Joel 3:13-21 – Our Refuge

Read Joel 3:13-21

God is our refuge. Joel doesn’t use a lot of metaphors to describe God. We’ve have seen him portrayed as the leader of an army, a judge, and a roaring lion! But my favorite of all is found in verse 16, “But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.”

Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” has some fitting words for the idea of God as our refuge and strong fortress. Growing up Lutheran, this is a song I sang over and over but am only now seeing the exquisite beauty in these words.

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Joel 2:18-27 – Restoration

Read Joel 2:18-27

What divine intervention! If Joel’s earlier words led his audience to believe they would be the laughingstock for belonging to the one true God, this passage lessens the distress. Can we assume that the people did repent and pray and this is God’s response?

Have you ever feared or experienced mockery for your faith? How did that make you feel? Did you realize God was there all the time?

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Hebrews 10:32-39 – Confidence in God

Read Hebrews 10:32-39

When I started reading this passage, I immediately remembered my first memories of hearing about Jesus as a wide-eyed child. And then the Preacher yanked me into a dark place, recalling the persecution the faithful endured in his day. That was a profound moment to reflect on the differences in how we first experienced Jesus.

It’s certainly a good reminder to count our blessings. It’s way too easy to take the love of God for granted and forget he wants to be in relationship with us. The more we learn about God through his word, the more confidence we have in him and our faith is strengthened.

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Hebrews 6:13-20 – Rely on God’s Promises

Read Hebrews 6:13-20

It might help to recall verse 12 from our last reading to “follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.” Now it makes sense why the Preacher called out Abraham. You’ll recall Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years from the time God promised to multiply his descendants to the birth of Isaac. That was obedience we can learn from, too!

God is in the business of keeping his promises. We can be sure of that. The Preacher reminds us God sealed his promise to Abraham with an oath. In ancient times, when people wanted to guarantee their promise or give value to their word, they might swear by the divine name. Putting God’s name on your promise was intended to give it more authority. To break an oath would be extremely dishonoring to God. God cannot lie!

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Hebrews 5:11-6:12 – Going Deeper

Read Hebrews 5:11-6:12

These Christians had so much to learn, even though they had “been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others.” However, it seems they were stuck in the basics. They knew what it meant to be Jews, but to be followers of Christ changed their faith journey dramatically. Here we see the Preacher rebuking them. “You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” It was time for them to stop being lazy Christians, and the Preacher uses a bit of “shock and awe” in this reading.

When people first come to faith in Jesus, we need to be careful not to overwhelm them with knowledge they aren’t ready for. Just like you wouldn’t give a newborn a piece of steak. However, the Preacher warns that it’s too easy to stay with “milk” and not move on to a deeper faith and understanding of what it means to be a Christ follower. I’ve seen many churches struggle with this very thing, and as a result, the congregation never goes deeper than the what the “newbies” can handle.

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