How do you handle crises in your lives? Do you blame or belittle God?
In Old Testament times, people assumed that their crises implied God’s absence or apathy. In reality, God uses current events to remind people that there isn’t a day that goes by that we aren’t dealing with God. No matter what the trauma or crises is in our lives, God can be trusted to bring comfort in the short-term and restoration in the long run. We hear that promise in Joel 2:23-32.
A great crisis came upon the Israelites-God’s judgment. They had to return to God with fasting, weeping and mourning. They had to cry out to God for deliverance. That deliverance was so profound and underserved that Joel told the Israelites in Joel 2:18 that they should retell the story and pass it on to their children.
The passage from Joel is just as important to the church today as it was to the church in New Testament times. It is a prophecy of what is to come. The first half of the passage mentions how the Holy Ghost will work in the lives of God’s children as the end times approach. The second half of the passage mentions the supernatural events that will take place as related to the earth and the heavens. Prophesy in Scripture often produces praise to God. Dreams and visions were customary ways that the Lord communicated special revelations in Old Testament times.
God brings about both the good and the bad. The seasons of famine have a divine purpose in our lives. They accomplish things that only these hard places can accomplish. But there is a time when those hard places have accomplished their purpose and God begins to restore.
God said, “Vengeance will be mine,” and the passage from Joel is a slightly different version of God’s statement. The harvests will again be plentiful for the people to eat and be satisfied. The people will praise God’s name, recognizing the source of their sustenance. In addition, people will know God, His presence and His uniqueness. They will know that He is with them. They will know that He is their God, active on their behalf and the One to whom they owe allegiance.
God’s plan for the people of Joel’s time and for us is that of restoration to health as whole people and as a healthy community. That depends on a righteous relationship with God. This is part of returning to God with all our hearts.
In Acts 2, Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 in his famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost. God’s Spirit gives life to everyone. When the Old Testament texts talk about the Spirit of God coming on humans, it is most often to specially equip someone or a group of people for a great task such as craftsmen, prophets, warriors, leaders and kings. Today God still pours out His Spirit on all believers. It fills them and empowers them to serve Him in holiness and great joy.
In Old Testament times, prophets discerned with unusual clarity the significance of current events and the circumstances of God’s people. Based on their diagnosis, they spoke a word from God to provoke His people to change. By speaking God’s word to our world, prophets call us to radical transformation.
Prophets also offered pastoral care and comfort. They kept the dreams of God’s people and His kingdom alive in times of disaster and discouragement. They generated hope, affirmed identity and created a new future. They offered both a negative critique and positive affirmation and encouragement. They demanded radical change and invited the people to patient endurance. Today, the church and the world need both prophetic critique that demands change and pastoral comfort on the long road of endurance.
The Spirit encompasses everyone regardless of sex, age or social status, but sometimes we in the church make distinctions about whose bodies’ matter without thinking twice. Are black and brown bodies equal to white bodies? Are African bodies equal to American or Canadian bodies? Are the bodies of prisoners equal to free bodies? The answer to all of these questions and many more is a resounding “yes.” The traditional hierarchies of power are destroyed. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, there is no longer, “Jew or Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” Christ removes all the barriers that we erect between classes, races and genders. God is equally open to everyone, and we are all the same in His eyes.
It’s one thing for us to say we believe God’s spirit is poured out on all flesh and a totally different thing to live it out in our daily lives. Which of our practices do we need to examine? Which sins do we need to confess?
What would it mean for us that God’s Spirit is for everyone? People will prophesy, dream dreams and see visions. Prophecy means proclaiming God’s Word. The gift of prophecy gives us supernatural power to discern the inner meaning of what is happening around us and what God wants to tell us.
Would you like to have new love for people, be able to care for them profoundly and become effective in helping them reach their full potential?
Would you like to have x-ray vision to be able to see beneath the surface of people to their deepest hopes and hurts?
Would you like to be able to discern what God wants to say to people through you?
Would you like to be able to speak the truth to people in love in a winsome, winning way?
Would you like to have a direct, personal experience of God’s Spirit and become a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered person?
Any Christian who says “yes” to these questions is ready to receive the call to be a prophet and receive the monetary, situational, relational, spiritual gift of prophecy. The needs of people and groups before us will bring forth the gift of the Spirit from within us. Our responsibility is to “keep on being filled with the Spirit,” as written in Ephesians 5:18. The Spirit gives this gift when we get into challenges requiring the wisdom, insight, discernment and boldness the gift provides.
Joel 2:25-27 reminds us that the promised abundance is still on the way. Eating, praise and satisfaction are all promises of the wonders to come-especially when we get to heaven. God will generously provide for us, but more importantly, He will be in the midst of His people, regardless of gender, age, sex or social rank.
All of us as believers have wasted years when we turned away from God. Some of us have regrets about those years. Regret is a painful emotion and a worse reality. There are so many past words, actions and decisions that we wish we could take back. There are so many actions that brought unwanted and lasting consequences. Perhaps we feel that our past sins have robbed us of many good years.
We can take comfort in the knowledge that God will restore those years. God won’t turn back the clocks of our lives, but He will pack so much blessing in the years we have left that we will live a life full of joy, victories and pleasures. All we have to do is repent and ask God to carry out His plans for our lives. We can escape the coming judgments that are reserved for this earth by putting our trust in Jesus. We can ask Him to forgive us and accept His mercy and grace.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1170-1171)
- Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 22: Hosea/Joel/Amos/Obadiah/Jonah (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1990; pp. 253-263)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- “No such Thing as Wasted Years.” Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Phil Ware, “Heartlight Daily Verse, September 20, 2014.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- “Forgiveness.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
- Os Hillman, “When God restores What the Locusts Eat.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bob Thompson, “Always Dealing with God.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Jack Hibbs, “Terrified or trusting?” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ron Moore, “Regret and Restoration.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Rev. Megan Purdue, “Proper 25C 1st Reading.” Retrieved from www.aplainaccount.org/copy-of-proper-25c-psalm-1/
- John Holbert, “Locusts, Armies, Despair and Hope: Reflections on Joel 2:23-32.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/progressive=christian/locusts-armies-john-holbert-10-22-2013.aspx
- Daniel Clendenin, “Comfort and Critique: The Prophet Joel and a Plague of Locusts.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus,net/Essays/20131021JJ.shtml
- Bob Thompson, “Always Dealing with God.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Tammy Maltby, “A Vision for Trauma’s Aftermath.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Walter C. Bouzard, “Commentary on Joel 2:23-32.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3052