9 October 2010

Joel 3:12-21

"On that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the stream beds of Judah shall flow with water; a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord." (v.18)


Earlier in the book of Joel there have been terrible warnings about the day of the Lord. There had been a plague of locusts (Joel 1:4) which inspired Joel to see how God would come to judge - and why the people must live in a better way.

In today's passage there is a positive and encouraging message. The sickle is a tool for cutting grain - the harvest was ready to gather in once again. The grapes were ready to be trod to produce the juice to make wine.

There is however, a mixed message, because God was also coming to judge the wicked. In all the judgement to come, some would be frightened, but it was a strong reminder that God was the people's god, living among them. The "holy mountain" was a reference to the mountain in Jerusalem which was the centre of worship - a special place where God was encountered.

In a dry and arid land - especially in one which had been devastated by locusts - Joel provided a vision of wine, milk and flowing water. Just as God had promised a land flowing with milk and honey when God's people were travelling to the Promised Land after slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:8), God's promise was proclaimed once again.

Two nations were particularly singled out, though, for destruction. Egypt was an old enemy and Edom had gloated over the nation's destruction once before and was especially hated (Obadiah 8-11).

If the name Joel did mean something like 'God is God', then the prophet Joel's message certainly stressed just that.

To Ponder

What signs of hope can you see in the world today?

Do you find it difficult, or easy, to think of evil people being punished? Why?

Have you ever questioned why God has behaved in a particular way? What happened?

Bible notes author

The Revd Stephen Burgess

Revd Stephen Burgess is chair of the York & Hull District of the Methodist Church. He initially trained as a chemist and after some years in industry and teaching served in two school chaplaincy appointments before becoming superintendent of the Cambridge Circuit and then moving to Yorkshire.