Joel: Deliverance for God’s people
Tears formed in Joshe’s eyes as he overlooked the devastation. The locusts had eaten everything! The two olive trees—his chief source of the so-often-used olive oil as well as a critical food-source—were stripped bare. Not only had the locusts devoured every leaf, they’d even attacked the tree bark! The grain had been gnawed to the ground, and the grape vines had fared no better.
And it wasn’t just Joshe’s property; the locusts had invaded the entire land. Devastation was rampant! What would people eat? How could they survive?
“Joshe” helps us to envision the situation when the book of Joel is written. A locust plague had devastated the land! Thousands, millions of locusts would eat voraciously and reproduce quickly. (There are even stories of clothing being eaten off people’s backs!) And, while it’s unclear, it seems as if an invading army—of humans—is on the way too, bringing even more devastation. How would the people respond? How would the Lord respond?
Lent reminds us that sin has devastated humanity. Selfishness, anger, timidity, greed, lust, fear, substance abuse, rebelliousness—those things have devastated individuals, families, and nations! Only if you deny it will you claim to be untouched. Our heads and hearts contain devastatingly sinful thoughts and desires, earning us damnation.
How will we respond? Joel called to the Israelites: “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD” (1:14).
Cry out to the Lord for help in time of distress! For rescue! The Israelites desperately needed God’s help both for their physical needs and for their spiritual needs. Our need is just as desperate.
And, God wants us to turn to him! “ ‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’ ” (2:12).
The people seemed to listen! And how does God respond? “Then the LORD was jealous for his land and took pity on his people” (2:18).
God pitied his people! He then promised to restore their fortunes, replenishing the grain bins and the olive oil. Joshe’s fortunes were looking up! And in amazing grace God promised, “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed (2:27).
And yet it gets better.
“I will pour out my Spirit on all people. . . . And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance” (2:28,32).
Deliverance! The message of Lent! You and I need deliverance; Jesus came to win deliverance for us!
And so when the final day of the Lord comes? “The LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel (3:16).
Contributing editor Thomas Kock, a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Atonement, Milwaukee.
This is the second article in a 12-part series on the minor prophets.
Background: Son of Pethuel. (We know nothing more about either man.)
Time he prophesied: Perhaps 722-586 B.C. (The Northern Kingdom is not mentioned; temple worship is taking place.)
Key phrase: The day of the Lord.
The book’s major truth: Rescue for repentant, distressed sinners.
Interesting fact: Peter “preached” on Joel 2:28-32 on Pentecost Day.
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Author: Thomas Kock
Volume 105, Number 3
Issue: March 2018
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