OT: Malachi 1:1-2:17
It is currently 4:24 a.m., and I'm up and doing my Bible reading and blog for the day because I cannot sleep to save my life. So...who knows how this blog will turn out.
Today, we started the last book of the OT. It is an oracle from Malachi that is structured as a dialogue between God and the Israelites. God starts by telling the Israelites that He loves them, and they demand to know how God has loved them (1:2). This question seems to indicate that not all has gone well for Israel lately. I haven't researched the book, so I don't know where they are in history right now, but I can think of plenty of bad things that happened to their nation that might make them question God.
In answer to their question, God contrasts his love for them for his hatred toward Esau (2b-5). He seems to maintain in these verses that He is not with--and never will be with--Esau's people, and that they will be ruined. That was kind of sad to me, but I know that God has a reason for His words and actions here.
In verse 6, God turns the tables on the questioning Israelites by asking them why they don't treat Him with honor and respect, since they claim Him as their Father and Master. From this point on, the questioners play ignorant and so God outlines exactly what they have done that has displeased Him:
--They bring crippled, blind, and diseased animals for sacrifice (8-9). This seems to be a classic case of giving God one's leftovers. It is a temptation for all followers of God b/c, oddly, God is not as coercive as most entities who demand respect. In verse 8, for example, God contrasts the people's offerings to Him with their offerings (taxes?) to the governor. They wouldn't dare cheat their government, b/c they know there will be immediate repercussions. Similarly, I think sometimes I show more respect to Uncle Sam than to God. I know there are going to be repercussions if I don't give the government the amount of money they ask for at the time they ask for it. So I pay it in full and on time. But since God doesn't hammer me with late fees or threaten me with jail time (at least not here on earth), I'm much more tempted to skimp on my giving to Him.
--They show partiality and break faith with each other (2:9-10).
--They intermarry with pagans (2:11).
--They divorce their wives (2:13-16). God is not cool with this at all. In fact, He declares that He hates divorce (16). One of the side effects of divorce is the negative effect it has on children, and verse 15 can be read as God showing particularly concern for that side effect.
--They are violent men in general and/or they beat their wives (16, depending on which translation you go with).
Because of these things, there times of worship are meaningless to God, and He threatens to break the covenant He has with them (1:10-2:9).
NT: Revelation 21:1-27
After all the carnage and pain depicted in Revelation, today's reading is almost uniformly positive. The only (very notable) exception is verse 8, which says, "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
Other than that sober warning, chapter 21 depicts the fullness of the kingdom of God in the way that we usually think of heaven. There is a new heaven and a new earth, and God dwells on it with His people, the ones whose names are in the book of life. Verse 4 is particularly beautiful to me: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
The reading ends with a description of the new Jerusalem, a city of solid gold, with a beautiful wall around it made up of all different kinds of gemstones. There is no temple in the city b/c God and the Lamb are the temple (22). I liked that. It is like the whole Bible depicts the decreasing distance between God and man until they are literally dwelling together in peace for all eternity.
A short and simple praise psalm, which closes with a militaristic outlook. The psalmist sees God's people as His instrument to punish the nations.
I have always loved this part of Prov. 31. Many women find it overwhelming and intimidating, but I find it empowering. The writer describes the ideal woman as strong, hardworking, intelligent, resourceful. He values the contribution of such women to their families and to society. To me, it is such a positive description of women, and one to try to emulate.