Monday 23 January 2017

Bible Book:

“Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your ancestors? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.” (vv. 2-3)

Joel 1:1-20 Monday 23 January 2017

Psalm: Psalm 91


We are told nothing about the prophet Joel except his father'sname (verse 1) and we have no references to the man or the eventshe describes in any other writings. Therefore we can only speculateas to when in the history of God's people Joel delivered thismessage; fortunately this does not significantly affect its meaningand relevance.

Joel begins by calling on the elders and the general populationto reflect on the unprecedented nature of what they areexperiencing. And then we learn in verse 4 that the incident is aplague of locusts, described graphically in a way that suggestswave after wave of them descending on the land till every growingthing has been devoured.

In verses 5-14 the prophet calls on various subsets of societyto mourn, though in reality he is largely describing the sorrowthey are already expressing. He starts with those whose pleasuresfocus on alcohol (verse 5), and later farmers whose livelihood havebeen destroyed. Verses 9 and 13-14, concerning the priests whominister in the temple, should be seen as capturing the heart ofthe anguish, as offerings of grain and drink were essential aspectsof the daily ritual of sacrifice (Exodus29:38-42; Numbers 28:1-8). This worship was a sign ofGod's continuing presence with and blessing of the people, so theloss of opportunity to maintain the worship pattern felt likedesertion by God.

It becomes clear in verses 14-15 that Joel, like all prophets,sees God as the author of calamity, which he views as God'sjudgement on the people's failure to live in God's ways. A fast and"solemn assembly" (v. 14) should be called as a focus forrepentance.

The unrivalled seriousness of the disaster leads Joel to believethat "the day of the LORD is near" (v. 15), the time when itwas believed God would act decisively in judgement, salvation orboth.

To Ponder

  • In what senses, if any, is it right to believe God is sendingus a message through natural disasters?
  • Quite often in Scripture God's people are instructed to telltheir children about the good things God has done. In verse 3 thecommand is to pass down the generations the memory of thisexceptional tragedy. How do you feel about the repeated marking oftragic events from history within public ceremonies and schoolcurricula?
  • Note Joel's sensitivity to the suffering of animals as well ashumans (verses 18, 20). Do you think that today we care too much ortoo little about the plight of animals when disasters affect humansand other creatures? Why do you take that view?
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