Joy Has Withered Away

Joel 1:4-12

Primary charge against Christianity has been – what about the problem of evil? May be changing now… why are you all so intolerant? Anyway… If God is good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? If Hosea demonstrates God’s goodness by his love for his people, Joel addresses second aspect, God’s powerful sovereignty over his creation. God has both the purpose and the power to accomplish redemption for his people, losing none of them in the process. Will use precise means necessary to achieve his purpose whether his people like/agree with his methods or not. Even when God’s method is painful (often is), can be completely confident – he not only knows what is best, he does what is best. And uses least painful means to accomplish his goal.

If God were to level charges against those wearing label of Christianity today, could come this way: why do you trust in your way and not in Mine? how can you believe you are good people? are you sure drones and destroyers are your best hope? why are you more concerned with benefits than blessing? happiness than holiness? Now… what will it take to reshape people’s thinking/worldview so God has his rightful place? Too frequently, requires significant disaster. Here’s another bit of evidence, how serious problem is: have no trouble seeing all kinds of conspiracies in culture – politicians, gangs, national leaders, Mafia, list is endless. But cannot (or will not) recognize God’s hand in disasters – have to label them “natural” disasters, maybe even blame bad people for causing them.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, is a prose work by the English metaphysical poet and cleric in the Church of England John Donne, published in 1624. It covers death, rebirth and the Elizabethan concept of sickness as a visit from God, reflecting internal sinfulness. …Donne was of the opinion – as were many others of the age – that illness reflected a state of internal sinfulness, and constituted a visit from God.” Wikipedia

Joel exhorts countrymen to recognize God’s hand in present disaster, then respond properly.

A. complete devastation v.4

successive waves of destruction

perhaps small interval between waves, just long enough to think not facing total destruction, then here comes another wave

cumulative effect more profound than single overwhelming blow – have time to process as its happening, more easily absorb reality; also indicates God’s willingness to halt punishment at first sign of true repentance

could be metaphor for invading army… but probably not – that comes later

just like waves of locust army, so God allows opportunity for people to respond to correction – mercy in tension (not conflict) with justice, bring full weight of just wrath and punishment to bear only when no other option

was real locusts heralding God’s wakeup call

scope of judgment in future… if necessary… make locusts seem like walk in park; no one in right mind would ever say to God “bring it on”, yet is what sin-darkened mind does

reality is locusts can have just as devastating effect, maybe not quite as rapid

starts whole cascade of things all destructive: grass gone, nothing to hold topsoil (Dust Bowl, 1930’s); leaves gone, likely dead plants (vines, trees)

not only no harvest, no hope for next year; no food for people, forage for animals, both weakened and subject to illness/disease… that snowballs

B. Hear… elders v.2

this is not random, not result of the curse – this is God

know we live in broken world, creatures don’t behave now as before Fall; this one, by prophetic insight given to Joel, from God

not necessarily true of every disaster – e.g. Job, fire from heaven, tornado; but not wrong to respond as if it were, take inventory

listen to message God has for you

if we believe God ordained all that comes to pass, nothing then is random but integrates with his eternal purpose in some way

means based on what we know of God and his character from Word and life, should be looking for what he wants us to hear/see/learn

more expected than simple hearing – action/response of some kind necessary

when God shows us something (seeing or hearing) he does so with purpose… to change us: how we think, how we act

especially God expects us to pass it on – God never gives us something just for us, alone; need to give him glory, use for edification of brothers/sisters

C. Awake… drunkards v.5

those pursuing pleasure and escape from reality

three staples in Joel’s day: bread/grain, wine, oil; failure of grape harvest issue for everyone, compounded for one with excessive dependence on alcohol

for this segment of society, wine far more than staple of daily diet; had been elevated to where was necessary simply to cope… instead of depending on God

represents those who follow Solomon’s quest – seeking meaning, pleasure in things of temporary value/effect

what is it that gives the rush, keeps drawing you back for more – substances, video game, extreme sports, relationships…

had become complacent, confident in own efforts

“dependence upon things that make life pleasurable can also be harmful to the soul. As Matthew Henry’s Commentary (v.8ff) remarks profoundly: “The more we are wedded to our creature-comforts the harder it is to part with them.”” John Schultz

not simply a bad year for grapes – loss of vines that produced grapes

can’t use anticipated share of next year’s crop as collateral for a loan, may not be crop next year; like some farmers, mortgage farm to get loan for seed, lose crop… then what?

and not only plague on grapes – figs, too; iow, entire agriculture-based economy destroyed

even those who diversified didn’t escape – pretty harsh of God to trash whole economy, or was it? what was the point?

human nature being what it is, will not turn from self-appointed course until no longer any hope of it working, maybe not then

another point: sin when left untreated kills; man left to himself soon minimizes seriousness of sin, needs divine reminder

momentary rabbit trail: Dallas tragedy, 5 police officers killed; when evil heart of even nice guy no longer restrained, sin rules

clearly shows incredible power of sin and slavery to it; should serve to remind of a lot of things – thank God he does restrain sin and sinners; only power of God through Gospel can effectively change evil people; as awful as that tragedy was/is to those most closely affected, sin even more awful to holy God

D. Lament… people v.8

important but less obvious consequence of God’s visitation – loss of relationship

compared to newlywed’s husband dying on honeymoon – hard stuff, can remarry (maybe) but not the same

more significant: relationship with God cut off – no sacrifice, hindered worship, no forgiveness

when people and land are destitute, nothing with which to sacrifice; without sacrifice, no forgiveness; frequent response – anger toward God… rather than self and sin

further evidence of widespread devastation – priests mourn, so does the land

shuDad (wasted) sädeh (field) — äv’läh (mourns) ádämäh (land) — Kiy shuDad (ruined) Dägän (grain) — hôviysh (dried) Tiyrôsh (wine) — um’lal (fails) yitz’här (oil)

God’s order for his creation profouindly broken by pervasiveness of unchecked sin; only solution: genuine repentance, devotion to God

just like after 9/11, temporary external change insufficient for God to restore lost blessings; must begin with changed heart

quickly results in disease, death of people and animals, desperate people doing desperate things as hardship increases

E. Be ashamed… wail… farmers v.11

is one thing to lament loss; entirely another to be ashamed for what led up to it – lamenting loss primary response in our country

have similar sense of entitlement as ancient Jews – we’re Abraham’s children, God has to bless us; we’re Americans….

must also be mindful: “No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, 1624.

hardship/famine will eventually affect all strata of society – bread/oil/wine staples of their life; barley food for poorest, grain and fruits the more well-to-do

God does not interact with his creation only to maintain status quo. Always has change of some kind in view, either moving toward or away from him. Drying up of food, fields, even life leads to drying up of joy – exact opposite of God’s design for his people. Psalm 16:11; John 15:11; 16:24 God expects his people to find full and delightful satisfaction… in Him (WSC #1).

What about us, here in USA – will God send plague of locusts? Certainly could, he has all necessary resources to do so. If God does choose to humble his people, will use most effective means beginning by removing things we depend on wrongly. May be material/tangible things, could be what makes it easy to be citizen of world’s kingdom rather than Christ’s kingdom. Freedoms, civil and human rights, government protections against hardship and persecution, for example. For first 300 years of NT church, Christians were outsiders, aliens, exiles in the world. They were cool with that, were looking for home elsewhere. We may ridicule “Your Best Life Now” but is the way Christians too often try to live. In process, they sacrifice their joy on altar of self and stuff.

Christians need to think less about retirement and more about eternity, less about personal net worth and more about laying up treasure in heaven. Instead of thinking/acting like victims of circumstances, should be thinking how can use resources God has entrusted in circumstances where he has placed to make eternal difference in lives of others. Then act… out of love for God, with thankfulness to God, in dependence on God, for glory of God.

 

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