the true score

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Joel 3:4-8 (JDV)

Joel 3:4 And also: what are you to me – Tyre, Sidon, and all the territories of Philistia? Are you getting retaliation1 or trying to get even with me? I will quickly bring retaliation on your heads.

Joel 3:5 You see, you took my silver and gold and carried my finest treasures to your temples.

Joel 3:6 You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks to remove them far from their own territory.

Joel 3:7 Watch, I am about to rouse them up from the place where you sold them; I will bring retaliation on your heads.

Joel 3:8 I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a distant nation, because Yahveh has spoken.

the true score

Every evil empire who has ever invaded another land has claimed some excuse for doing so. No doubt Tyre and Sidon and the Philistines had claimed that they deserved to dominate Joel’s nation in retaliation for being dominated after the Israelite conquest. But the God of all justice will only tolerate such excuses for a time. He will set things right. He will reverse their course.

What injustice have you experienced? God knows the true score. He may have reasons for allowing what you have experienced, but he also has plans for rescuing you out of it. Trust him.

Lord, we know you know the true score. We are choosing to trust you to make things right.

1גְּמוּל

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all lives matter

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Joel 3:1-3 (JDV)

Joel 3:1 Watch, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,

Joel 3:2 I will gather all the nations and take them to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. I will enter into judgment with them there because of my people, my inheritance Israel. The nations have scattered the Israelites in foreign countries and divided up my land.

Joel 3:3 They cast lots for my people; they bartered a boy for a prostitute and sold a girl for wine to drink.

all lives matter

Joel looks ahead to a bleak future when his nation will be scattered, and young lives will be ripped from their homeland and traded like loose change as if their hopes and dreams did not matter.

The prophet gives his nation a truth to sustain them during these dark generations. That truth is that this long period of injustice will come to an end, and those nations who do this will be held accountable. There will be judgment. They might think that the lives of these boys and girls do not matter. They do. All lives matter to our creator, and he will hold accountable those who exploit and destroy them.

Father of all, show us how to respect the lives that matter to you – all lives.

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everyone with skin

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Joel 2:28-32 (JDV)

Joel 2:28 After this I will pour out my Breath on everyone with skin;1 then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions.

Joel 2:29 I will even pour out my Breath on the male and female slaves in those days.

Joel 2:30 I will display wonders in the sky and on the land: blood, fire, and columns of smoke.

Joel 2:31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and terrible day of Yahveh comes.

Joel 2:32 Then everyone who calls on the name of Yahveh will be saved, because there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as Yahveh promised, among the survivors Yahveh calls.

everyone with skin

Joel is describing the great revival movement which began in Jerusalem among a group of Jews in the 1st century of the common era. The event which coincided with the celebration of Jewish Pentecost led to a new inclusiveness. The powerful creative life giving Breath of Almighty God was no longer just to come upon a few faithful men. He was poured out on everyone with skin. The rescue this outpouring signified was to reach the sons and daughters of Judaism (crossing gender barriers), spill over to the male and female slaves (crossing social barriers), and then spill out onto the Gentiles (crossing ethnic barriers). The miracles which accompanied this amazing event would continue to mark this new thing God was doing.

It hasn’t always been easy for us Christians to figure that out. We are still prone to show favoritism to one ethnic group, one age group, or one social status, or one sex. It grieves our God when we do that. He wants to reach everyone with skin, and he has no problem animating and empowering Jews and Gentiles, young and old, professionals and manual laborers, men and women.

Lord, purge us of the traditionalism that wants to dominate people whom you have liberated and empowered.

1בָּשָׂר

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theology-experience disconnect

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Joel 2:25-27 (JDV)

Joel 2:25 I will repay you for the years that the winging stage locust ate, the crawling stage locust, the destroying locust, and the recently mature locust– my great army that I sent against you.

Joel 2:26 You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied. You will praise the name of Yahveh your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. My people will never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:27 You will know that I am present in Israel and that I am Yahveh your God, and there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame.

theology-experience disconnect

The nation felt the shame of being victims of circumstances which were far beyond their control. They had been devastated, and felt it highly likely that they would be annihilated. But in the back of their minds they remembered the theology they had gleaned from their sacred scriptures. What they were experiencing felt disconnected from their theology of God. They were taught that God was sovereign over the affairs of humanity, and that he could prevent such tragedy.

The prophet came along to remind them that their theology was right. God is sovereign over all his creation. If they experienced tragedy, it was because God sent it. But his ultimate plan for them is not destruction, but revival and restitution. What he took away, he can restore.

Loving Father, we have felt your hand. We acknowledge your right to do what you have done, and our need for discipline. We confess our pride and selfishness. We plead for restoration.

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recovery is going to happen

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Joel 2:21-24 (JDV)

Joel 2:21 Don’t fear, ground; shriek ecstatically and be glad, because Yahveh has done astonishing things.

Joel 2:22 Don’t fear, wild animals, because the open country pastures have turned green, the trees bear their fruit, and the fig tree and grapevine produce their riches.

Joel 2:23 Children of Zion, shriek ecstatically and be glad in Yahveh your God, because he gives you the autumn rain for your vindication. He sends showers for you, both autumn and spring rain as before.

Joel 2:24 The threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with new wine and fresh oil.

recovery is going to happen

The prophet wants to assure the nation that God has not totally abandoned them. After a disaster, we are all tempted to despair, and think that things can never be put back in order again. But God has designed his world to come back to life after the worst hits it. The rains will come, and the decimated crops will return.

The prophet instructs his people to put their faith in God, who has built recovery into the order of his creation. It is possible, because that is what our God does.

You there – are you thinking that your life has been reduced to its lowest common denominator? Are you tempted to give in to self-contempt and sadness? Don’t. The grass will turn green again. The trees will produce fruit again. You will be blessed and a blessing again. Just trust God until it starts to happen. And the occasional ecstatic shriek can be a signal of that trust.

Thank you Lord for the recovery that is going to happen!

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the fate of the invader

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Joel 2:20 (JDV)

Joel 2:20 I will drive the northern invader far from you and banish him to a dry and open land, his front ranks into the Dead Sea, and his rear guard into the Mediterranean Sea. His stink will rise; yes, his rotten smell will rise, because he has done “great” things.

the fate of the invader

Before the invaders come, our God has already promised to remove them. The prophet had the unwanted job of telling his nation that they would experience humiliating defeat at the hands of invaders who think they are doing great things. Joel explains that this horrible fate will come upon his people not because of the true greatness of their enemies, but because it is God’s plan. Once God is through with these Gentile invaders they will be forced out of the beautiful land. They will be driven to the dry and open land, and there they will rot, their stink rising to the sky.

If you are facing a tragedy in your life today, or a situation that humiliates you and makes you feel small in comparison to others, remember what the prophet promises here. What you are experiencing is somehow part of God’s plan, but he has not forgotten you. As soon as he is finished with this invading army, he knows how to dispose of them. He has no place in his eternity for them.

Lord, give us strong hearts to trust you as the invading armies circle – to know that our humiliation is not permanent.

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while we watch

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Joel 2:18-19 (JDV)

Joel 2:18 Then Yahveh began to fight for1 his land and spared his people.

Joel 2:19 Yahveh answered his people: Watch,2 I am about to send you grain, new wine, and fresh oil. You will be satiated with them, and I will no longer make you a disgrace among the nations.

while we watch

Joel predicted a restoration for his nation from its physical plight due to the ravaging of the present locust invasions and the future invading armies. He challenges the nation to watch for this to happen. But first, the revival he called for must happen, and Joel actually explains the circumstances of that revival in 2:28-32. The spiritual revival with its accompanying miracles and empowerment of the nation will occur first. The “After this” of 2:28 actually means “after this point of time.” It signals the first prediction which will be fulfilled, not the second.

Our Lord is indeed fighting for his land, and he will give the nation independence from Gentile domination and restore their grain, new wine and fresh oil. But the escape goes deeper than that. Before the physical restoration there will be a spiritual revival taking place in Jerusalem itself.

God is fighting for us on several fronts. While we are watching for the LORD to improve our physical plight, we should not neglect seeking spiritual renewal.

1קָנָא

2הִנֵּה

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inclusion for a purpose

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Joel 2:15-17 (JDV)

Joel 2:15 Blow a ram’s horn bugle in Zion! Commit to sacred fast; proclaim an assembly.

Joel 2:16 Gather the people; commit the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the infants, even babies nursing at the breast. The groom should leave his bedroom, and the bride her honeymoon chamber.

Joel 2:17 The priests, Yahveh’s ministers, should weep between the porch and the altar. They should say: “Have compassion on your people, Yahveh, and do not make your inheritance a disgrace, an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God? ‘”

inclusion for a purpose

Inclusion is a big idea in the workforce today, and I agree with that principle. A diverse team can be a healthy and productive team. But when the prophet calls on his nation to include everyone in the assembly, it is for a specific purpose. The whole nation needs to come together and beg God to restore them, and to protect them from the coming invasions. But the purpose is deeper than that. The disasters coming upon the nation – in an honor/shame culture – reflect upon the existence and power of God. They make God appear weak, and helpless to protect his people. Since his reputation is at stake, God is seeking all his people to come together and change their destiny through concentrated combined prayer.

Lord, thank you for the opportunity we have to assemble in your name, and seek your rescue. Thank you for including everyone in that opportunity.

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the God who relents

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Joel 2:12-14 (JDV)

Joel 2:12 Even now – this is Yahveh’s declaration – turn to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.

Joel 2:13 Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to Yahveh your God. You see, he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, substantial in covenant faithfulness, and he relents from sending disaster.

Joel 2:14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave a blessing behind him, so you can offer grain and wine to Yahveh your God.

the God who relents

Joel had a hard message for his nation. He had the commission from God to tell them that a series of serious disasters were on their way. But he also served to plead in God’s name for repentance, and to reveal to the nation that their God is gracious and compassionate. He can relent even now.

Our world is not safe. We are often just one violation short of annihilation. But our God pleads with us, because he is always willing to turn back. He can hold back his judgment and bless us and our descendants as well.

Lord, thank you for your willingness to reserve judgment. Too often we ignore your calls for repentance. We confess our selfish resistance, and beg for your blessing.

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unwitting accomplices

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Joel 2:10-11 (JDV)

Joel 2:10 The land quakes before them; the sky1 shakes. The sun and moon grow dark, and the stars cease their shining.

Joel 2:11 Yahveh makes his voice heard in the presence of his army. His camp is very substantial; those who carry out his command are powerful. In fact, the day of Yahveh is terrible and dreadful – who can endure it?

unwitting accomplices

Whoa, what happened? Right in the middle of predicting a terrible invasion by an unstoppable army, the prophet seems to have changed topics. Is he now talking about the eschatological day of Yahveh – the day of rescue and judgment of the nations?

What Joel is saying is that in this coming invasion, these enemy troops are unwitting accomplices to God’s plan, and he himself is giving the command. They may think they are destroying God’s people, but they are really paving the way for the revival of God’s people. The flesh must be dead before a resurrection can happen. This part of the prophecy is setting the stage for the prediction of an outpouring of God’s Breath to animate the corpse of a destroyed people (2:28-32).

Lord, we are grateful today that all the power in the universe is yours. You control even the actions of our enemies. What they do unwittingly, we choose to do consciously. We want to do what you command.

1שָׁמַיִם

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