Joel 1 Listen up, Grasshopper

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Questions: Do we seek God amidst tragedy? What does He have to say to us? Is He responsible? How should we respond? Will we?

“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Joel.

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Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father,
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Joel 1:1-20

The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.

I have to wonder what that was like for a proto-prophet. Is “the word of the Lord” something Joel had been seeking, in the face of all Israel’s problems? Or was he just going about his business when God called him?

My suspicion is that it was more like the former, in that clearly Joel is well aware that the nation is facing unprecedented suffering, and wanted answers (and solutions). But — knowing God — I’m sure Joel got more than he bargained for. Including a mandate to pass it on:

Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?

I’m assuming the correct answer is “no.”

Tell ye your children of it, and [let] your children [tell] their children, and their children another generation.

The implication being both that nothing like this will happen again for a long time, and that it is important for people to remember. And perhaps that they will survive (to have descendants), despite the fact that things look pretty bad:

That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.

I’m not so sure about the etymology (or rather the entomology 🙂 of those words, but clearly things have gone from bad to worse. So, what should we do?

Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.

I used to read this as simply another graphic illustration of how bad things are. Now, though, I wonder whether this is a metaphor of all Israel (and by inference, us). That is, we have drunk prosperity like wine, to deaden our sense of right and wrong — and God is cutting off our supply. Snap out of it!

For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth [are] the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.

He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast [it] away; the branches thereof are made white.

Total. Devastation. And how should we react?

Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.

Here the picture isn’t some grizzled old drunkard losing his drug, but a fair young maiden losing her husband; that is, a “real” tragedy, not just a personal one. Perhaps because the tragedy has swept up the temple:

The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD’S ministers, mourn.

along with everything else, of course:

The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.

And how should those farmers feel about their fields?

Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.

The word “ashamed” means literally “to dry up.” I presume this is not so much “shame on them”, as reflecting an overall sense of humiliation and despair. That is, they are feeling the shame of not being able to feed their families, not so much the shame of failure. Because, frankly, it doesn’t seem like anyone could’ve done anything to escape:

The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, [even] all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.

In fact, Joel calls even the priests to join the chorus of sorrow:

Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.

Though they at least have something constructive they could do:

Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders [and] all the inhabitants of the land [into] the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,

Though Joel himself appears to be ready to cry unto the Lord now:

Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD [is] at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.

Huh? Now, that’s a pretty strong statement. Sure, things are bad, but in what way can this natural tragedy be referred to as the “day of the Lord”? How is this “destruction from the Almighty”? Are they really that bad?

Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, [yea], joy and gladness from the house of our God?

The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.

How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.

Um, okay, maybe they are. At any rate, they are bad enough that we need to look to God for the answers:

O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.

Heck, even dumb animals can figure out that much:

The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

Still, I’m not entirely clear (or comfortable) with God’s purported role in this disaster. But maybe I’m just looking at it the wrong way. Hopefully we’ll find out more in the chapters to come…

Prayer

God, regardless of why trouble comes, it is never too early to turn to you. Father, in this season of Lent, I actively court awareness of my own desolation. Open my eyes to my own folly and loss, that I may fully mourn — and find your comfort. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is an allusion to the martial arts mentoring catchphrase.

Author’s Note:

This is my first Devotional post using Ecto. Overall, the experience is much smoother; Ecto has wonderful shortcuts for inserting hyperlinks, as well as a vastly streamlined UI. However, it has a few quirks, some of which may be deliberate (like removing the “Trebuchet MS” font from my quotes). However, there are also opportunities, like a genuine Stationery for my blogging template. I’ll first try to adapt my style to its preferred mode of operation, and see how that works.

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