Joel 2

It has been a long time since we’ve done some Bible studying around here but this chapter of Joel was so good and sparked so many thoughts in my head, I thought it was about time we brought it back.

Joel is all about an invasion of locusts which devour everything in sight, ruining all the Israelite’s crops – making it impossible for them to offer sacrifices at the Temple. Joel sees this as a warning about the day of judgement and tells the people that the only way for them to escape the army of terror, which he envisages is coming, is to return to God.

On Monday we read Joel 2:1-17.

The first twelve verses describe the terror of the locusts, comparing them to an army. It’s very similar to what we’ve been reading in Revelation (which just keeps getting wierder by the way!). For example:

Joel 2

3 Fire burns in front of them,
      and flames follow after them.
   Ahead of them the land lies
      as beautiful as the Garden of Eden.
   Behind them is nothing but desolation;
      not one thing escapes.
 
4 They look like horses;
      they charge forward like warhorses.
 
5 Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops.
      Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots,
   like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble,
      or like a mighty army moving into battle.

Revelation 9
Then locusts came from the smoke and descended on the earth, and they were given power to sting like scorpions. 4 They were told not to harm the grass or plants or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were told not to kill them but to torture them for five months with pain like the pain of a scorpion sting. 6 In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them! 7 The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle.

The terror of what is to come can often be overlooked. If the return of Jesus is talked about at all within Christian circles, it’s always presented as an event  full of joy. We don’t like to mention the horror that precedes it. Torture, pain, longing for death. Christians are protected from it, having the father’s name written on our foreheads (Rev. 14:1) but those we know and love who do not follow Jesus are not.

Which brings me to my favourite verse in this passage, v.13: “Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.”

Tear your hearts in grief.

Tear your hearts in grief. 

Anyone else feel . . . I don’t even have words for how that phrase makes me feel and I’m not sure I can put into words everything it makes me think.

There’s no more time for apathy. It’s time for hearts to break and grieve. If you take a minute to think of your family, your neighbours, your church, your city – does it pain you to know the majority of them do not know the love of God. My heart breaks, but not enough. The thought can bring me to tears but it doesn’t make me move. It can distress me and scare me but it doesn’t change my words or actions enought to make a difference. I grieve at the thought of those I love being subjected to such punishment but not enough to call them, right now and tell them that God loves them. Becuase whilst I fear for them, I fear for myself more. I fear their reaction and their response to me. 

Tear your hearts in grief.

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there’s a sense of collective guilt and repentance. 

2 Chronicles 34:27 “You were sorry and humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this city and its people. You humbled yourself and tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the Lord.”

The whole thing with the Temple was that the priest would offer sacrifices on behalf of the entire nation. Where is our repentance on behalf of our nation? We need to get out of our individualistic mindset, our instinct of “It’s okay, I’ve covered my own back”. I read somewhere that this is really about a failing in the english language. We’ve got one word for “you”, whether it’s intended to be plural or single and we translate the text as such. The reality is that the “you” of Scripture is more often a “y’all” (say it with a funny deep south of America accent, it’s better). God addresses his people, all of them, as one. Christians should be repenting on behalf of all.

Tear you hearts in grief.

We need some new urgency too, v16: “Gather all the people— the elders, the children, and even the babies. Call the bridegroom from his quarters and the bride from her private room”. They can’t even leave the bride and groom to get ready. It’s now or never. It comes back to fear/pain again. We’d be more urgent if we felt more afraid and were more grieved.

Do I really need to say it again??

Tear your hearts in grief.

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