Tag: Joel

Know That I Am the Lord

Joel 3:17-21

Throughout all human history, God’s purpose in both judgment and restoration – that people, especially his people would know that he is the Lord our God. iow, that his people would know him as their Lord and God. And what does God link inescapably with knowing him – holiness.

Time spent with an acquaintance can develop into a friendship, and time spent with a friend can transform that person into one’s beloved. This is the way to move a human relationship from one of the head to one of the heart, and it also is the way to develop intimacy with God, getting to know him. Joel equates this intimacy of knowing God with holiness. David Baker, NIV Application Commentary

Much about present culture actively opposes pursuit of holiness. Too much hurry, too much distance/disconnect, social networking that is anti-social and superficial, seducing into thinking we can have friends without more than surface relationship. Apostle John got it, would not have relied on texting had it been available:

2 John 1:12Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Not that use of social media or texting is sinful in itself; is no substitute for face to face in your space communication. Is especially true of relationship with God – sound bites aren’t enough. Requires time, effort, diligence to get to know God as he should be known – as the LORD… our God. The one in whose image we are made, who we are to love with heart, soul, mind, strength.

As our love for God grows, his love for us transforms us – is active love, working through Word by his Spirit among his people to bring about change. God intends that he will have a holy gathering place of worship for his people. It will be in a land redeemed from the curse. And it will be populated by a holy people. This has been God’s intent and purpose from before creation – Eph. 1:4For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” NET

A. holy city v.17

here is “early” promise of unprecedented scope – starts with God being known by his people because he lives with them

settled down, taken root, made permanent home with no possibility of relocation… not in heaven, here on earth

obviously does not describe totality of God’s being and existence; does describe one real and important aspect of it – God’s immanence, his real nearness to his people

our challenge: limitations/hindrances to our ability to perceive God’s nearness because of sin’s veil; problem on our side, not his

God present everywhere, we get that – more significantly, present more “actively” among his people, even more in his people

city is holy because God is holy

certain people, enter room, change atmosphere in entire room… simply by their presence – change persists so long as they are in the room

same to infinite degree with God – profound change on all present when God “shows up” intending to interact with people

Acts 9:7Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.”

city remains holy because God declares it so… and makes it happen

on its own no city, no people would ever be holy – requires God’s purpose and intervention to make it holy

Paul said he was “carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14) – describes everyone after Fall, with no hope of change until God moves

this will be the church, made ready and presented to Bridegroom – “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27)

talking true church as Christ knows her to be – wheat without tares; is good basis for regenerate membership, credobaptism

see hints of this in OT – emphasis on Israelite distinctives, purification rituals, restrictions and boundaries approaching God’s presence… God mostly unapproachable dwelling among his people

scope enlarges in NT – parallel emphasis on Christian distinctives, elimination of veil and new ministry of God-Man-Mediator… God spiritually approachable and dwelling in his people

reaches fullness in ultimate fulfillment of our text – worldwide Eden/Paradise yet better… God totally approachable dwelling in and among his people… God’s big idea from the beginning

B. holy land v.18-19

holy city will be established in holy land made suitable by God himself

effect of God present in fullness with and in his people flows out throughout all surrounding land

church today is island surrounded by evil-minded enemies intent on doing harm – circumstances limited to this age

won’t have to lock church doors – will be no person or influence intending evil toward Christ and his people

land restored from result of curse, rolling back all brought on it by Adam’s sin

true, is strong spiritual application of promises in text… but have physical application also – think parable of talents and how applies to “heaven”

Matt. 25:21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your lord.'”

repeat: You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. – this life, responsibilities preparation for next

were designed for work… before Curse, will be productively occupied in eternity, similar to Adam and Eve – working only with God’s continual presence and no frustration

raised to even greater production/bounty than at beginning

“God will be so bountiful to his people, that no good things will be wanting to them either in abundance or variety” Calvin

all we need to reach maximum productivity as God intended will be supplied: knowledge, understanding, resources, ability

whatever potential for corruption existed in original creation will be absent from new creation

e.g., some creatures designed with potential to be pesty or predatory – no need for potential to exist in next age

instead will be fully restored to original design and purpose, able to carry it out under man’s oversight and management

every source of corruption will be banished, sent to their own eternal abode

iow, present cosmos as we know it will be purified – different means but same effect as for believers at death or 2nd coming

Flood primarily means of judgment; fire that is coming will be means of purifying this world from all vestiges of sin, corruption, curse – true whether fire literal or symbolic

as applied to Christ’s church, picture overwhelms with its largeness

Eden provided every good thing for Adam and Eve, same for Israel and “land flowing with milk and honey… God supplying physical needs of his people

church militant has her every spiritual need supplied by Christ who supplies sufficient grace to live holy and pleasing to him

church triumphant will experience eternal blessing of every need met in abundance without limit or exception, able to live perfectly holy lives without any frustration or hindrance

C. holy people v.20-21

see v.17c – no aliens ever again;

not referring so much to country of origin as kingdom citizenship – kingdom of God or Satan – only those from kingdom of God, never aliens in heaven; cf Eph. 2:12

that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

presence in holy city shows citizenship; in next age, no longer possibility of change, being transferred from one kingdom to other

holy city with holy God must be populated by holy people

God will not have it any other way – requires all who live in his house in next age to meet his standard… perfectly… and maintain it perfectly also

residents will become what they have been declared – truly righteous before God

all sinful and corrupting residue will be permanently removed; in that kingdom, will never be any source of evil that can re-corrupt

D. know him v.17a

Eugene Peterson, The Message, orig pub 1980 – “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society”

chapter titles incl. – Repentance, Work, Service, Perseverance, Obedience, Community… all under first chapter Discipleship

“One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirtv-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by thirty-page abridgments.

It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

to know God way he deserves only comes as result of “patient acquisition of virtue”, “a long apprenticeship” – no shortcuts

God does presently dwell in and among his people, although not in same fullness to be anticipated for next life. We his people have by no means reached full potential for intimacy with him even for this life. We need right attitude toward God, his word, his people – an insatiable desire for more. Need to be engaged in right activities – things that will nourish and encourage that desire. Need to be pursuing right goal – knowing God, not knowing about God. And ultimate goal: Christ’s church built, whole earth filled with his glory.

Advertisements

The Nations Judged

Joel 3:1-16

Why do the wicked prosper? Often, appears doing what is right a handicap enabling wicked to get ahead. Like to think will eventually get comeuppance. Doesn’t always go that way – teflon coating, nothing sticks, keep prospering in spite of laws and rules that should prevent such. Is that just the way of it, maybe God gets tired of dealing with wicked, God’s standard of justice different from ours. Is there any hope righteous will be vindicated and wicked punished?

Text assures us there is hope – God is faithful and just, not only with respect to forgiveness. God will do as he charged his agents:

Rom 13:3-4For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

If God expects his ministers/agents to carry out consequences on evildoers in limited sphere, should expect God to do same globally. But wait, there’s more! God does execute perfect justice, rarely instantaneously. And that’s good thing… for all of us. God more than patient, is longsuffering, and provides clear testimony to his character for every generation. This text and following have at least two focal points – one in near future (to Joel) following exile in Babylon, second in distant future… still future to us!

Is important because gave hope to God’s people in exile that captivity would come to end and enemies would be justly punished. Yet all promised in text not completely fulfilled in 6th century BC. Means must be another DOL when God will act again… with finality. Just as surely as God is God and acted first time, will surely act again on that great and awesome day. Gives all generations hope that justice will ultimately prevail, and at same time, serves as strong warning that wicked will not prosper forever.

Evangelist to Pilgrim: Then he gave him a parchment roll; and there was written within, “Flee from the wrath to come!”

We have the parchment, know the message it contains – serves to give us hope, encourage us to warn those who have cause to fear for their lives to run to Christ. Is God himself who issues challenge to his enemies, charging them with wrongdoing and promising consequences for evil behavior.

A. prepare for judgment v.1-8

the timing (1, 13)

round 1 – when Israel’s captivity ends… after repentance: see Joel 2:32

captivity, consequences for Israel’s rebellion doesn’t end simply because right number of days have passed

right change has come about in people – have turned from their idolatry back to true God; have not done a lot right, but have never returned to Baal and Molech

no surprise: is God who took their fortunes away, God who restored them – in both instances, used pagan leaders: Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, along with their people

round 2 – when harvest is ripe, winepress is full (see Rev. 14:15ff)

similar language, theme seem to point to time of final judgment on all nations – sickle/harvest/winepress and sun/moon/stars/shaking

precedent: conquest of Canaan (Deut. 9:4-5); end will come when God has had fill of wickedness against him and against his people in all the earth

the initiator (2)

God himself – moving behind scenes and in plain sight

God takes credit for moving nations to place of judgment – individuals involved and secular historians credit other forces

is essential in our reading of history: try to see God’s fingerprints so we get the whole picture – e.g. Cyrus

on account of his people

good news: God defends his people, uses variety of means to bring about justice and push back evil in world

the culprits (4, 12)

singles out Tyre, Sidon, Philistia

those who persisted in harassing Jewish people, most often unprovoked – enriching themselves at great expense to Jews

eventually all the surrounding nations

whatever nation/government/ruler decides to persecute God’s people playing with fire, will eventually pay price

e.g. – Nero so hated by the senators of Rome that they forced him to kill himself; Domitian was butchered by his own soldiers; Trajan died of a foul disease; Severus died miserably on a military campaign in Britain; Maximus was cut in pieces, together with his own son; Decius died as an exile in a far country; Valerian was whipped to death by the King of Persia who captured him; Aurelian was killed by his own soldiers; Diocletian poisoned himself; Maximum hanged himself

the causes

disrespect for God’s people (3a, 6)

treating as material possessions to be bought/sold/traded; no thought for them as people bearing image of God

consequently no consideration for heritage – sold and transported, little or no hope of returning home

disrespect for God’s principles (3b)

breaking up families – selling children to different owners, very like slave trade of previous century: wrecking ability of families to follow God’s mandates

use profit gained from mistreating God’s people to satisfy sinful desires – pursuing pleasure in ways clearly contrary to God’s commands

disrespect for God’s person (4)

God identifying with his people here – “why are you doing these things to me?” NET similar question as asked of Saul

showing disrespect for God’s people, Christ’s body viewed by God as disrespect for him – not family member, lifelong friend, is God himself who takes part of his people

disrespect for God’s place of worship (5)

things set aside, consecrated, for God’s use truly belong to him – to take furnishings from place of worship and repurpose to secular use (Belshazzar) also an affront

not sure exactly what that means in our day re: former church buildings, but certainly bears careful consideration… when “disposing” and when using; e.g. Spire 29

the consequences

retaliation (4b)

one of common ways God acts – arranges circumstances so evil intended for another rebounds on perpetrator

retribution (7-8)

repayment in kind – eye for eye form of justice – God’s enemies will experience same kind of unjust treatment they brought on God’s people as their just compensation

B. prepare for war v. 9-15

God tells the nations to prepare for war. (9-10)

this one involves people from all walks of life – no one escapes or avoids this call to war, e.g. farmers drafted into army

God calls the nations to assemble together. (11-12a)

God moves among men in response to prayers of his people – v.11 a prayer for God to execute justice, v.12 God’s response

notice again – really is God who is calling/moving nations, God who is carrying out his purpose while leaders/armies have own agenda

God commences His judgment

God the one who judges the wicked (12b-13)

on “intermediate” DOL’s, God works through means; will be the judge in view on the Great Day, all will know the Judge

He proclaims the imminence of His judgment. (14)

will be signs of Great DOL… as it arrives – cosmic upheaval associated with Second Coming as universe trembles before Lion of Judah

like all who have gone before us, don’t know the time of his appearing – do know it is nearer now than ever before

knowing what we know of God and of mankind, God’s judgment is warranted now – his mercy and longsuffering only reason have not experienced it yet

He judges from Zion. 3:15-16a

will not judge from a distance, will be up close and personal; will be clear God’s purpose is to judge wicked and vindicate righteous… his people, the church

C. prepare for defeat… unless v.16

the Lord will roar – against his enemies

in presentation of the Gospel, must communicate in way that is truly relevant to listener; but… must not sacrifice God’s justice on altar of his love

at same time, God often pleased to make enemies his friends – must warn his enemies, persuade if possible to become friends

a shelter and strength for his people

God is only effective in protecting/sheltering his people because he roars against his enemies… and is not an empty roar

must remember: only one source of shelter, strength – God himself; should not attempt to make own shelter, act in own strength

Are additional, greater blessings promised for God’s people… next week, DV. Meanwhile… where do we go, on whom or what do we rely for strength, hope, help, peace? In Christ Alone. The Christ of the Bible is one we must trust in. Is the one Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists must run to in order to find shelter and strength in face of God’s fierce judgment.

In the Last Days

Joel 2:28-32

Understanding how to properly relate to and communicate about the Holy Spirit is somewhat of an enigma. Father and Son… no problem – we talk to them, pray to them, talk about them, describe many aspects of their relationship with each other and the world. Not so much with the Holy Spirit – he’s the quiet one of the three. see John 16:13-15 – does not speak on his own authority, on his own behalf, about himself. Work of the Spirit is to direct attention to Father and Son. If he does not want to be object of attention, we do need to show restraint – understand what we can, give him credit, etc., recognize dependence on him… at same time, doing as Spirit does and giving proper attention to Father and Son.

Our text a view of future given to prophet Joel to encourage his people, to encourage later generations of readers as well. Also serves to warn those who would accuse God of inattention or indifference. In order to properly and more fullly understand what God had in view, need to consider Peter’s sermon also. This pair of texts a good example of pastoral practice – using scripture to explain events – and opportunity for us to use scripture to interpret scripture. Notice, too, Peter didn’t use prophecy to predict timing of future event, just shed light on current event, and make point that God keeps promises. Visible progress had been made along timeline of God’s redemptive plan – could/should expect it to continue.

God determined to bless his people – often does provide great material blessing, always goes to next level though… spiritual blessing. Is evident that God not only exercises sovereignty over the nations, external circumstances of his people, he is sovereign in all aspects of salvation. Includes how and when his redemptive truth is revealed. According to Joel and Peter, we are living in exciting times, age when God is working in extraordinary ways to complete his planned work of redemption.

Particularly rousing are the promises of 2:28–32, which are quoted to one extent or another in nine different NT contexts (Matt 24:29; Mark 13:24–25; Luke 21:25; Acts 2:17–21, 39; 21:9; 22:16; Rom 10:13; Titus 3:6; Rev 6:12). Word Biblical Commentary

So what is it that God is promising through prophet Joel? When can be anticipated? What is purpose of this revelation? Three E’s – empowering, ending, exhortation.

A. empowering v.28-29

outpouring of the Spirit

lavish provision of blessing equal to or greater than outpouring of wrath on rebellious people – large, effusive, unstinting so as to fill to overflowing – appropriate since God’s blessing never intended solely for private benefit

when God responds to people’s request for help, he makes distinction between physical and spiritual benefits – reduces confusion, increases appreciation

radical in its nature

more than equipment for single task (Ex. 31:1-5)

e.g. Bezalel filled with Spirit of God, ability, intelligence, knowledge, craftsmanship – to be skilled supervisor/teacher for construction of tabernacle

Saul temporarily empowered with Spirit and prophecy – not permanent, was limited in scope relative to immediate need

David equipped by Spirit to communicate God’s truth to future generations, things he probably could not have known by himself

prophecy, dreams, visions

primary ways God communicated his truth to mankind throughout OT period – was prophet who served as God’s mouthpiece

Ex. 4:15-16​”You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. ​He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.”

OT prophets not all involved in adding to Bible – e.g., Elijah, Elisha, also those described as “sons of the prophets” (2 Ki 6:1; 9:1)

writing prophets also preaching prophets – bringing God’s authoritative word to his people… sometimes new revelation, not always… sometimes predictive of future, not always

see Num. 11:29

goes one better even than what Moses desired: “Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!” – all his people will have his Spirit in them

unprecedented in its extent – each category would make typical Jew’s jaw drop

all nations

obvious sign of God’s blessing would extend to Gentiles – all flesh, all nations will experience outpouring, not just Jews

all ages

young and old alike, surpassing what had been experienced prior – least in kingdom would be greater than John! (Luke 7:28)

all classes

not reserved for upper class, educated, wealthy – servants as well as masters – setting stage for Paul, Col. 3:11where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

both genders

spiritual duties may differ according to gender but spiritual blessings do not – clearly male and female benefit equally, yet diversity of gift according to Spirit’s purpose

“The Spirit would burst through every barrier and quicken the energies of life in all classes. Men would have the power to see and apply the truth of God to the facts of human life, past, present, and future. Spiritual light would not be confined to a select few.” Wolfendale

in the new age, salvation will not only be available to all who turn in faith to the true God, but there will be no distinction of spirituality on the basis of age, gender, or social status. God’s spirit will be available to both young and old, to both male and female, and to both slave and free.” WBC

see Acts 2:17-21

“When Peter was filled with the Spirit of God in the midst of miraculous signs and wonders as he had never experience before, what did he do? He said, Let’s open up our Bibles to the book of Joel. He had a Bible study, one that both taught the 120 disciples (they better understood their experience according to the Scriptures) and called the lost to salvation.” Guzik

“Formerly isolation, every man for himself; now organic union of all the members under their one Head: this is the difference between the days before and after Pentecost. The essential fact of Pentecost consisted in this, that on that day the Holy Spirit entered for the first time into the organic body of the Church, and individuals came to drink, not each by himself, but all together in organic union.” Kuyper, Work of the Holy Spirit

notice also Peter repeats “προφητευσουσιν” – they shall prophesy – sons and daughters, menservants and maidservants will prophesy

God intends this empowering of all his people by outpouring of Spirit to be for purpose: propagation of the Gospel

B. ending v.30-31

intervening period, then… “great and awesome Day of the Lord”

visual aid – perspective for future events: “spacing”, length of intervening periods not always obvious even to prophet

Peter and 1st century church had better perspective than Joel, still not clear on time lapse… neither are we!!

we are presently in time of outpouring, looking ahead to DOL, will not know for certain when it will come; will know when it does arrive

these signs reserved for special occasions

theophany – fire and smoke: Abraham (Gen. 15:17); Sinai (Ex. 19:18); Solomon’s temple (1 Ki. 8:10-11)

judgment – disruption of the cosmos: sun/moon/stars behaving abnormally a repeated indication/warning of imminent doom

before = face: in the face of, before the face of… iow, just like officer with radar – when you see it, too late

when people see these signs, God is coming right behind them – in a sense, how the created order reacts to God striding forth in judgment/wrath

the Great Day of the Lord – read Zeph. 1:14-16

have been other DOL’s, may continue to be more of “limited” nature… but the big One is coming, one the rest warn about

C. exhortation v.32

interesting to note where Peter stops quoting, halfway through v.32 (just as Jesus did when he used Isa. 61:1-2 in similar way)

perhaps an indication that specific place of deliverance more clearly known: Christ, as distinct from OT traditions/worship

example of first Day of Pentecost – purpose of outpouring/warning to lead to repentance

our own – Spirit’s internal ministry helps us see what needs to change in us; reminder of DOL encourages short accounts

the unsaved – outpouring of Spirit + pastoral teaching equips for work of ministry, effective ambassadors to the lost

must be convinced of a couple things: Creation/Fall for starters, then consequences/Judgment Day – plus understanding God is one who saves should motivate us to evangelism

everyone who calls on the name of the LORD”… Romans 10:14-17

is essential but not enough simply to live Christian life – do Christian things, act in Christian way, speak like Christian; must also speak Gospel truth plainly

Consider prophetic ministry – given to relatively small number of people in OT, their ministry mostly limited to Israel. Now look! What mercy from God to blanket the earth with those who are equipped to testify authoritatively of him before great and awesome Day of the Lord! God grant that we will do that.

 

Call to Repentance

Joel 2:12-27

Hardship afflicting God’s people not random – part of God’s eternal purpose for their redemption! Need a refresher on that principle? Read James again… carefully. Our complete salvation is always at the end of God’s purpose for his people. He sovereignly uses hardship, trials to bring that about. Way we picture that: tough things that knock off sharp corners, smooth rough edges, polish tarnished surfaces. Is true, but God also uses affliction for other more immediate purposes.

Judah’s problem more serious. Were miserable, desperate, at end of rope (in theory), here’s what they needed to do. And how God will respond to that. As have said before, strong parallels between God’s ancient people the Jews, his modern people here in America. Once again is clear God expects church to lead the way – knows people on their own will probably not turn back to him, need to be called to repentance as he speaks through his ministers. Also clear that God wants genuine response, not simply outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). And… God cares about motivation – God’s glory of primary importance, above any expectation of blessing.

Without question, locust plague picture of devastating judgment. Certainly if that just a precursor, future would hold something even more horrific. Yet God’s mercy clearly evident, both in his self-revelation and his promises. In fact, get the idea that God desires to show mercy so much he pushes people into situation where they have to cry out for mercy… and he answers. Not meanness on God’s part – wasn’t that they were headed in right direction, God sent them wrong direction just so he could rescue. Jewish people already headed in wrong direction, coasting downhill away from God. He narrows the funnel, squeezes them to where it gets painful enough so they are ready to hear about options.

Through his prophet Joel, God informs of the action he requires, who he expects will participate in it, what he promises in return; then a second call, this time to rejoicing followed by God’s further response.

A. required action v.12-14

turn to Me

single-mindedly – God must be the only option, not one among many including self; no time limit, no escape clause, no plan B if for some reason God doesn’t come through

in view: comprehensive whole-hearted devotion to God alone, holding nothing back, involving mind/will/emotion in entirety

sacrificially – fundamental way to deny self, focus on God; purposeful putting aside of legitimate physical desire (for food) in order to concentrate on spiritual need

day of fasting not big sacrifice for us; Judah, otoh, were starving, yet God expected satisfying hunger to take 2nd place

is something even very young children can grasp – something really big must be really wrong to skip meals and go to church

sorrowfully – issue not one of inconvenience, physical hardship, uncertainty about future; issue is that God has been offended

bottom line motivation needs to be grief and sorrow (not simply sadness) over offending holy, gracious, patient, loving God

requires seeing God as he really is (to best of our ability), ourselves and our sin as God sees us (as best we can)

tear your heart:

“The heart is a figure of speech that stands for the very core of man’s being, the very radix (root or point of origin) of his personality, the very hub of his nature, and the very essence of his I-ness. …In Scripture the heart is the spiritual center of the embodied human soul. It is the wellspring from which all of life and its activities originates, takes its cue, and receives its propulsion, spiritual as well as physical. …As such it is also the seat and subject of the three internal functions of thinking, willing and feeling.” Krabbendam

tearing garment a traditional sign of sudden great distress – can also be done for effect but without right emotion/attitude

God’s perspective: right actions can mask a rotten heart; right heart will result in right actions; get the heart right first, actions will naturally come along

trust in the Lord

whatever the outcome, God will do right (Gen. 18:25) – may be that God does not show compassion in that circumstance, does not relent from his chastising hand

would not be unjust for God to do so – rebellion, delayed repentance deserves consequences; nothing we can experience in this life is adequate to satisfy God’s justice

at same time, what is God’s character? “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love”, same God toward his people has always been

has shown mercy to his people before, reasonable to think he might this time also; either way, will be present with his people supplying their needs whatever the circumstances

B. expected participants v.15-17

priests

make the announcement – blow trumpet, this time not for alarm but as summons: national day of fasting and prayer

since root problem nation has sinned against God, is proper that summons should come from religious leaders

call people together – is an individual problem, also a “whole people” problem and needs to be addressed that way

are individuals in community, members of a body – had sinned individually, also collectively and needed to repent collectively

yes, repentance and prayer and fasting at home in closet an important element, but not sufficient; btw, still true today

lead in repentance by example and intercession – weep and pray

clearly a “teachable moment” not to be squandered; also at that time in redemptive history, people dependent upon priests for their intercession

now are a holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) but still need leaders to lead, to teach by example and pray for their flock

people

full spectrum – elders to nursing infants – none would escape the wrath to come because of age, none should be overlooked in repentance

raises some other good points – how better to teach children way to respond to sin, seeing parents/grandparents/etc. showing repentance; also makes good case for parents taking children to church, having present in worship

if this kind of solemn assembly, comparable almost to a funeral, is suitable for children and nursing infants, why not worship?

also circumstances – no exceptions, even newlyweds – nation basically shut down, under state of emergency for this gathering

shows seriousness of offense, how much should be willing to forego in order to regain good standing with God

prayer

plea for deliverance from God’s anger, the nations’ oppression – spare your people further affliction, have mercy yourself, don’t turn us over to our enemies

key element shows sincerity of repentance: plead on basis of God’s glory, not personal benefit – don’t let pagans criticize God for inaction or inability… same “argument” Moses used with God at Sinai (Ex. 32:11-13)

prayer that God will glorify himself is a prayer God always answers (maybe not in way we think)

C. promised response v.18-20

compassion – when chastising has accomplished God’s good purpose, he does show compassion: purpose of affliction to cause change of direction (not just punish), when that happened God could/would “let up”

provision – clearly going to be a God thing: wasn’t just a bad crop, plants were destroyed and ground thoroughly parched

God doesn’t promise seed and seedlings, promises restoration – see v.22 is not a handout promised, rather return of means to support themselves, meanwhile enough to satisfy

protection – God doesn’t simply put up a force field around his people, he deals with sinfulness of the other guys

D. call to rejoice v.21-23

God paints with broad brush of blessing – land, animals, people – will be obvious that no longer need to fear punishment from God

he does marvelous things so all will know they have been restored to favor – looks forward to last great DOL when created order completely restored

confirm your repentance was genuine

rejoice in the Lord your God, not the other gods – would be real easy for Judah, especially at some points when worshiping fertility gods, to rejoice in false god

this is a test – response to restored prosperity: who gets the credit, will God still be first in their priorities and affections

E. further response v.24-27

God is not stingy – does not start out with bare minimum, wait for right response, then ramp it up

nor does he get them back to square one and then turn them loose – restores not only things that were lost, also what they would have produced in intervening time

important principle to keep in mind – we sin against God, miss opportunities for growth in godliness and service to others – God has power to restore what was lost when we repent

like prayer, purpose of blessing is that God would be glorified

God is glorified in their obedience, also in their repentance – obligation for them to give God alone the praise andstay devoted to Him

F. for us today

God exists, is present, is sovereignly directing redemption of his people

can count on that regardless of circumstances – nation and people may have largely abandoned God, he hasn’t abandoned them

must be repentant and dependent people, wholly devoted to God alone

keep short accounts – don’t let things build, repent, confess and seek forgiveness often to stay close / pleasing to him

our right response to God’s corrective discipline has implications for entire community

entire nation suffered because of sinfulness; was relieved of suffering by sincere repentance of those truly devoted to God

same could be true for our nation – enough sin to go around; perhaps if God’s people sincerely repented and devoted themselves whole-heartedly to him, might be pleased to bring about change, blessing once again

Theme for study in Minor Prophets – “Redeemed from Ruin”. Don’t always have good grasp on extent of our ruin. When God does reveal it to us, what then? Response should be repentance, rejoicing, reverence.

Sound the Alarm

Joel 2:1-11

Said last week: “Need to be more concerned about offending God than whether proclaiming truth offends people.” Believe one reason Christians unconcerned as they are – don’t think highly enough of God, don’t take God and his word (all of it) seriously. Find too many ways to either deflect or minimize what Bible says – applies to them, not us; meant that in their culture, means otherwise now, and on it goes. Shows up in lots of places – stated beliefs, choices and priorities, conversation, humor… true of both professing Christians and unbelievers.

Particular composition came to mind. Sometimes gotta wonder if had some happy pills, then wrote the music! e.g. Integrity Music, Gaither Band, etc. – v.1, 9, 11

“They rush on the city / They run on the wall / Great is the army / That carries out His Word / The Lord utters His voice / Before His army / Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion / Sound the alarm on My holy mountain / Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion / Sound the alarm”

And then the comments — “I love this song it brings back old memories of dancing at mind body & soul Christian dance school back n the 90’s!!!” “My 7 year old and I love to sing this together, and my one year old tries to dance a little. Lol. Fun worship song.”

Not sure which the winning force is: power of music, reason put away in storage. Joel’s exhortation in our text not call to celebration, not cause for joy. To think so equivalent to looking for marshmallows when told house is on fire. Warning of impending disaster, yet is not inevitable… see that clearly in next week’s text. Also implied in scenario of warning – those who heed warning often able / enabled to escape doom that is about to fall. Joel issues two calls to “blow the trumpet” v.1 and v.15, for different purposes, consider only the first now. Then describes what is about to take place… in unmistakeable graphic terms.

A. blow the trumpet v.1-2

danger is imminent (1)

task given to priests, this kind of call intended to awaken to danger, requires immediate response… no time for delay

is the kind of warning given when invading army has begun to attack – already on the move, getting closer by the moment

serious enough danger that justifies sounding the alarm – series of staccato notes with shofar – lets hearers know what’s coming not good

Joel confirms that – tremble / shake with fear; going to be something you want to avoid at all costs

first indication that what’s coming is big – “let all” – further description in next verse rules out possibility of “maybe won’t come this way, my way”

identifies the danger

threat may look like locusts, may appear to be human army, real Mover and Shaker is God himself – is His day coming

further confirmation later in passage – this is God moving in judgment, not empty threat… must be taken seriously

highly unpopular concept, that God of all beings represents a threat, especially to people he promised to protect

Christians pull back from idea that God treats enemies like enemies and not as last resort because he ran out of options

C S Lewis had that right about Aslan – “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, repeated theme in OT wisdom literature; more interested today in friendship than fear!

must remember though, God will do all that is necessary to make us holy even when painful or costly – separating us from what we hold more dear than God

it will be awful, unprecedented (2)

sure you have experienced – middle of the day, starts to get dark, wonder about it, look up and see black clouds… know it’s not good, then hear sound of it coming… grab stuff and run for cover

day of the Lord like that only inconceivably more awful and terrifying – closest parallel, storm that brought Flood

follow the logic here: just like locust plague that destroyed Israel’s economy was nothing to this DOL, so that DOL nothing compared to one yet to come

locusts were bad, Assyrians and Babylonians were worse; armies were bad, God himself coming on that day really bad

B. the invaders described v.3-9

nothing escapes (3)

stark contrast here – Garden of Eden vs. scorched earth; place of perfect provision and plenty vs. what cannot sustain life

God’s purpose – to do thorough housecleaning, removing everything that polluted land, accomplishing complete purification… certainly will be achieved on future DOL

1812, Napoleon – 600,000 into Russia; between what they and horses all ate, what they and Russians destroyed, 27,000 escaped 6 months later

no time to escape (4-5)

best efforts don’t count, simply do not have personal resources adequate to deal with this kind of opposing force

see images of individual standing up to tank – not warfare; consider instead mechanized unit attacking infantry on foot… truly no contest

paralyzed with pain and fear (6)

just in case you think it’s imaginary, listen to those who have actually encountered or experienced this army’s onslaught

writhe in horror/fear/pain just at the sight of them; faces turn pale with fright – something to be taken very seriously

nothing can stop them (7-9)

blitzkrieg – shock and awe of previous conflict: overwhelm with speed and force, reach point where reputation accomplishes much on its own

resistance melts away, opposition disappears even before armed force actually arrives; just to know they’re coming was enough

completely dominate territory they invade – have the run of the place, nothing to prevent from doing as they please

description of a mighty army that is almost supernatural in its ability – so frighteningly overwhelming as to remove all hope of resistance

while description of invincibility may be exaggerated, final outcome certainly not – given who is speaking, commanding the army, picture painted is intentionally hopeless

for God to deliver, he must be the only hope of his people – declares 2x “I will not give my glory to another” (Isa. 42:8; 48:11)

was true for Israel in Joel’s day, still true in our day, will be on great Day – confidence must be in Christ alone

C. unprecedented scope v.10-11

cosmic effects (10)

what is ultimately in view here is more than local disturbance – rattles entire universe with its magnitude: must be greater than human agents responsible

common way of describing events occuring at the end, when Christ returns and restores order throughout entire universe

commander identified (11a)

think about this from first audience’s perspective – ok, so will be bad, really bad, devastating, nearly hopeless, wait, what?? who?

what is God doing here? and what do you mean “his army”? locusts we get, Assyrians we get, but Yahweh thundering as he leads his army?

changes analysis of the whole thing, need to go back to beginning and rethink entire scenario – is not some kind of natural disaster, neighbor-nation land grab

is in reality God, his army carrying out his commands – purposeful, intentional, nothing random about it, actually God keeping his promise: if you obey, then…, if you do not obey, then… Deut. 28ff

too terrible to endure (11b)

should be no surprise given who Commander is – DOL awesome and terrifying, ultimately irresistible: God will do as he said

applies to DOL occurring near to Joel’s day, for certain applies to DOL that comes at end of this age – only those who are in Christ will endure that one

D. let’s review

starts with a warning of imminent danger, then rest of the story

without context of bad news, good news has little meaning; if are basically comfortable where you are, little incentive for change

true, am speaking from perspective of human reason; important note: God does not convert sinners apart from human reason

no sense of danger, no movement – must have at least basic awareness of need before any interest in hearing about help

not only OT phenomenon – see Acts 17:30-31

God has been patient, overlooked your ignorance; jig’s up, commands to repent because DOL, Judgment Day is set and coming

that is message, in outline form at least, that Paul used on audience much like that of average 21st century unchurched American

Let’s close the loop, where we started with contemporary music. True… will be element of rejoicing on that Day, justice will be served, Christ glorified and acknowledged, etc, etc. But for all those still in their sins, will be “terrible and dreadful”. As we think about those we know and love who will arrive at that day hopelessly lost, should cause great sorrow. Is far too serious an event to think of in any way as “fun”.

Sound of the alarm should be sufficient to wake us up to gravity of need, closeness of that last DOL and what it means for people we encounter. Should inflame our passion to see souls saved, lives transformed by Gospel.

First Responders

Joel 1:13-20

When God brings calamity on a people, who should take lead in responding to / addressing it? Trend over last couple generations in this country – look to government for leadership in responding to disaster; same holds true for church, too. There is FEMA, Dept. of Homeland Security, to begin the list – time after time those who profess Christianity have as default go-to source an agency at some level of government. Extends to non-crisis issues as well, the stuff of everyday life. Two organizations come quickly to mind: Jerry Falwell and Moral Majority, James Dobson and Focus on the Family – primary emphasis on political or judicial solution to all sorts of issues.

Day after murder of 5 police officers in Dallas, amid all media frenzy, article headline got my attention: Who Can Heal America? Stephen Collinson, CNN, 07/08/16

“…despite all the calls for unity, the prayers offered and the platitudes voiced, there are few signs yet that any candidate, lawmaker, law enforcement leader, or civil rights campaigner has mustered the trust and respect of voters needed to knit a mournful nation together and freshen the stale national debate on race and violence.”

Question we must ask: is this approach to life and circumstances God would have his people to use? Does Bible have anything to say on the subject? If so, what? Text makes answer to that question clear – clergy, not politicians, should be first responders. Church, not government, has that primary responsibility. This coming through prophet at time when monarchy in place in Israel for 230+ years, government in disarray in both Israel and Judah – corruption, intrigue, murder, power struggles. Great-grandmother Jezebel, grandmother Athaliah who murdered all but Joash, father assassinated by Jehu’s (king of Israel) order. Not a far ways from current political and social conditions, eh?

Whether duty is heeded or not, Christ’s church has responsibility to exercise leadership in showing proper response to God. In last few generations, 50 years anyway, approach of church to surrounding community has changed dramatically. Back in shop days, be asked “how’s it going?” Response: “you want me to tell truth or make you feel good?” Evangelical church used to tell truth knowing would make some people feel bad, maybe even offend them. Now church tries to make people feel good, hoping to somewhere down the road sneak in truth little by little. Try to give people what they want, then later give what they need. Problem is – giving what they want widens gap between sinner and God, further blinds and de-sensitizes to real need. Need to be more concerned about offending God than whether proclaiming truth offends people.

A. lead the way v.13-14

who: spiritual leaders (13a)

God’s standard for leaders: godly character way more important than skills – Titus 1:6-9, v.6-9a address character, v.9b skill of exhortation/persuasion

effective spiritual leaders pleasing to God must first have exemplary lives – Phil. 3:17Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”

point is not that spiritual leaders are perfect, but exemplary – serving as good pattern, including how to deal biblically with both success and failure

not a new requirement in NT, were expectations for priests in OT – specific rituals, things that would disqualify from holding office: laver Ex. 40:32 “Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the LORD had commanded Moses.”

also Lev. 21, character qualities first, then physical requirements for those who served as priests; esp. v.6 – “They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God, for they offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy.”

God expected leaders leading followers would follow leader well – spiritual leaders to be leading followers of God, should be following God well themselves… making sure their own spiritual house is in order first

why: you can see the signs (13b)

spiritual leaders should be first responders… first to catch on there’s a problem – have vantage point, perspective of both people and truth

should be connected enough with people’s personal lives to recognize signs of problem; should also be aware of cultural issues

in this case: offerings are down, what’s up? what is source of the change – limited to one wealthy family? local economy? national circumstances?

obvious in Joel’s case – national calamity devastated entire nation and its economy, impact on every household incl. church

church ought to be concerned about both state of love for God and love for neighbor – if neighbor’s sinfulness putting others at risk, regardless of scope, church must be involved

not talking about social activism, rather the church following her mandate to equip Christ-followers to live godly

I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Tim. 3:15

what: lead in right religion (14)

no question what Joel has in mind – draw entire community together for demonstration, sit-in, protest, civil disobedience…not

bring everyone together before God and cry out to HIM for help – in time of calamity especially (but not only) should seek God first, individually and corporately

people being who they are, not likely on their own to come together for corporate prayer and repentance – must be led

B. the Day is near v.15-18

it’ll come from God (15)

don’t like to think about calamity coming here, do want it to happen there! and really don’t want to give God the credit

think about history – same Flood that destroyed earth floated the Ark that saved Noah and family… great judgment included great mercy

have been number of “days” when God has visited portions of his creation with judgment – was not superstition in old days to view calamity that way

it’s been announced (16)

“minor” calamities are announcements of the big one – just like seismic activity warns of possible volcanic eruption, also warn of God’s coming judgment

every “warning” is evidence / display of God’s mercy – could have given no warnings at all until The End

instead, each warning is opportunity – have reason to talk about sin and evil, God’s plan to deal with it… at Calvary, at the Final Day

it’ll be really bad (17-18)

may be “localized” day of the Lord like Israel experienced, may also be the Big One – either way, will be far worse than the warnings

present experience is bad, locusts did quite a job – no comparison with the one coming; yet… situation not hopeless

have bookends of v.14, v.19-20 and theme of crying out to Yahweh – still legitimate hope of mercy and deliverance

shouldn’t hold back informing others of how bad it will be – Bible tells us what to expect, so did Jesus: he used hell as deterrent, not heaven as attractant

it’s at hand

if was within sight in Joel’s day, we’re almost 3000 years closer to final day he spoke of in chapter 3

makes it more imperative we respond to warning tremors in way that pleases God… redeeming the time, using to fullest advantage

is true that God is sovereign over all things including salvation – no one in hell because we were too slow, too stumbling in speech… not excuse to be lazy

if really take God, what he said seriously, will be intentional in our living and witnessing – looking for and using opportunities

C. here’s an example v.19-20

I cry out (19)

prophet recognizes source of calamity, proper response to it – not only exhorts others, expresses own dependence on God

sets example himself like expects of religious leaders – also encourages others to do right thing when see public figure

beasts cry out (20)

not just people who depend on God, animals get caught in cross-fire and cry out to God; is it any wonder they long for redemption too (Rom. 8:22)

serves as rebuke to rational creatures – if dumb beasts know enough to cry to God for help, human beings certainly ought to do same

both cry out to God

just to re-emphasize where we started – they don’t cry out to human helpers but God alone as their only hope

cry out for God’s help for themselves, for others afflicted by present calamity, especially for those in danger of future judgment

and so should you

when calamity occurs, God’s people should be first responders – personally and corporately crying out to God for help, encouraging others to do same

applies to calamities of all shapes and sizes, personal to national – should bring us to knees first, not as after-thought

as God’s people, we should be leading the way in response to hardship, affliction, evil actions by evil people – all in total dependence on God

 

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.