Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm afraid my choice will result in bad consequences.

Tell me something has happened because of my sin and I will balk. I can see consequences, and I understand God does work in ways I don't understand, but I bristle at the idea of you thinking something was caused by something I did. Maybe I rely too much on Job and not the stories of Israel, or maybe none of us like to think God has to discipline us, even when we understand He does so out of love.

Just this past week my small group began discussing Amos. Poor Amos. He had to tell so many different countries that discipline would be coming because of their actions. He had to tell countries who were doing well economically, and who were just living their day to day lives, that God saw what they did and where their motives were. He didn't forget. And they wouldn't get away with it.

Joel has the same job here. The locusts... the thing which seems so natural, which happens year after year, this time it was about you. This time it was because your actions have taken you from God. Repent, Israel. God will save us.

It's easy for me to look at the Israelites, hear from the prophets, and know that God will discipline us to bring us back to him. It's harder for me to look at my own life, hear from others around me, and trust what they are saying about God disciplining. All of a sudden I want to be Job who is innocent and his friends are bad mouthing him. Yes, I would rather be Job.

But I know I'm not. My sins are there. The anger I harbor. The bitterness that is growing roots. The selfishness which rears its ugly head. Oh, and there are more. SO many more. I know God loves me as I am, but I also know He wants more for me. He doesn't want me to live this life covered in guilt and shame giving the devil a foothold. He wants me to stand tall, follow him, love others, and live abundantly.

That's hard sometimes because I have to admit I could be wrong. I have to let go of my pride. But I think about how the Israelite's actions affected everything around them. We all have free choice, but shouldn't I use that choice to do as well as I can for myself and those around me? It's not too late. It never is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The fear of irreversible consequences

Joel 2:21-22
Be not afraid, O land, be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things.
Be not afraid, O wild animals,
for the open pastures are become green.
The trees are bearing their fruit,
the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.

Joel was told the swarm of locusts was sent by God, and he was to tell the priests to bring the people to the temple for repentance. At the end of chapter one he states, “To you, O lord, I call for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures.” While I cannot point to any certain hardship and declare God has sent it because we have gone astray, what can we learn from Joel?

The first thing I notice is that our sins have an effect on others as well. Here in Joel the sins of the Israelites brought consequences on them, but the land and the wild animals as well. How many times do you think you aren’t hurting anyone in a sin you have committed? I call it being a casualty of war, and the truth is everything we do affects those around us. We are not isolated creatures even though we feel as if we are.

The next thing to notice is that as soon as the Israelites repented God began restoring. He restored the land and everything that lived upon the land. At the end of chapter one Joel states what has happened to the land and wild animals. In the middle of chapter two he states why they should not be afraid and how they will be healed.

In the two verses of “Be not afraid” is a third thing to notice. The part of the verse which states, “Surely the Lord has done great things.” This is a reminder that regardless of what sin has done, and no matter what the consequences we have to face, God has done even greater things in our life, and when we repent and return to a relationship with him He will continue to do so.

Question 1: Have you been ignoring a call to repent in your life? Where do you need to return and get things right?

Question 2: Are you fearful that the consequences you are living with can never be fixed? Trust that God is greater than the evil we can do. He will use that for your good, just trust Him and watch how He heals everything.

Dear Father
You are our salvation and our hope
As we return to you
I beg you to forgive us
Restore us
Thank you for redeeming us
Spare your people O Lord

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Land and Animal's Fear

The placement of Joel in history is unknown, but it is believed that it was an actual historical event. Swarms of locusts were not uncommon for the area of Israel and Judah, and Joel was given a Word from the Lord when this one occurred. It was a call to repentance, and a call to return. The three chapters cover the plague, reason and results, a call to repentance, and a vision of the future day of the Lord. In the middle of it all, after being given reason to fear, the Lord gives reason to not be afraid.

Joel 2 21 22

Joel 2:21,22

Be not afraid O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things. Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open patures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. (NIV)  
Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, For the Lord has done great things. Do not fear, beasts of the field, For the pastures of the wilderness have turned green, For the tree has borne its fruit. The fig tree and the vine have yielded in full. (NAS)  
Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great hings! Be not afraid, you wild beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness have sprung up and are green; the tree bears its fruit, and the fig tree and the vine yield their [full] strength. (Amplified)

land - dama - earth, the entire surface of the place where humans dwell, as well as smaller regions' ground, soil, dust

Reformed Study Bible:
- beginning in verse 18: repentance will bring renewed fruitfulness to the land
- Even the land and the wild animals are urged not to be afraid, and they are exhorted to be gland and rejoice with the people of Zion in the agricultral abundance from the Lord.

Matthew Henry's Concordance:
- A promise that upon (the people's) repentance, God would remove the judgement, would repair the breaches made upon them by it, and restore unto them plenty of all good things.
- See how ready God is to succor and relieve his people, how he waits to be gracious; as soon as ever they humble themselves under this hand, and pray, and seek his face, he immediately meets them with his favors.
- The Lord will do great things for his people, as the enemy has doen great things agasint them, to convince them that wherein they deal proudly he is, and will be, above them that, what great things soever they did, they did nomore than God commissioned them to do.
- The destroyed land shall be watered and made fruitful.

Encyclopedia of the Bible:
- The immediate occasion of the oracles was the incidence of a severe locust plague, and this natural calamity was used by Joel as the means of illustrating the nature and scope of ane ven more significant occurence of an eschatological nature, the day of the Lord. It was the puirpose of th author to call his people to repentance in order that divine punishment might be averted and the spirit of God be poured out upon israel in blessing.

Clarkes commentary:
- Jehovahwill do great things in driving them away, and supernaturally resotring the land to fertility.

Barnes notes:
- the Almightiness of God overwhelming and sweeping over th might put forth to destoy
- For God was reconciled to His people; and all things erved them, serving Him.