I’ve finished the book of Joel as I read through the Bible with my Bible Sampler quilt project. Here’s another border block done:
When I began, I thought this blog, journaling my trip through the Bible and the quilt, was going to be a hop, skip, and a jump of lighthearted fun. What a ridiculous thought, considering the profound life and death content of the True Word of God. And I can’t help but think in these COVID19 days how up til now, people have been trying to skip through life with a lighthearted avoidance of the issue facing all of us: death. This virus has changed that around, hasn’t it?
The message from God through his prophets have some inconvenient truths as well, which I’m sharing today. (I thought I’d give you fair warning.)
There was an earthquake near me yesterday. The house shook for a bit, then all went back to normal.
Did I just say, “normal”? These days are anything but. Let’s just review: Our entire nation, indeed the world, is on lockdown due to a pestilence that we cannot control. There are locusts swarming in East Africa, and because of the Coronavirus, we cannot control the impending damage they will cause. The economy is spinning uncontrollably downward, and as of now, we see no end in sight. I would not say that these events are signs from God, but I would say that He is certainly getting a lot of attention these days.
These days. What ARE these days? Are they the last days? I have the answer: Yes, they are. The proof is found in this little book of Joel. Only three chapters long, it packs a wallop. I’m going to jump to Pentecost, where Peter addresses the crowds of “Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven”. (Acts 2:5). He quotes a passage in the book of Joel to explain why the disciples were speaking in other tongues:
Acts 2:16 – “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days’, God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even upon my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of my spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Joel 2:28-32)
Peter went on to explain that Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the prophesies, and the Jews that were listening were pierced to the heart. They repented, were baptized, and the early church was born. Which brings us to today. We are still living in the church age, which are the last days, as Peter clearly pointed out at Pentecost.
Back to the book of Joel. Because God loved us while we were yet sinners, He speaks through the prophet Joel to warn His people of their impending punishment. His people have grown completely unfaithful, due to social distractions from the Canaanites they live amongst. To help Joel get their undivided attention, God forms a swarm of locusts that destroys their spring harvest.
God has patiently endured their unfaithfulness, but everyone hits the wall of “Enough”. God’s tipping point is the violent shedding of innocent blood. The sin that is the most reprehensible in all these books of the prophets that I’ve read so far, the sin that stirs God to punishing action, is the sin of infanticide. The Israelites were sacrificing their babies to Molech of the Canaanites. Why? It was a transaction with the idol for future prosperity. Hmm, ring any bells here? Are we sacrificing pre-born babies today in the name of convenience and future prosperity? How can we think that this can go on without stirring up God’s righteous anger?
This is not good. If God warned His people with earthquakes, pestilence, and locusts for this same sin in the days of the prophets, what then shall we do?
In this case, we are the movers and the shakers. We have a living relationship with God, and He listens to our prayers. In the days of Joel, he called on all believers to gather, assemble the elders, and repent for the sins of the people. In these last days, this is the still the most important thing we can do. And we can do it while sewing together all those face masks.
Joel 2:12: Return to the Lord with all your heart . . . For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness, and relenting of evil.”