Psalm 98 • Isaiah 65:17-25 • Malachi 4:1-2a5 • 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 • Luke 21:5-19
Psalm 98 (Responsive Reading)
Once again we are reminded that only God is truly God. Last week we saw King David himself proclaim that an earthly King is not, and never will be, God. Psalm 98 takes that acknowledgement a bit further by proclaiming the fact that God is God is enough to call us to a joyful praise in the midst of every circumstance and situation. Not only does our recognition of God bring us to praise but it also brings us to a joy filled trust in God as the one that judges each of us. A true knowledge of God brings us to a expectation of the new and renewed he brings to us.
In this third part of the book of Isaiah, the prophet begins to tell the people what God will do after the exile. During the time in Babylon, the exiled Jews had been slaves, building houses for others to live in and basically never seeing the fruits of their labors. In this look at the future, Isaiah tells the people that God is creating something new where they will see the fruits, experience health, and know freedom. More importantly, the people will not remember the pain of their path and will experience forgiveness of their sin. While this prophesy is often used by Christian eschatologist, it is directly written to the exiled Israelites to grab hold and prepare to be a part of this new work that God is doing. It is a call to watch and work, mostly, however, it is a call to trust God.
Malachi is the final book of the Old Testament addressing the people after the exile and after temple is rebuilt. While being a prophesy of certain hope, Malachi is primarily pronouncing the sinful nature of the priests and people. In the short time since the exiles have returned, rebuilt the temple and restored Jerusalem and Judah, they have also turned their backs on God once again. This short passage from Malachi confronts the sin of the people while reminding them, once again, of the healing and restoration that awaits at their return to God.
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
The church at Thessalonica was a community of believers that truly needed each other. They were considered an enigmatic group to the non-believers of the city and a threat to the political and religious leaders. Most in the church at Thessalonica did not have a Jewish past and were susceptible to the false teachers traveling through the area. They also were faced actual persecution and, sometimes, were not allowed the basic freedoms of purchasing food and needed goods for their own survival. They needed each other to help navigate life and faith. There were those in their midst who had a very questionable faith combined with a draining one sided manner of relating. They were not really functioning members of the Christian community but rather were selfishly using the other believers. Paul tells the church to treat these questionable believers with the love of a brother while, at the same time, not permitting them to cause an undue burden on, or a distraction to, the church.
Jesus is now in the temple at Jerusalem with his disciples during the week leading up to his crucifixion. As they stand in the temple an elderly widow give all that she has in the offering but the followers of Christ only seem to notice the man-made beauty of the building and ornaments. Jesus confronts their inability to see the sacrifice of the widow and instead focusing on things that will soon be torn down and destroyed. As Christ points out their failure to see God’s work he addresses their priorities and faith knowing that they are soon to face a loss that will challenge everything they see as valuable.