25 May 2010

Joel 2:21-32

"Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! ... Then afterwards I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men will see visions." (v.21, 28)


This portion of the writing of the prophet Joel is probably the most familiar to Christians, as Peter quotes it in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). The first part of the book is concerned with the locust infestation of the land. The prophet describes the horror of it and calls the people to repentance. And just ahead of this particular passage is the prayer of lament offered by the people as they cry out to God for deliverance.

Here, today, we have the response. God has heard the cry of the people, had pity, and acted to bring deliverance from the immediate threat. All the problems suffered will be overturned and the locusts will be eradicated. Grain, wine and oil will be available in abundance. No one will be able to mock the people, as if they were foolishly worshipping a god who has little concern and no power to help those in relationship with this god.

This is the turning point. From here onwards the book of Joel will no longer look to the past but will focus on the future. The locust threat is over and the identification of it with God's harsh judgement has, for now, receded. God's promises, seen at the end of the locust plague, are now projected into the distant future - the end time when no more earthly threats from either nature or humanity will remain. In the end, God will make everything right and everyone in the community will receive the Spirit.

It is the Spirit that brings power, just as it did when it fell on ancient judges and kings to enable them to do extraordinary things. And Joel promises a democratisation of the prophetic office - people of all ages and stations will be filled by the Spirit. In that time there will no longer be the need for prophets, for in the new day of the Lord all people will have access to the things of God.

To Ponder

There are many situations in life and places in the world which seem to be devoid of hope. How, as Christian people, can we proclaim the gospel message of hope in such places? Have you been involved in such a mission through your local church?

Have you ever felt yourself to have been in that dark place of hopelessness? Did anything or anyone speak into that particular place and help you recover hope again? What made the difference to you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon is superintendent minister at Oxford Place Centre (part of the Leeds Methodist Mission), former mission partner to Tonga and founding member of the Leeds 'Street Chaplains' scheme..