Summary: Looking into the first two chapters of Joel
Over the past few days, I have been drawn to the book of Joel again. This interesting little book brings focus to a number of things.
Joel starts his book with a description of a plague, not a pandemic plague like we are now experiencing, but a plague of locusts. Locusts move like an army without a leader and when their breeding conditions are right they increase rapidly and devastate massive areas of land. At this time there has been a locust plague underway on the Horn of Africa and Yemen from 2019 through to 2021. Joel describes the outcome of the plague of his time being only dirt remaining, domestic and wild animals were starving for lack of food, as were the people.
There are a few things that we as Christian leaders can think about at this time as we respond to this Covid-19 plague, this worldwide plague. Joel calls on God’s behalf for people to repent of their sins. The truth is that for all of us, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but living repentant lives is something we can do by God’s grace. I am continually thankful to God that this way is possible and open to us because of Jesus, through Jesus.
Joel calls on the priests of the time to mourn and put on sackcloth, both signs of repentance. In doing so he also calls upon them to declare a holy fast and call a sacred assembly, both signs of repentance. We are called ourselves this year to prayer. Mourning, are we concerned for our neighbours, our communities? Putting on sackcloth, are we showing our concern by meeting the needs of our neighbours and communities where we can, seeking out those in need of that extra food parcel, of our time? Hard to do in lockdown, but this will hopefully be a short time if we follow the Governments directives. Repentance, if we are not meeting needs where we are able, doing what we are covenanted to do, we have something to repent of. We are currently not able to assemble, to do so would invite the spread of disease. But at home in the family, we can certainly continue our assembly and remembrance of God’s goodness.
Joel has a hard-hitting message for us in Chapter two in his call for repentance:
“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
Who knows? He may turn and have pity
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God. (Joel 2:12-14).
This passage is a direct call to repentance, needed at the time, always needed. As I mentioned earlier, we have all fallen short.
Joel declares on God’s behalf, to return to God with all their heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning – engaged in and acknowledging wrongdoing, a physical acknowledgement of what has been done wrong, whatever it might be. To then rend our heart and not our garments. The fashion of the day was to rip garments as an outward expression of repentance but were the people putting on a display. What was truly happening inside? We too can be truly polished on the outside, a clean white uniform shirt, straight epaulettes, well-ironed pants or sulu, polished shoes, a well-folded collar and tight tie. Are our hearts a true reflection of the uniform, are we addressing the real inward condition as well as the outside appearance?
In returning to God, examining our hearts, metaphorically tearing apart our, hearts, shredding our hearts to determine their true content and character! Then truly returning to God who is gracious and compassionate we are able to meet with Him as he runs to meet us like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, accepting our repentant return and in doing so He calls for celebration.
This is all about deeply examining where our hearts truly are and if there is a need to return in repentance, that’s turning away from that current direction that is taking us away from him and his will and returning to God and his will! Oh, what joy that Jesus has made this possible for all of mankind!