I have a feeling this blog won’t be a popular one because so many of us like to think of God in our own way; He is the Good Father, the God of Love. And He is!!! But He is also more, He is Just and He is Holy. There is a side to God that too many do not like to acknowledge, The God of Angel Armies, the God of Wrath and Vengeance. We like to pretend these parts of Him do not exist because if they do, then we might have to respond with a contrite spirit, we might have to pay attention to some words we don’t want to hear. Pretending that the difficult aspects of God do not exist make us idolaters as we worship a god we created instead of the God of the Bible. Yes, God is good! He is wonderful, our Perfect Kind Everlasting Father.
Because He is such a good Father and because He is Love, He must exercise discipline over us, He must be Vengeance, and He must, One Day release His wrath. What good father would want to see his children suffer at the hands of evil and not do anything about it? What good father would not want his children to fulfil their potential and be all they could be? If a parent sees his child wasting her potential or heading toward a path which will lead to her downfall and destruction, wouldn’t he do whatever he had to do to bring her back to the right path? YES!!!!
And God is more than a good earthly dad; He is more than just a dad who loves his kids and wants good for them. He is the Perfect, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, and Everlasting Father, Our Creator, Our Maker, and the Lover of our souls! Proverbs 3:11-13 tells us,
My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.
13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8) but we are not meant to abuse God’s grace and continue sinning and looking just like the world (Romans 6:1-14). We are meant to be transformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our lives should bear the fruit, that is have plain evidence that we are not the people we once were, but now we are new, we are the Righteousness of Christ. The evidence of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control should be clear in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). That is not natural, that is not just the way we are. We are not born that way; that is the image of Christ, that is the proof in the pudding, the substantiation that the Holy Spirit is alive and working in us. This is why the Lord disciplines us, allows us to travel through tribulation, trouble, and suffering. Discipline requires a response, Revelation 3:17-23 tells us this,
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Those verses are to the Christians, not the lost! We are called to respond, to repent from sin, not to continue living in it because of the beauty of grace. We are called to live amazing lives in close fellowship with Jesus, in prosperity of spirit, mind, and body. So, let’s recognize that our perfect loving and good Father does rebuke, correct, and discipline and let’s respond with a contrite heart and humble spirit so that we can be who He made us to be.
So, now that we are prepared, let’s begin reading Joel. Chapter 1 verses 1-3 calls the reader to heed the warnings in the book and pass them on to future generations as well.
The word of the Lord that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel:
2 Hear this, you elders;
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
or in the days of your fathers?
3 Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children to another generation.
The prophet then goes on to describe a locust infestation that desolated the nation, but it is also as with many prophecies describing future events, an army that will ravage Israel. And further still a picture of the End Times. We can read it too and understand how it feels when something happens that devastates us. Verse 4 reads,
What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
I think we have all been there, when something happens that rocks our world to the core, it seems nothing is left. The locusts destroyed every crop, leaving nothing behind but barrenness. What is our response in a situation that leaves us feeling like that? Many of us might feel entitled to anger or hopelessness. Some might curl up in a ball and wait to die, revel in the role of the victim, or demand assistance from someone better off, asking to become their slave so that we will not starve. All of those responses are natural, yet, Brothers and Sisters, aren’t we no longer natural? Aren’t we the Sons and Daughters of the King of kings?
How does God tell us to respond? Verses 5-12 tell us to wake up, open our eyes, and examine ourselves. Look at what has happened, don’t overlook the circumstances, don’t disregard what has happened or what is happening.
Awake, you drunkards, and weep,
and wail, all you drinkers of wine,
because of the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
6 For a nation has come up against my land,
powerful and beyond number;
its teeth are lions' teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has laid waste my vine
and splintered my fig tree;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches are made white.
8 Lament like a virgin wearing sackcloth
for the bridegroom of her youth.
9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off
from the house of the Lord.
The priests mourn,
the ministers of the Lord.
10 The fields are destroyed,
the ground mourns,
because the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up,
the oil languishes.
11 Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil;
wail, O vinedressers,
for the wheat and the barley,
because the harvest of the field has perished.
12 The vine dries up;
the fig tree languishes.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple,
all the trees of the field are dried up,
and gladness dries up
from the children of man.
It doesn’t say awaken and say, “Oh well, whatever will be, will be.” It says weep and wail! It describes the enemy and the enemy sounds horrible and what they have done is leave behind empty and bleak surroundings. There is nothing for the people to do to fix this problem. They have been brought to a place where the ordinary world can not do anything but lay down and die or look to some other king or nation to rescue them and take them into slavery.
I’ve been there. I’ve been at that place when no earthly solution presents itself and the future is gloomy. I have reached the end of myself and my power and wept and wailed. What is it we are to weep and wail over? I have cried in self-pity, but that isn’t what our tears are supposed to be about. Let’s continue reading, verses 13-14 read,
Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests;
wail, O ministers of the altar.
Go in, pass the night in sackcloth,
O ministers of my God!
Because grain offering and drink offering
are withheld from the house of your God.
14 Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord.
Sackcloth refers to mourning, but not mourning alone. Mourning which results in repentance. God is saying mourn over this. Mourn not because you are hungry, but because your grain and drink offerings have had to cease, since there was no grain or wine to offer. The people were distraught by the locusts and used it as a reason not to turn to God. God said, “Come to me and cry out, shout to me, beseech me.” When the people of Israel mourned, they were called to wear sackcloth, to take off their jewelry and finery, to stop caring for themselves for a short time and instead grieve for the dead or over their actions. To move their sorrow from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Mourning didn’t and doesn’t last forever. It is temporary but cannot be ignored or one will not truly move past what she should have grieved over.
God told them to consecrate a fast, that is to dedicate a fast and gather solemnly. He gave the people a commandment, do this. Don’t merely cry, but actually obey me, gather with seriousness and devote a fast to this purpose. Their cries had purpose. They cried to Him, they showed they meant their repentance was true by their earnest gathering and fasting. They didn’t fast because there was no food, they fasted with the specific purpose of mourning, meditating on their sins, and deliberate repentance.
Under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, all our sins are forgiven, past, present, and future. But we are still called to live holy lives, we are still called to confess, repent, and forgive. Colossians 1:9-14 says it this way,
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
A wrong response, the reaction to be the victim to cry out for help from the world, to choose sin over holiness leads to slavery. Yes, we have grace, yes Jesus forgave us once and for all (Hebrews 10:10, 1 Peter 3:18) but, that should inspire us to love God more and more and therefore live righteous lives that reflect the image of our perfect Savior Jesus Christ. It is for freedom, He set us free (Galatians 5:1). Romans 6:15-23 in The Message reads,
15-18 So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!
19 I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God’s freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?
20-21 As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end.
22-23 But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.
God disciplines us for a reason! He doesn’t just sit aloof and say, “I don’t like their behavior.” He says, “I love my children so very much. I want them to be saved. I want them to live. I want them to know me. I want them to enjoy a real relationship with me” (John 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 2:3-5, Hosea 6:6 ). He is often preparing us for something to come. The teaching in Joel is preparing us for The Day of the LORD. That time when the darkness in the world will be so overwhelming that things like mass shootings, horrific violence, and terrible disaster will be everyday news. That time when people give into their desires so much that the things once kept secret will be open and even applauded. That time when the world will need the Light more desperately than ever before. Verses 15-18 read,
Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.
16 Is not the food cut off
before our eyes,
joy and gladness
from the house of our God?
17 The seed shrivels under the clods;
the storehouses are desolate;
the granaries are torn down
because the grain has dried up.
18 How the beasts groan!
The herds of cattle are perplexed
because there is no pasture for them;
even the flocks of sheep suffer.
When we suffer, we turn to God. When we are burdened, we turn to God. When we are perplexed by the devastation of what we know, we turn to God. God will call to us and speak to us quietly, He will speak to us in many ways. His Word teaches, encourages, corrects, and rebukes (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 4:2 ) but if we don’t respond to the quiet voice, to the signs, or to the words, then He will do more to get us to listen. Increased poverty, natural disasters, pestilence and other negative life circumstances in areas of the world result in the people of those regions being increasingly spiritual, trusting a god, and attending religious services and activities.[i] God knows who we are, so He knows that those things will cause us to seek Him. That was the goal in the locust infestation of Joel and in the prophesied army invasion, and it is and will be the goal in the terrible events of the End Times. Verses 19-20 read,
To you, O Lord, I call.
For fire has devoured
the pastures of the wilderness,
and flame has burned
all the trees of the field.
20 Even the beasts of the field pant for you
because the water brooks are dried up,
and fire has devoured
the pastures of the wilderness.
Does your soul long for God the way a thirsty animal pants for water? Do you long for Him so deeply you cry and your tears bring you closer into His presence? David described it this way in Psalm 42:1-3
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
David’s longing and tears were like sustenance to his soul. His mourning didn’t leave him sad, his grief brought him closer to the Lord, allowed him to be transformed, and became praise in the Psalms and in his life.
Your mourning is the beginning of change, it is part of the transformation. If you are the same now that you were when you first came to Christ, it doesn’t matter how many great miracles God uses you for, it doesn’t matter how many amazing prophesies He speaks through you, you are not the love He is transforming you into (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Many people will come to God saying they did great and mighty works in His name. But, they will not have known Him and so will never have been saved (Matthew 7:21-23).
Let the suffering in your life be used to sanctify you, bring you closer to God and to who He made you to be. Romans 5:1-5 reads,
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
So, Brothers and Sisters, do not despise your Father’s discipline, respond, repent, and rejoice. He loves you and He is conforming you to the image of His Son, your Lord Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit.
[i] Bentzen, J. S. (2016, Dec 16). Acts of God? Religiosity and natural disasters across subnational world disctricts. 1-75. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/donna/Downloads/ActsOfGodReligiosityAndNaturalDis_preview.pdf