Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Joel 1: 14-17

Starvation and Drought
14Consecrate a fast, proclaim 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.
15Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near,
And it will come as destruction from the Almighty.
16Has not food been cut off before our eyes,
Gladness and joy from the house of our God?
17The seeds shrivel under their clods;
The storehouses are desolate, the barns are torn down,
For the grain is dried up.

We begin a new header today, but, as you can guess, it's still not a pretty picture--starvation and drought.

Last week, we read how the priests were called to dress in sackcloth and to lead the call to repent. To consecrate means to "declare sacred" or to "set apart." If you take the parts apart--'con' and 'secrate'--you get "together, dedicate." This was not a call for the priests alone to ask for atonement on behalf of the people. No, all were to gather together--a nationwide fast. Another definition for consecrate is "to be clean." This was a people that needed to come before a holy God with repentant hearts that needed to be made right, forgiven, clean.

How were they to come? Verse 14:
"and cry to the Lord [in penitent pleadings]." (Amplified Bible) The word used for 'cry' in the Hebrew means "to shriek from anguish or danger" [Strong's] Obviously, this was a people facing a literal starvation, a perilous situation. But they were surely in a worse state of anguish being apart from their God. This coming forward in fasting and assembly would not be a simple request, but a true petition, that the Lord would forgive their hearts and heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14) Looking at where our word petition comes from, you'll find roots meaning "to require, seek, go forward, to rush at, attack." It all implies a constancy, a perseverance, an active posture. God was looking for forward movement, in the direction of Himself.

Do you find it interesting that there is a call for a fast in a time when there is no food? Talk about having faith and trust in God! But, consecrating a fast as part of repentance and revival was an expectation, regardless of the supply.

"For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the LORD; it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious work."
--Leviticus 23:36

Obedience to God's Word requires nothing less than obeying, no matter what. Do you believe in me? Do you trust in My provision, even as you have nothing? Do you understand that without me, you can do nothing?! (John 15:5)

Joel 1:15 is the first time 'the day of the Lord' appears in the text. Although we have discussed here already that what Joel has been describing is a contemporary day of wrath for God's people, in this verse, he is alluding to the ultimate Day of the Lord, in which final judgment will be brought. Joel urges the taking of these steps of fasting and lamentation toward repentance in light of what the future judgment holds for those who do not repent.

"Now I will shortly pour out My wrath on you and spend My anger against you; judge you according to your ways and bring on you all your abominations."
--Ezekiel 7:8

[It is so easy to make light of a line like "judge you according to your ways," but do we understand just how bad that is? I read Scripture about judgment these days with such scrutiny, because it's so easy to have a plank, you know what I mean?]

As if to remind the people of the signs they have seen thus far, Joel says the food is gone--not just taken but "cut off." And not just food, but gladness and joy, "cut off." Verse 17 begins, "The seeds shrivel under their clods." Remember last week's picture of the dried up soil in China? Even the seeds underneath the dried-up earth shrivel! God has made it so that there will be no growth. There will be no life. "The storehouses are desolate", in the Hebrew meaning stunned, numb, stupefied. [Strong's]

Look at this rich cross-reference passage from Isaiah 17 (vss. 10&11):

"For you have forgotten the God of your salvation
And have not remembered the rock of your refuge.
Therefore you plant delightful plants
And set them with vine slips of a strange god.
In the day that you plant it you carefully fence it in,
And in the morning you bring your seed to blossom;
But the harvest will be a heap
In a day of sickliness and incurable pain."

When I think of the disbelief the inhabitants of Judah must have had in that time, it is no wonder the language used in the beginning of chapter 1--"Has anything like this happened in your days or in your fathers' days? Tell your sons about it, and let your sons tell their sons, and their sons the next generation." (Vss. 2&3) What they planted reaped them a harvest of "sickliness and incurable pain" unlike they had experienced before.

Yet, what may be the most difficult verse to embrace is this truth at the end of Joel 1:15--

"And it will come as destruction from the Almighty."

Our God is definitely capable of bringing destruction. His Word tells us how this can be so. Accepting this as part of God's character is what folks can be lost over. This is not to say that God isn't a loving, merciful, patient God--"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9)

How were they to come? How are we to come? "...And cry to the Lord [in penitent pleadings]."

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
--Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Joel 1: 18-20

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).


Carmen said...

This was quite interesting. Today it seems to so many that God is not there, and so they become complacent. Repentance is almost a foreign concept these days. Such a dangerous place to be!

What stuck out to me was a call to fast in a time when there is no food. What will we do when the Word is no longer available to us? I know I'm taking some liberties here...but that's what I thought of when reading these verses.

Anyway, just a thought. This was really well done, Sue!

Edie said...

Oh my Sue J you did a great job with this! There is so much meat here it's really too much for one post.

Like you and Carmen, I thought about the fast when there was no food. I have to confess I don't completely get the whole fasting concept. Oh I understand the reasons that people fasted in the Bible but I'm sure I'm missing something. It's something I have been praying about lately.

When you think about the fact that these people were without food, they were already "fasting" so to speak in the physical sense. So then a call to fast would be to add the spiritual aspects of prayer (pleading), and repentance I suppose.

"God was looking for forward movement, in the direction of Himself." I love the way you put that. That is what He always wants from us isn't it?

This was really great! Makes me want to go read Joel. :)