September 8, 2017
Scripture Reading – Joel 1-3
I found today’s scripture reading especially graphic in light of the devastating blow suffered by Houston from Hurricane Harvey and the path of destruction Hurricane Irma is leaving as she makes her way across the Caribbean and towards South Florida today. Adding to the calamity in our region of the world is the news of a major earthquake in southern Mexico this morning.
A novice reader of the Bible recognizes the prophet Joel is writing about a national disaster in terms that are symbolic, nevertheless powerful. Joel is describing the “Day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14) and the impending judgment of God against Judah.
The Book of Joel describes three catastrophic invasions. The enemy in Joel 1 is a natural enemy…a plague of locusts that destroys the crops leaving both men and beasts starving (1:7, 10-12, 16-20).
The enemy in Joel 2 is the impending invasion by the armies of Assyria (2:1-27) described in verse 20 as “the northern army” (or the army to the north). Joel was to sound the alarm, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion” (2:1)… warn Judah an enemy was coming. Describing the swath of destruction, Joel warns, “the day of the LORD cometh…A day of darkness and of gloominess…a fire devoureth before them…before their face the people shall be much pained” (2:1-6).
Why? Why was the LORD bringing this upon Judah? That the people might “turn…to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13). Reminding the nation the LORD is “gracious and merciful” (2:13), Joel called upon Judah to repent of her sins and turn to the LORD.
Joel prayed for a national revival: “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children…17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:16-17).
Knowing the LORD is gracious and merciful, Joel promised if the people repented, God would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).
Joel 3 is a future event…the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1) and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in what I believe is the final battle…Armageddon (Revelation 16:16). Remembering the ill-treatment suffered by the Jews down through the centuries (3:3-8), the LORD promises to make war against the Gentiles (3:9-17). Two Gentile nations are specifically named for destruction… “Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19). Egypt representing that great nation south of Israel and Edom the Arab nations to the north and east of Israel.
I close today’s devotional commentary with a personal observation as one who lives in the path of a hurricane the mayor of Miami describes as “epic”. In a few days, after the storms have passed and the toll on life and property is assessed, there will be a national debate bordering on hysteria about the cause of these massive storms. Some of the discussion will be sensible and scientific; however, media bias and liberal politicians will beat their drums and bewail “Climate Change” and reproach humanity as the cause.
A mere handful might dare broach the Biblical and historical reality God often calls a people to repent of their sin through natural cataclysmic events.
I am not suggesting the devastation suffered by Houston, the Caribbean and the potential of suffering in Florida from Hurricane Irma is the judgment of God. However, I will confess the United States has turned from God, His Laws and precepts.
America is guilty of gross sins…the negligence of justice; the celebration of gross immorality; and the deaths of 60 million infants. Of such a people we read, “for blood it defileth [corrupts; pollutes] the land [earth; country]: and the land cannot be cleansed [purged; atoned; forgiven] of the blood that is shed therein” (Numbers 35:33).
Pray for Texas, Florida and our nation to turn back to the LORD.
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith