14 January 2014

Joel 1:15-20

"Alas for the day! For the day of the Lord is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes." (v. 15)


In these verses, the prophet Joel proclaims God's judgement on Judah in the context of a famine in the land (see Joel 1:16-20) and calls them to show signs of repentance before the day of the Lord comes.

The repentance Joel calls for seems similar to that  preached by Jonah to the Ninevites, but there is no sign that Joel's prophecy leads to the repentance that Jonah's did.

Joel, in common with many Old Testament prophets, is confident that events in the world can be interpreted as signs of God's activity. The famine Judah is experiencing is not merely a natural event, but is a sign that the day of the Lord is near. Christians continued in this belief, often seeing God's punishment in events that threaten people.

Some recent examples of the tendency to think natural events are punishments from God are clearly mistaken and misguided. For example, a small number of people have unwisely stated that HIV/AIDS was God's judgement on gay men, which is false both as an account of its origin and its overwhelming global impact on heterosexual persons and children.

To wholly dismiss the idea that God can work through natural events, however, would be to set aside many great works Christians wish to give God thanks for, such as the warmth of the sun or the blessings of food to eat and water to drink. Like Joel, we may need to continue to be open to the ways in which God's hand is at work in the events of our world.

To Ponder

  • What might Joel call the modern Church to repent of?
  • How do you think God is involved in good and bad events in the world?
  • What would you say to those who are suffering from the outcome of natural events?

Bible notes author

David Clough

David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester. He is a Methodist local preacher, a member of the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment and the Faith and Order Network and drafted recent reports on peacemaking and climate change on behalf of the Methodist Church.