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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until the storms are over

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Joel 2:6-9 (JDV)

Joel 2:6 Nations convulse1 before them; all the people’s faces are drained of redness.

Joel 2:7 They attack like warriors attack; they scale walls like men of war do. Each marches on his own path, and they do not change their course.

Joel 2:8 They do not push each other; each marches on his own path. They dodge the arrows, never stopping.

Joel 2:9 They rush into the city; they run on the wall; they climb into the houses; they enter through the windows like thieves.

until the storms are over

Time and distance might rob us of the effect this passage intends. The sheer terror of being in the path of a disciplined, invincible invading army is enough to drain the color from anyone. The nation knows that there is nowhere to hide. They knew how invasive and all-consuming the locust storms had been. Now, the prophet tells them that the next invasions will be enemy warriors! What is more – they will be unstoppable.

What do you do when God’s news is bad news like this? Pray for protection, survival of the nation, and strength to stay with God until the storms are over.

Lord, we ask you to bless us and our nations and families. But if there is disaster in our destiny, we choose to faithfully endure our fate, trusting you to make your good, pleasing and perfect will evident at last.

1חוּל

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six minutes

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Joel 2:3-5 (JDV)

Joel 2:3 A fire consumes in front of them, and behind them a flame devours. The land in front of them is like the garden of Eden, but behind them, it is like an open wasteland; there is no escape from them.

Joel 2:4 Their appearance is like that of horses, and they run like war horses.

Joel 2:5 They pounce on the tops of the mountains. Their sound is like the sound of chariots, like the sound of fiery flames consuming stubble, like a numerous army lined up for war.

six minutes

When I was a soldier, someone told me that since we were stationed very near the enemy border, my unit was expected to last about six minutes. Our objective was to take the immediate onslaught with the hope that reinforcing units would be able to muster and engage the enemy after we were all dead. I don’t think that information did much for my brigade’s morale.

I can imagine feeling similar thoughts if I had been a citizen of Joel’s nation, They had little hope of survival. If Joel was right, they were going to be consumed by the enemy.

Lord, we do not know what our fate is in this life. But we are grateful that you have promised us a resurrection and a permanent life with no threat of disaster.

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when the dominoes start falling

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Joel 2:1-2 (JDV)

Joel 2:1 Blow a ram’s horn bugle1 in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the people living in the land tremble, because the day of Yahveh is coming; in fact, it is near –

Joel 2:2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and total darkness, like the dawn spreading over the mountains; a substantial2 and numerous people appears, such as has not existed from a past age and I will not do it again until the years of generation after generation have lapsed.

when the dominoes start falling

This was not what the nation wanted to hear from its prophet. They had already experienced a terrible four-stage locust invasion, and they wanted relief. The last thing they needed was an invasion of warriors too numerous to count. But Joel tells them to start blowing their Shofar, because that is exactly what is going to happen.

Sometimes the bad news happens in bunches. Sometimes one disaster is just the first domino in a series of unfortunate events that rip through your life with no time to repair any of the damages. When that starts happening, remember that God always knows what you are experiencing. He has a plan, and even if that plan does not call for your immediate relief, it is still best to trust him.

Lord, help us to trust you when the dominoes start falling.

1שׁוֹפָר

2רַב

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disaster and destiny

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Joel 1:15-20 (JDV)

Joel 1:15 Tragedy on that day! You see, the day of Yahveh is near and will come as a destructive storm from the Almighty.

Joel 1:16 Hasn’t the food been cut off before our eyes, joy and happiness from the house of our God?

Joel 1:17 The seeds lie shriveled in their casings. The storehouses are in ruin, and the granaries are broken down, because the grain has dried up.

Joel 1:18 How the animals moan! The herds of cattle wander in confusion since they have no pasture. Even the flocks of sheep and goats are held guilty.1

Joel 1:19 I call to you, Yahveh, because fire has consumed the pastures of the open country,2 and flames have burned up all the trees of the orchard.

Joel 1:20 Even the wild animals cry out to you, because the river beds are dried up, and fire has consumed the pastures of the open country.

disaster and destiny

There is a lot of good news in Joel, but we have not yet gotten to it. Joel is predicting a serious disaster right when his nation is suffering the after effects of a terrible locust invasion and its corresponding drought. His language pictures the devastation in such vivid detail that it would be hard to deny it, since it was already starting to happen. While you are in such a state, it helps to find meaning in it, even if you have to wait for relief.

Joel’s good news comes after all this bad news because all these terrible things he predicted came true. That fact established him as a true prophet. So, when he later predicts a nation-wide revival where God’s Breath is poured out on this same nation, his words were credible. It would take centuries for that prophecy to be fulfilled, but people had a reason to believe it would.

Lord, we trust your words, because they have already been proven reliable.

1אָשַׁם

2מִדְבָּר

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worship disrupted

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Joel 1:13-14 (JDV)

Joel 1:13 Wrap yourselves in sackcloth and passionately demonstrate your sorrow, you priests; yell, you ministers of the altar. Come and spend the night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God, because grain and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.

Joel 1:14 Commit to1 a sacred fast; proclaim an assembly! Gather the elders and all the ones living in the land at the house of Yahveh your God, and cry out to Yahveh.

worship disrupted

A terrible blow has been delivered to the nation, and now the prophet has gotten their attention. His words to them are not ignorant of what they are going through. But he does not try to sugar coat their painful pill. No, if anything, he is desperately trying to get the nation to understand God’s point of view. The glory of their God is at stake. The indicators of the blessings the people are usually experiencing include the grain and drink offerings. But the harvest and vineyards have been wiped out. The people are ready for a little religion, because their lives and livelihoods have been disrupted. But what they need is a lot of religion, because worship itself has been disrupted. They need more than restoration. They need revival, and it is going to take a night in sackcloth and a sacred fast.

Lord, we want more than just a little more religion. We need lives focused on you and your glory.

1קדַשׁ

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invitation to grieve

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Joel 1:7-12 (JDV)

Joel 1:7 It1 has desolated2 my grapevine and splintered my fig tree. It has stripped off its bark and thrown it away; its branches have turned white.

Joel 1:8 Grieve like a young woman wrapped3 in sackcloth, mourning for the husband whom she married young.

Joel 1:9 Grain and drink offerings have been cut off from the house of Yahveh; the priests, who are ministers of Yahveh, mourn.

Joel 1:10 The fields are destroyed; the land grieves; in fact, the grain is destroyed; the new wine is dried up; and the fresh oil fails.

Joel 1:11 Be ashamed, you farmers, yell, you vintners, over the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished.

Joel 1:12 The grapevine is dried up, and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the date palm, and the apple – all the trees of the orchard – have withered. In fact, human joy has dried up.

invitation to grieve

After suffering a devastating four phase locust invasion, the nation wants a chance to recover. But the prophet tells them that recovery is not yet on the menu. Instead, Joel invites the nation to yell, grieve, mourn and to be ashamed. The natural disaster was just to get their attention. An invading army is coming.

Jesus pronounced a blessing upon those who are mourning now. Mourners are sensitive to what God has to what God has to say, and can respond to the tragedy that is predicted.

Lord, give us your eyes to see, and your heart to grieve.

1the invading nation – depicted as a lioness in 1:6

2שַׁמָּה

3חָגַר

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from locusts to lions

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Joel 1:5-6 (JDV)

Joel 1:5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep; yell,1 all you wine drinkers, over the sweet wine, because it has been cut off from your mouth.

Joel 1:6 You see, a nation has invaded my land, powerful and numberless; its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the jaws of a lioness.

from locusts to lions

If we only knew what the future might hold, we would shake ourselve free of our lethargy and self-centeredness. Joel spoke to a nation which had not considered the possibility of being conquered. The locusts were only the beginning, lions were coming. But Judah was not ready. The people had considered themselves invasion proof. Perhaps they thought God would protect them.

Notice that Joel uses the past tense here. He speaks of the wine as alraeady having been cut off, and the nation has already invaded. God has already experienced their future, and he sends his prophet to warn them. The scriptures can be that for us. They can warn us of things that will happen, or things that might. But it is up to us to wake up and get prepared.

There are some disasters we cannot avoid, but we can be prepared.

1יָלַל

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