Good morning! Today’s passage is the complete book of Joel, in three or four chapters. (Some translations consider chapter 3 an extension of chapter 2.) It’s quite difficult to date when Joel was written, but the general flow of the book is from an opening description of a locust plague and its consequences, to a theological assessment that the locusts are punishment from God, and finally to a promise of divine deliverance of God’s people.

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Hosea 8-14

Good morning! Today we take another big piece out of the final prophets with the second half of Hosea (chapters 8-14). We don’t have any further biographical details about Hosea here. These chapters are assorted sayings that trace back to the prophet directly, or to others writing in his name. What I notice most in today’s passage is how God has two entirely different mindsets when it comes to the people of Israel. We get the expected prophetic denunciations of wickedness, but also divine interludes of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

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The Sky’s the Limit

Edina Morningside Community Church

Today’s scripture reading:
Genesis 15:1-6
Sermon audio:

Am I the only one who gets around to reading the Sunday paper on the following Thursday? So it was that on Thursday morning I saw a little book review in the business section of last Sunday’s Star Tribune. The new book Progress by Johan Norberg makes the case that, despite headlines and assumptions to the contrary, things are much better for human beings than they have ever been before. Poverty rates globally have been cut in half over the last twenty years. Two hundred years ago, almost 95% of people lived on less than $2 a day (in current dollars). That global poverty rate was at 37 percent in 1990, and below 10 percent in 2015. Furthermore, medical advancements continue at such a pace that even pandemics which would have crippled the globe a generation ago are now handled before they become catastrophic. The reviewer concludes that “not only have people grown much more prosperous; they also enjoy better health than even rich folks did in the past.”

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Hosea 1-7

Good morning! Today we begin two days reading one of the earliest prophets. Hosea 1-7 calls us back to the time of the divided kingdoms, before northern Israel had been overthrown by Assyria. Hosea the prophet is active in Israel during the final decades of Israel’s independence, when it is threatened by Assyria’s military incursions but not overthrown. 2 Kings 14:23-17:41 recounts this part of Israel’s history, for those who are inclined to reread a political-theological account of the era. It sounds like a time of religious pluralism and Baal-worship. The desire for fruitful harvests leads people to worship Baal as a harvest god, rather than trust in Israel’s own God, who has brought them out of Egypt. Also, the northern kingdom is churning through monarchs one after another. Each king’s hold on power is threatened by coups inside and marauders beyond, so they spend much energy searching for military alliances that shore up their positions. For the prophet, this reveals a lack of faith in God’s providence.

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Daniel 10-12

Good morning! Today we finish out the book of Daniel with a final vision ascribed to him, which gives detailed but anonymous descriptions for much that will happen in Palestine’s history after Babylon’s defeat. I believe that the original audience for these prophecies was active centuries after the Babylonian defeat, and the historical information given served to persuade them that the promises of this messenger could be trusted.

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Daniel 7-9

Good morning! Today with Daniel 7-9 we turn the corner to a quite different form of literature: apocalyptic. The second half of Daniel is the best example of apocalyptic literature in the Hebrew Scriptures (though we will see other examples in these final books), and Revelation is the crowning example in the New Testament. Indeed, Revelation borrows key themes and images from Daniel, so what we read today and tomorrow will show up again in different forms when we finish the Bible at the end of December.

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Daniel 4-6

Good morning! Today’s passage (Daniel 4-6) continues the mythological stories of Daniel’s exploits that we began yesterday. With three successive leaders of Babylon, Daniel shows that his faithfulness preserves from every harm. In each case, the foreign leader either learns humility and praises the Hebrew God, or dies. This theme of a superhero Hebrew who trusts in God through strenuous trials (and who perseveres in the end) connects today’s reading to the miracle stories we read yesterday.

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Daniel 1-3

Good morning! Today we start the book of Daniel with chapters 1-3. Taken at face value, this book presents as the exploits of a leader named Daniel among the Babylonian exiles. In actuality, scholars think it dates from centuries later, but was set in exilic, “heroic” times in order to inspire those who lived under similar oppressive circumstances later on. The book tells one story after another of faithful leaders like Daniel persevering under hostility, and coming out stronger because of their trust in God.

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Ezekiel 46-48

Good morning! Today we finish Ezekiel, the last of the really long prophets! From here, the most we’ll spend in any one book is the next four days spent on Daniel. Otherwise, we’ll be reading a number of shorter books between here and October, when we start the New Testament! I’m hoping we can get some new and re-engaged folks reading along for the last three months of Daily Bible, and will be grateful for your help in welcoming others to join our reading of the New Testament when the time comes. But for today, we follow along as Ezekiel concludes instructions about ritual life in the envisioned city (chapter 46), and finishes by describing the land beyond the temple in chapters 47-48.

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Ezekiel 42-45

Good morning! Today in Ezekiel 42-45, the prophet continues to describe the revelation he received of the “new Jerusalem”, which he is instructed to share with the exiles who continue to suffer in Babylon. Throughout these descriptions of the temple region (42), the return of God’s spirit (43), and the ways of a new Torah (44-45), what strikes me most is the resonance with earlier “holiness codes” from Leviticus. Unfortunately, this is most evident in codes of exclusion, reserving the divine “real estate” only for priests and turning everyone else away.

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