Mark 4:26-29 – Kingdom of God

Read Mark 4:26-29

Jesus again uses seeds to make his point. Describing the kingdom of God is tricky, and we often have a hard time wrapping our heads around what it truly means. We all have a picture of what a kingdom is–from fairy tales we read as a child or seeing news reports of what’s happening in the royal families of England or other nations with that type of rule.

So, what does this parable teach us about the kingdom of God? For me, I understand it as a beautiful mystery that’s hard to explain. We should be in wonder of it! Just like we marvel at how a seed, when planted, can become something entirely different.

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Malachi 3:1-5 – Judgment Day is Coming

Read Malachi 3:1-5

This is often a text used during Advent in churches following the lectionary who prepare for Jesus’ coming around Christmas. As I read this, I pictured John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry. People hearing Malachi’s message would surely imagine Jesus in a different way.

The people first hearing Malachi’s words were far from faithful. They had started to believe that God didn’t care about them anymore. Their sin was total indifference to God, ignoring the covenant relationship that had existed for generations. The intimate relationship God craves with his children was non-existent in those days. Do we see that kind of intimacy today?

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Zephaniah 1:14-18 – This Day

Read Zephaniah 1:14-18

Zephaniah’s oracle now shifts focus to “all” people, not just rebellious Judah. Churches today have coupled this passage with New Testament passages speaking of the final judgment. You may even recognize some of these images have become the lyrics in hymns and worship songs.

This day will be a day of bitter tears, men crying out, all while the Lord’s anger is poured out on all people. It’s not a pleasant picture at all. Yet, it is destruction we can anticipate will happen when the Lord’s Day finally arrives. Will we see it in our lifetime? Only God knows.

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Zephaniah 1:7-13 – A Moment of Silence

Read Zephaniah 1:7-13

Zephaniah asserts that judgment day is coming soon, and he is not referring to the end times here but to a specific time in history yet to come for those first hearing his words. Zephaniah is not the only prophet talking about it either. God is using many “mouthpieces” to get the message out that he is not happy with his people.

It’s good to take a moment of silence in our own day to take an account of what’s going on in our lives. Do our actions glorify God or disappoint him? Do we see chaos, worry, doubt, thrill, busyness, fear, loneliness, great success, embarrassing failures? What is happening in your life right now? Is God part of the picture? If not, invite him in!

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Joel 2:1-11 – Day of the LORD

Read Joel 2:1-11

The locust theme continues as Joel describes for us in more detail the path of destruction and what the “day of the LORD” will look like. This fearsome day will involve a terrible invasion. No wonder he ended our last reading by saying it was horrible! Today’s reading ends in similar fashion. “The day of the LORD is an awesome, terrible thing. Who can possibly survive?”

The locusts from our last reading are now personified into an army with strict marching orders. We get a clue to the locust’s target when Joel tells us Jerusalem is involved. From spending time reflecting on prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, we know Jerusalem’s fate is precarious.

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