Summary: Our god is a God who restores. Even at those times when we feel all is lost, God is there and he promises to restore us, but it may not be in the ways we expect.
A GOD WHO RESTORES
Restoration. What a powerful word. What do you think of when you hear that word (pause). Perhaps you imagine your health or marriage restored. Perhaps you imagine your youth or your family restored. Perhaps you imagine you career that is failing or your self-esteem restored. Whatever your picture is, we know that our God is a god of new beginnings, and a God of second chances. God is in the restoration business! Job experienced this. He lost everything, and the book records his struggles with himself and with God during that time of devastation. Then at the end of the book, he has everything restored: his health, more land than he had before, more money, another wife, more kids. But we realize that even that is not a complete restoration because the new wife and those other kids can’t replace the people who were lost - they are gone. However, the restoration spoken of in this 2nd ch. of Joel is about much more than all that. Joel is speaking about the restoration of Israel.
Joel lived about 400 years before Jesus. During his lifetime Israel was going through a period of darkness because 600 yrs before that, in 1000 BC Israel had been a great economic and military power in the Middle East, especially during the reigns of Kings David and Solomon. Their wealth grew and great programs of building temples and palaces were undertaken as their borders expanded. But all that changed quickly. After Solomon’s death the nation was torn in two by a power struggle. The now divided kingdoms were never again as strong a s when David was kind. Both kingdoms went through a steady moral, economic and political decline until first the north, and then the south were conquered. Pagan armies and powers came in and demolished their grand cities and their great temples and palaces. Almost a generation later those who had been taken captive were allowed to return to Israel. About a hundred years later, Joel was born. In spite of being home, and having rebuilt the temple, Israel was still just a province of a foreign power. The temple was no bigger and the people had no more freedom. The night of Israel’s long oppression was still dark. Pagan government officials who knew nothing of God’s holy laws told them how to live. They were allowed kings, but only as a puppet of a pagan king. So Israel was badly in need of restoration. And Joel brings them news of this restoration, this new day.
Many people enjoy watching the sunrise. Sunrises are especially significant because they come after long, dark nights. Sunrise is that moment when the light touches the darkness and the light wins out. They are significant because they are signs of hope. In the midst of hopelessness a light shines. A sign of life in the midst of death. First a glimmer and then a blaze of light in the midst of darkness. Sometimes during those dark parts of our lives when all seems to be going wrong, when all hope seems gone, there is s sunrise. Suddenly in the darkness of our situation, there is a color and light in the distant sky. Then in an instant a bright light floods over the horizon dispelling the darkness. That is what Israel needed. And that is what we often need as well.
In the midst of that darkness Joel saw a light from heaven, much like a sunrise after a dark night. It was a hope for the people of Israel, and he preached that hope. Like Job, they were to have their material blessings restored. No longer would God allow these pagan insects to infest their land. No longer would they go hungry, but they would have plenty. However, this restoration promised in Joel even goes beyond that. God’s message through Joel is even much more than that. It is about spiritual blessings, as God’s spirit is poured out on human hearts. It is about the restoration of the whole of creation. We pray for this kind of ultimate restoration every Sunday when we say, “Our Father which art in heaven…thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” -and we wait for that time to come. And according to the picture in Joel, the kingdom of God affects the whole of creation. It is a restoration to the way things were in the beginning, back in that first garden. Remember how at first there was food enough for all, just there for the taking, because of God’s goodness. Then because of his sin, Adam was told he would have to work and struggle in order to get enough to eat, when food had been freely given in the garden. Now, once again, because of God’s graciousness, not because of any human effort, Joel sees that everyone will eat plenty. Verse 26 points out that in the kingdom of God, which Joel sees as Israel restored, God says, “My people shall never again be put to shame.” Remember in the garden of eden Adam and Eve were naked and they were not ashamed. They had no reason to hide from God or one another until they had sinned. Now God wipes the slate clean, people are freed from the stain of shame and can begin again. Another thing that Joel sees happening in this total restoration is the closeness and intimacy between god and humanity restored, as he says in vs. 27: “you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel.” God walked with Adam and Eve in that early garden. God moved in close intimate relation with humanity. Sin broke that communion. But now, in salvation, God walks again in the midst of God’s people. That intimate relationship is restored. So this promise of restoration went beyond what they could have anticipated, beyond what they imagined, or probably even Joel imagined.