A Word from Pastor Stephen – April 14, 2020
21 Do not fear, O soil;be glad and rejoice,for the Lord has
done great things!22 Do not fear, you animals of the field,for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit,the fig tree and vine give their full yield.
23 O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,he has poured down for you abundant rain,the early and the later rain, as before.24 The threshing floors shall be full of grain,the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
25 I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,my great army, which I sent against you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,and praise the name of the Lord your God,who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again be put to shame. (Joel 2:21-29 NRSV)
The book of Joel is a small book of prophecy divided into three chapters. Joel begins by describing an event so extreme that it had never happened before. It needed to be told to succeeding generations. Joel urges the people to return to the Lord, to fast, to repent, and to call on the Lord to spare them. Why the people are in this mess is not specified by Joel, but obviously something has gone horribly wrong.
Hordes of locusts have devastated the people for several years. Joel describes it quite vividly. Literally everything that might provide sustenance is destroyed. Food sources have disappeared and the livestock and animals have died of starvation. The entire nation is teetering in the edge of collapse. The devastation has been so complete that nothing is left.
Right now it can seem like a million locusts are coming down on us and we just want to quit, run away and say I am done. All of our resources seem to have been eaten away. We can feel like we are caught in the middle of a storm of locusts with no end in sight.
But in the midst of the famine, the locusts and the hardship, Joel holds out the promise of deliverance if the people turn to God with a pure heart – a heart full of gratitude and thanksgiving. Joel tells us that God became jealous for his people. Isn’t that wonderful to know that God can become jealous for you and for me?
Joel is saying, give thanks and rejoice for God is doing wonderful things in your midst, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the moment. God is always at work in our world and in our lives. The God we worship is a God of restoration and of hope.
Always be thankful. Always be grateful. Always be hopeful. Always carry around in you the joy of following Jesus. Be an example of what it means to take up a cross and follow a risen and living Savior. Let us always be the church for each other. May we create a community so compelling that people will be drawn to it, because it is so different from the way the world normally works. The best witness we can be for the world out there is to love each other. Amen.