1958.) Joel 1

Joe1 alas

Joel 1   (NRSV)

The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel:

Lament over the Ruin of the Country

Hear this, O elders,
    give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
    or in the days of your ancestors?
Tell your children of it,
    and let your children tell their children,
    and their children another generation.

Joe2 locusts invasionWhat the cutting locust left,
    the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
    the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
    the destroying locust has eaten.

Why are we turning to read Joel now?

The prophet Joel spoke to the southern kingdom of Judah, and makes no reference to the northern kingdom of Israel. Its hard to pin down his exact time, because he doesn’t mention any other kings or prophets. Many scholars date the book of Joel to 835 B.C.

This makes Joel a pre-exilic prophet, who ministered before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel (721 B.C.) or the southern kingdom of Judah (586 B.C.). Other pre-exilic prophets include Obadiah, Jonah, Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, and Micah. Joel is one of the earliest prophets – only Obadiah prophesied before his time (845 B.C.).

835 B.C. was a time of turmoil and transition in Judah, at the end of the reign of the Queen Mother Athaliah and the beginning of the reign of King Joash. Athaliah seized power at the sudden death in battle of her son Ahaziah, who only reigned one year (2 Kings 8:26, 2 Kings 11:1). Athaliah killed all her sons heirs, except for one who was hidden in the temple and escaped – one-year-old Josiah (2 Kings 11:3). Her six-year reign of terror ended in 835 B.C. when the High Priest Jehoiada overthrew Athaliah and set the seven-year-old Josiah on the throne (2 Kings 11:4-21).

During her six years as queen over Judah, Athaliah reigned wickedly. She was the granddaughter of the wicked King Omri of Israel–making her daughter or niece to Ahab, one of Israel’s worst kings (2 Kings 8:26). Athaliah raised her son Ahaziah to reign in the wicked pattern of Ahab, and even brought in Ahab’s counselors to advise him (2 Chronicles 22:2-4). When Ahaziah was killed in battle and she seized power, she set her other sons to evil, even desecrating the temple and its sacred things (2 Chronicles 24:7).

If we are accurate in thinking that Joel prophesied in 835 B.C. then the judgment he described came toward the end of the six-year reign of ungodliness under Queen Athaliah. No wonder God brought a heavy hand on Judah!

–David Guzik

The name Joel means Jehovah is God and therefore constitutes a short confession of faith, somewhat like the primary New Testament confession, Jesus is Lord.

–James Montgomery Boice

Wake up, you drunkards, and weep;
    and wail, all you wine-drinkers,
over the sweet wine,
    for it is cut off from your mouth.
For a nation has invaded my land,
    powerful and innumerable;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
    and it has the fangs of a lioness.
It has laid waste my vines,
    and splintered my fig trees;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
    their branches have turned white.

Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth
    for the husband of her youth.

They are mourning with the passion and emotion of a young widow. Joel doesn’t minimize the suffering. The country is looking straight in the face of devastation and ruin.

The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off
    from the house of the Lord.
The priests mourn,
    the ministers of the Lord.

These offerings, which were to be offered twice daily (Exodus 29:38-42; Leviticus 2:1-2), were lacking because the crops were destroyed. (The Reformation Bible)

10 The fields are devastated,
    the ground mourns;
for the grain is destroyed,
    the wine dries up,
    the oil fails.

joel1-wheat-wine-oil

Grain, wine, and oil were the three staples of the agricultural society of that day. (The Archaeological Study Bible) How could they survive without them?

11 Be dismayed, you farmers,
    wail, you vinedressers,
over the wheat and the barley;
    for the crops of the field are ruined.
12 The vine withers,
    the fig tree droops.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple—
    all the trees of the field are dried up;
surely, joy withers away
    among the people.

Joe1 drought

In an agricultural society, the withering of the crops leads to the withering of the joy of the people.

A Call to Repentance and Prayer

13 Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests;
    wail, you ministers of the altar.
Come, pass the night in sackcloth,
    you ministers of my God!
Grain offering and drink offering
    are withheld from the house of your God.

14 Sanctify a fast,
    call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
    and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
    and cry out to the Lord.

A public fast is proclaimed so that the entire nation could stop all regular activities for a time (probably a day, Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 14:24; Jeremiah 36:6-9) to acknowledge God’s judgment and to repent. (The Reformation Bible)

15 Alas for the day!
For the day of the Lord is near,
    and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.

Joe1 day of the Lord

“The day of the Lord” has the sense of God’s time, as opposed to humanity’s time. In Old Testament prophetical books, it often refers to a day of the Lord’s wrath against Israel.

16 Is not the food cut off
    before our eyes,
joy and gladness
    from the house of our God?

17 The seed shrivels under the clods,
    the storehouses are desolate;
the granaries are ruined
    because the grain has failed.
18 How the animals groan!
    The herds of cattle wander about
because there is no pasture for them;
    even the flocks of sheep are dazed.

19 To you, O Lord, I cry.
For fire has devoured
    the pastures of the wilderness,
and flames have burned
    all the trees of the field.
20 Even the wild animals cry to you
    because the watercourses are dried up,
and fire has devoured
    the pastures of the wilderness.

Joe1 prayer

I do believe that sometimes the Lord brings us to a place where we have no power in our situation to do anything but cry out to Him. In our hardness of heart, when all our resources are exhausted and only heaven can help, we say senseless things like, “Well, I guess all we can do is pray,” as if that is a small thing. In fact, that is the one thing the Lord is waiting for — for us to turn from ourselves to our loving Father and mighty God for forgiveness and for help!

_________________________

Music:

A powerful song for corporate confession.  HERE  is “Lead Us Back” from Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky. The lyrics are by Bobby Gilles and Brooks Ritter. One reviewer has written:  “This song has its finger on the pulse of the church, and poetically describes some of our shortcomings. I found myself convicted of the sins mentioned in this song and convinced of my need for God’s grace.”

Falling down upon our knees
Sharing now in common shame
We have sought security
Not the cross that bears Your name
Fences guard our hearts and homes
Comfort sings a siren tune
We’re a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You

Lord we fall upon our knees
We have shunned the weak and poor
Worshipped beauty, courted kings
And the things their gold affords
Prayed for those we’d like to know
Favor sings a siren tune
We’ve become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You

You have caused the blind to see
We have blinded him again
With our man-made laws and creeds
Eager, ready to condemn
Now we plead before Your throne
Power sings a siren tune
We’ve been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You

We’re a valley of dry bones
Lead us back to life in You
We’ve become a talent show
Lead us back to life in You
We’ve been throwing heavy stones
Lead us back to life in You

_________________________

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)   New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of:
Alas.    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/f7/a6/eb/f7a6eb0f2fa862b744116c262205f1ca.jpg
locust invasion.    http://biblestudyoutlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/locustsinvasion.jpg
wheat, wine, oil.   https://christmyshepherd.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/oil-wine.jpg?w=840
dry dead crops, photo by Robert Ray, AP.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/drought-in-us-reaching-levels-not-seen-in-50-years-pushing-up-corn-prices/2012/07/16/gJQA01SopW_story.html
The Day of the Lord.    http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/359/788/359788141_640.jpg
praying.    http://www.christianfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/prayer-on-my-knees42.jpg
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