Summary: God provides help and grace and deliverance and justice and power and comfort in the sorrow to the other side of the disaster where His joy awaits.
MESSAGES FROM THE PROPHETS:
JOY AFTER SORROW
INTRODUCTION… What are our feelings about COVID-19? (p)
* Stress because of changes to routines, school schedules, and life in general.
* Hostility that some people take distancing seriously and others do not.
* Worry over jobs and bills and worry about what is essential and what is not.
* Unnecessary racism towards Chinese folks.
* Fear of the unknown.
* Fear of getting the virus and then bringing that virus home to people we love.
* Guilt over being fine while others are struggling.
* Anger that some people are fine and we are struggling.
* Worry over how life will be different after all this is over.
* Disappointment that sports, events, and even graduations might be canceled.
* Tiredness of being at home for extended periods of time and guilt for feeling that way.
This past month or so has been upside-down for almost everyone! There are so many emotions that we have during this time. There are positive emotions and positive situations that happen during a crisis like the one we are in, but I wanted to focus today on the negative side. We are all doing our best during this COVID-19 quarantine, social distancing, and shut-down time. It is real. Our feelings are real.
I’d like to read from the minor prophets today and bring us a message that will strengthen our hearts in these times. The Minor Prophets are those books at the end of the Old Testament. The Minor Prophets are not “minor” because they were junior prophets or prophet interns, but it is a term that just refers to their length. They are just shorter books than the Major Prophets such as Isaiah or Jeremiah or Daniel.
Today I would like us to look in the Book of Joel. Joel can be found after Daniel. Daniel –Hosea – Joel – Amos. By the way, we will be in Amos next week. Make your way to Joel chapter 2. In the days of Joel, God used nature to try and grab the attention of His people who had turned away from Him. Joel saw plagues of locusts come to the land, much like has been in the news recently in East Africa. “The locusts present “an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods, according to the UN. A swarm of just more than a third of a square mile can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people” (theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/13/second-wave-of-locusts-in-east-africa-said-to-be-20-times-worse).
The prophet Joel interpreted the disaster as an effort to move Israel to repentance. Joel brought messages to the people of God in the midst of their disaster and sorrow. Joel promised joy after the sorrow. Joel promised the hand of God working amidst their sorrow. The people were also feeling hostility, worry, fear, guilt, anger, disappointment, and tiredness.
Let’s read from God’s word this morning.
READ JOEL 2:20-32
“I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.' Surely He has done great things. 21 Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things. 22 Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23 Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for He has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-- the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm --my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the Name of the LORD your God, Who has worked wonders for you; never again will My people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will My people be shamed. 28 'And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.”