Summary: When repeatedly faced with overwhelming circumstances, Joel gives us a plan of action.
I. Intro: Times of Desperation
Sometimes, life can get overwhelming.
There always seem to be stresses in life. A job that we were hoping for doesn’t materialize. An unexpected illness. A relationship that goes sour. Life seems to always throw us curve balls, unexpected difficulties and stresses that we have to stretch and adapt to.
But sometimes, we’re far beyond the breaking point.
When disaster seems to haunt us, when we are faced with circumstances that are devastating, over and over again. When areas of our lives seem to continuously erupt in turmoil.
These are desperate times, calling for desperate measures. What do we do then? When we repeatedly face disaster in an area of our lives, when we seem to use all of our resources to recover from a tragety, only to have another horrible attack, in the same area, come upon us. What do we do when life beats us down, when after rallying to face our enemy once and beat it back, rises up to attacj us again. Then we face it down again, only to have it come up another way, from another direction. The we rally our defenses only to have it come back, the cycle going on again and again, each time we go through it we find that our resources, our strength and energy to face the attacks grow smaller and smaller. Until finally, there is nothing left, what do we do then?
II. Repeated Calamity Joel 1: 2-4
This was the situation the prophet Joel faced. Our text this morning is Joel chapters 1 and 2. Starting in verse 2, we read
READ JOEL 1:2-4
Here Joel is describing locusts, one of the most feared scourges of the ancient world. The largest recorded plague contained 12.5 trillion locusts. Here Joel is describing them in four stages of development from the early spring emerging from their eggs, through the later development of wings and then through swarming. In each stage the locusts attack, until by the final stage they are so devastating that nothing green is left.
Look at the devastation this caused.
v. 5 No wine is left
v. 7, No vines or trees
v. 11-12a No harvest
v. 8,9 Worship is affected, for there is no grain for offering (note the word is minhah- the same offering Abel offered to God. It was a sign of devotion, a recognition of God’s goodness. WHEN LIFE BEATS US DOWN SO MUCH THAT OUR DEVOTION TO GOD IS AFFECTED...SERIOUS!!!
v. 12b No joy
III. What do we do when life beats us down? When times are desperate, what measures can we take?
A. Mourn v. 13
Some of us try to keep our head up, to look good, even when we’re devastated inside. Joel says when things are really desperate, it’s OK to say “I’m not doing very well right now.” Putting on sackcloth was a very obvious sign of mourning. It was like putting a sign up , or wearing a placard front and back that tells everybody I’m in a desperate situation. I need help and I don’t care who knows about it.
MATTHEW 5: 4 ONLY THOSE WHO MOURN RECEIVE GOD’S COMFORT.
APPLICATION: ARE YOU DESPERATE ENOUGH TO BE TRANSPARENT? ARE THINGS SO BAD THAT YOU CAN’T HIDE THEM ANY MORE?
B. Fast v. 14a;2:12
When things are desperate enough, Joel says to fast. Fast? What does fasting have to do with facing disaster?
Mark 2: 18-20 Fasting happens naturally when the bridegroom has gone
APPLICATION: WHEN GOD SEEMS FAR AWAY, IT’S TIME TO FAST
JONAH 3: 3-9 Nineveh fasted in response to the pronouncement of judgement.
APPLICATION: WHEN GOD SEEMS ANGRY BECAUSE OF YOUR SINS, IT’S TIME TO FAST.
Joel 2: 12 Fasting as a sign of turning to God wholeheartedly. It says, things are SO bad, that I am willing to give up something important to me, give up something that cost me something, in order to make sure that whatever else happens, God knows that I’m serious about seeking him.
APPLICATION: It’s often in times of severest trouble that the condition of our hearts towards God is revealed. Joel is saying if this crisis is showing you that your relationship with God is lacking, turn back. And in turning back, fasting just might be a fruitful exercise.
Transition: Mourning publicly, fasting, now ...
C. Stop everything and Seek God 1: 14b
Declare a sacred assembly. A gathering when times are especially rough.
Specifically for the purpose of going to God about the matter.
2 Chronicles 20:1-17 cf v. 4,13
The combined armies of Moab and Amnon came together against Judah. Verse 2 says that by the time King Jehosafat heard the news, the army was far advanced into his country. He immediately declared a fast, and gathered all the people together to seek God.