tim. 1:7 NLT “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2Tim. 1:12 “I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”
What has Paul entrusted to the Lord? Is it a clue when Paul says,
2Tim. 1:14 “Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.”
GNT Translation notes:
2Tim. 2:21 Those who make themselves clean from all [the evil taught by false teachers//those evil things], will be used for special purposes, because they are dedicated and useful to their Master, ready to be used for every good deed.
22 [Run away to escape from//Avoid] the passions of youth[.//, and] Strive for righteousness, [full belief//faith], love, and peace, together with those who with a pure heart call out to the Lord for help.
Esther 9-10; Isaiah 43; 2 Timothy 1
We have heard how Esther’s request was granted, the king and Haman came to the second banquet, where Esther revealed her identity. The eunuch Harbona just happened to have pertinent information about Haman’s plans for Mordecai, and Haman was killed and impaled/hanged on the pole he had planned to use for Mordecai. Mordecai, coming into possession of the king’s signet ring, wrote an edict that allowed for the Jews to organize and defend themselves against their enemies.
In Isaiah 42 we heard twice about ‘the servant of the Lord’. The first passage is quoted in the New Testament about Jesus. However in the second, the servant (singular) pictures the people of Israel. Before Christ came, the Jews would have read the first section understanding it also to refer to the people of Israel. This intentional vagueness is one of the ways God used to reveal his message to us in this age and conceal it before the time for revealing had come.
2 Timothy 1:
This is Paul’s final letter, and it is also the last letter from Paul we will read this year. This letter includes some practical instructions for Timothy’s ministry. It also includes precious statements about the inspiration of Scripture and the Lord’s reward for obedience and endurance. I love this letter because it is so very personal. Paul was in a very different imprisonment, not under house arrest. He knew his time on earth was short. So each personal message to ‘his son’ Timothy is moving and precious.
GNT Translation note:
2Tim. 1:5 I remember [how sincerely you believe in Christ//the sincere faith you have], [which reminds me of how your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice believed//the kind of faith that your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice also had]. I am sure that you have it also].
13 [PET Hold firmly to the true teaching that I taught you[, (GNT) as the example for you to follow]. Keep believing in Christ, and live with the love we obtain because of being one with Him.//GNT Hold firmly to the true words that I taught you, as the example for you to follow, and remain in the faith and love that are ours in union with Christ Jesus.]
Esther 7-8; Isaiah 42; 2 Thessalonians 3
In Esther 5 Haman planned to impale Mordecai on a pole in the NLT, or just hanged in the GNT. (Given the period of time, I think that the impaling method is more likely to be right.) But on the same night that Haman planned for that murder, God caused the king to have a sleepless night and read in the annals of the kingdom about Mordecai. Haman came before the king at just the right time to get assigned the task of honoring Mordecai.
In Isaiah 41 we again heard God predict the future, and challenge Israel’s idols to prophesy or do anything at all.
The Thessalonians must have wondered how they would hear of Jesus’ return— given that Jesus would touch down so far from them at Jerusalem. We will be able to anticipate Jesus’ return by whether the ‘man of lawlessness’ has appeared, has drawn away many people by working powerful miracles, and has usurped God’s position in the temple. Note that God has not given us the order or timing of these events in relation to what was foretold in 1st Thessalonians.
GNT Translation notes:
2Thes. 3:8 We did not accept [food from anyone//anyone's support] without paying for it. Instead, we worked and toiled; we kept working day and night so as not to be an expense to any of you.
9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to [receive such//demand our] support; we did it to be an example for you to follow.
10 While we were [still] with you, we used to tell you, “Whoever refuses to work is not allowed to eat.”
15 But do not treat them as enemies; instead, warn them as [beloved fellow] believers.
GN-Day_334 Esther 5-6; Isaiah 41:8-29; 2 Thessalonians 2
In Esther 3-4 Haman cast lots (purim) to find out that March 7 was the lucky date to exterminate the Jews. Mordecai requested that Esther intercede directly to the king. And since she hadn’t been called for, the only way to do that would endanger Esther herself, since no one was allowed to approach the king in the inner court uninvited.
Did you notice in yesterday’s reading, we heard a description of a king that sounded similar to one described in the book of Daniel?
Is. 41:2 GNT “Who was it that brought the conqueror from the east and makes him triumphant wherever he goes? Who gives him victory over kings and nations? His sword strikes them down as if they were dust. His arrows scatter them like straw before the wind.
3 He follows in pursuit and marches safely on, so fast that he hardly touches the ground! Who was it that made this happen?
4 Who has determined the course of history? I, the Lord, was there at the beginning, and I, the Lord, will be there at the end.
Because of the amazingly fast progress of this king being like the description of Alexander the Great (the male goat) in Daniel 8, I previously thought that Isaiah was also describing Alexander. But Alexander came from the west. Instead, this is the same king as mentioned in verse 25 of today’s reading, and scholars say that he is most likely Cyrus. In a few chapters he will be mentioned by name, and chapter 41 is not the only time Isaiah alludes to him without mentioning his name.
In preparing for his topic of Christ’s return, in 2Thessalonians chapter 1 Paul mentioned the punishment of people who refuse to obey the Good News about Christ. They will ‘suffer’ or ‘pay the penalty of eternal destruction’. Note that if people are going to be burned up in hell, or if God’s punishment was simply that people would cease to exist, it would not be called ‘suffer eternal destruction’. This understanding is not just a doctrine. It turns out that this gives great comfort to those who are suffering persecution, and gives a great motivation to all of us for sharing the Good News.
GNT Translation notes:
2Thes. 2:2 not to be so easily confused in your thinking or upset by the claim that the Day of the Lord has [already] come. Perhaps it is thought that we said this while prophesying or preaching, or [they may claim] that we wrote it in a letter.
3 Do not let anyone deceive you in any way. For the Day [of the Lord’s return] will not come until the final Rebellion takes place and the Wicked One appears, who is destined to hell.
7 The Mysterious Wickedness is already at work, but what is going to happen will not happen until the one who [is holding//holds] it back is taken out of the way.
10 and [he will] use every kind of wicked deceit on those who will perish. They will perish because they did not welcome and love the truth so as to be saved.
13 We must thank God at all times for you, friends, you whom the Lord loves. For God chose you as the [very beginning//first] to be saved by [the purifying work of His Spirit//the Spirit's power to make you his holy people] and by your [belief//faith] in the truth.
Esther 3-4; Isaiah 41:1-20; 2 Thessalonians 1
Yesterday we heard how Esther became the queen, and how she continued to keep her Jewish background a secret. We also heard how Mordecai, her uncle, was promoted to a palace official after uncovering a plot to assassinate king Xerxes.
Today we are introduced to the villain of the story— Haman. The Jews always read the book of Esther in the celebration of Purim. Whenever Haman’s name is read they boo and shake rattles or noisemakers to drown out his name.
The shift to such beautiful poetry that occurs in chapter 40 of Isaiah is one of the things that has made people think the last part of this book was authored by someone else. But that is the silly. As I have pointed out as we have gone along, Isaiah has written beautiful and memorize-able verses from the beginning of this book. And Isaiah’s amazing predictions about the Messiah are not just found in chapter 53, as we heard again yesterday.
2 THESSALONIANS 1:
Did you notice yesterday that the little book of Philemon is a picture of the Gospel? Philemon is in the place of God. Paul is an advocate like Jesus. Picture yourself in the position of a runaway slave. I give a hint here for digging deeper in Philemon: There is a wonderful play of words that happens twice based on the name Onesimus.
I hope that you recall that we read 1st Thessalonians several months ago. 2nd Thessalonians seems to have been written soon after the first letter, around 51 AD. Paul was evidently still at Corinth. And the letter seems to have been written to clarify a very important point about Christ’s second coming. This letter contains some of the clearest teaching about the antichrist— although Paul does not use that term.
Constable’s notes say, “Paul wrote to encourage the Thessalonian believers to continue to persevere in the face of continuing persecution (1:3-10). He also wanted to clarify events preceding the day of the Lord to dispel false teaching (2:1-12). Finally, he instructed the church how to deal with lazy Christians in their midst (3:6-15).” Constable’s notes can be found at Lumina.bible.org.
GNT Translation notes:
Est. 4:7 NLT Mordecai told him the whole story, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews.//GNT Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him and just how much money Haman had promised to put into the royal treasury if all the Jews were killed.
2Thes. 11 That is why we always pray for you. We ask our God to make you worthy of the life he has called you to live. May he fulfill by his power all your desire for goodness and complete [every good deed that you do because of your belief in Christ//your work of faith].
These daily readings of the three Bible selections from the Good News Translation, and the prayer that follows, are very well done; with clear pronunciation and reverence for God. Well done! And, thank you!