21 May 2018Joel 2:21-32
“You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the LORD, am your God and there is no other.” (v. 27)
Psalm: Psalm 67
Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost ends with a quotation from Joel (Acts 2:17-21) and this is part of our passage today. The book of Joel is not easy to date but probably comes from around the 5th century BC.
At the beginning of his book, Joel describes a natural disaster – probably a plaque of locusts and an associated drought (Joel 1:2-4, 8-20). These events are interpreted by the people as God’s judgement on them. But that is not where the matter ends. If the people will turn back to God, Joel relates, God will relent and be merciful to them. Indeed as the people turn back to God’s way we see that God not only renews the people but the entire face of the earth.
All of this is the backdrop to our passage which describes the joy at the way that events have turned out. Judgement has issued in joy – all this so that Israel may know that the Lord is in their midst (verse 27).
Joel is writing about God’s ability to sustain God’s own people and fill them with abundant life. That is the point of the gift of the Spirit in this context. It is available to young and old, male and female, slave and free. Joel wishes to draw the attention of the people to the nearness of God and to an understanding of God’s own presence.
- Although we live in a very different age from Joel and his people with developments in science and technology, do we still at times interpret natural disasters as a form of judgement from God? Why?
- In many countries which experience climatic extremes, Churches have prayers for rain and the cessation of rain. (Such prayers are included in the worship books in Southern African Methodism, for example.) What is your feeling about the use of such prayers, particularly in respect of feeling close to God in times of crisis?