Thursday

26 January 2017

“Then the LORD became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.” (v. 18)

Psalm: Psalm 93


Background

For us the word 'jealousy' usually denotes a petty and despised emotion, but jealousy in God is better represented by our word 'zeal' with its positive connotations when the cause is a just one. It expresses God's deep concern for God's people and the land God gave them whenever their allegiance to God becomes displaced; Exodus 20:5-6 expresses the principle.

Verse 18 marks the turning point in the book of Joel. We are to assume that the offer of grace and the prescribed way of accessing it in verses 12-17 have been accepted by the people, and in this verse Joel introduces God's response. Up to this point the prophecy has described the locust plague and its impact; from here on God is addressing the people through the prophet, along with the land itself and the animals in verses 21-22.

Although locust plagues usually reach Palestine from the southern deserts, they are described as a "northern army" in verse 20 probably because of the earlier use of military metaphors in this chapter and the fact that invasions of Judah were generally from nations to the north.

God promises the restoration of the normal cycle of the seasons (the early rain of November time and the later rain of March/April - verse 23), and consequentially the harvests of grain, wine and oil. However, the culminating purpose of God's gracious response to the people's repentance in verses 26-27 is that the people will recognise God as their only God, and not endure shame in the face of other nations.


To Ponder

  • In what senses, if at all, does the promise of verse 25 that God will repay all that the people have lost in the ravages of the locust plague have relevance in the world of today?
  • The experience of plentiful food after a hungry time will lead people to praise God according to verse 26. What experiences, if any, have led you to spontaneous praise of God? Should our praises be dependent on blessings received? Why? Or not what?
  • Is jealousy a trait we might appropriately find in ourselves? If so, in what circumstances might it be a proper expression of the image of God in us?

 
Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

 

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