Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Joel 1: 10-13

10The field is ruined, the land mourns;
For the grain is ruined, the new wine dries up, fresh oil fails.
11Be ashamed, O farmers, wail, O vinedressers,
For the wheat and the barley;
Because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
12The vine dries up and the fig tree fails;
The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree,
All the trees of the field dry up
Indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men.

13Gird yourselves with sackcloth and lament, O priests;
Wail, O ministers of the altar!
Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God,
For the grain offering and the drink offering
Are withheld from the house of your God.

Our verses this week conclude this section of Joel's prophecy dealing with the devastation of the land of Judah by locusts.

We have some deeper description in these verses of the state of the land. It is ruined, dried up, wasted away. Not only is there no crop, but the land itself is of no use. "The land mourns" (vs. 10) over its own state. The picture up top that I found through Google is what the land in China looked like last year. Rice fields had once flourished in the land. A brief glance at the text of the accompanying article said that it yielded worms, not rice. In Judah, locusts not only devoured the crops, but the land itself was lost.

Last week's verses spoke of the loss of the grapevine (hence, the wine) and the loss of the grain offering (thus, grain crop). Verse 10 also highlights the loss of fresh oil, which had multiple uses in the day, from medicinal to illumination purposes. Caught some further meaning of oil in looking at the Hebrew--"figuratively, anointing." [Strong's] Fresh anointing wastes away. If anointing means to dedicate oneself to serving God, this was obviously a time in which that kind of consecration was absent. When God is not present in the land, God does not anoint the land with blessing either.

More on lost crops, verse 12 leads us to the loss of the pomegranate, palm and apple tree--"all the trees." Why these specific trees? First, obviously, they are all fruit-bearing trees. Fruit was widely grown, so the loss of the fruit crop would be especially detrimental to the food supply. Pomegranates, particularly, are mentioned as "promised land" fruit.

"...A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey."
--Deuteronomy 8:8

Projecting forward to Paul's letter to the Galatians and the fruit of the spirit, the loss of the fruit--the characteristics of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.)--would be reflected in the loss of the Spirit-filled nature of the land. Also noteworthy, when looking at the Hebrew roots (no pun, here) regarding these trees is the emphasis on straight growth--the pomegranate "from its upright growth" and the palm "from a root meaning erect." [Strong's] Again, the condition of the land--the people--was such as to suggest there was no uprightness.

The gravity of the situation in this day of the Lord had an immediate and profound effect--famine on many levels. The farmers and the vinedressers were terribly lost, as their livelihood affected an entire nation. Verse 13 elaborates further on the loss experienced by the priests, and, thus, the nation, as regular offerings and sacrifices could not be made. No worship! "Gird yourselves with sackcloth." Material used for making the bags to hold the harvests of grain became the priestly garments of lamentation and mourning. Look at 1:12 in the King James--"Joy is withered away from the sons of men."

As horrible and painful as it is to lose your joy, the verse that grabbed me most was the end of verse 11:

"Because the harvest of the field is destroyed."

A farmer, or husbandman in the King James, is a tiller of the soil. There is a careful planting of seeds and monitoring of crops until the time of harvest, in which there is great joy at sharing the bounty of provision--that which is "severed" or "reaped" from the planting [Strong's definitions of the Hebrew word for harvest]. Interesting to see that the Church is referred to in the King James Version of I Corinthians 3:9 as "God's husbandry" or the "tilled land."

There are many Scriptures that parallel the farmer's harvest with the heavenly harvest of God's chosen--His children who received His Son, Jesus, and who will receive the gift of eternal life. God's favor rests with the harvested. But, what of the context here? Should the farmers and vinedressers "be ashamed" because they didn't use proper means of protection upon their crops? (vs. 11)

Look at a cross-reference verse, one which we will visit down the line in these pages:

"Who is the wise man that may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined, laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through?

The LORD said, "Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it...."
--Jeremiah 9:12-13

As surely as the planting of seeds in the heart is carried out by our God, He, too, is the Lord of the harvest. As Joel speaks through this contemporary day of the Lord to describe Judah's future without repentance, will God have mercy on His harvest?

'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Joel 1: 14-17

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Edie said...

"Joy is withered away from the sons of men."

When I think of joy being withered away, I think of it leaving utter devastation in it's place. A terrible place to be.

I am still amazed at the similarity I see between this account in scripture and today's culture in this nation.

Excellent stuff Sue J.

Carmen said...

This is a pretty amazing portion of scripture and one I hadn't noticed before. I too am amazed at how these verses parallel what we are experiencing in the church and in the nations. Such a clear statement. Thanks for this Sue!