Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Joel 1: 5-9

5Awake, drunkards, and weep; and wail, all you wine drinkers,
on account of the sweet wine that is cut off from your mouth.
6For a nation has invaded my land, mighty and without number;
Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, and it has the fangs of a lioness.
7It has made my vine a waste and my fig tree splinters.
It has stripped them bare and cast them away;
their branches have become white.
8Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth.
9The grain offering and the drink offering
are cut off from the house of the LORD.
The priests mourn, the ministers of the LORD.

Last week, we learned of the physical devastation of Judah at the "teeth" (vs 6) of locusts. This was a life-threatening condition to the physical bodies of the people as well as to the spiritual nature of the people. This week's verses continue to demonstrate how Joel uses this contemporary day of the Lord to speak forth God's Word.

We learn that the grape vines have been laid waste (vs 7). Why would Joel focus on a single crop in the midst of such vast devastation? Look at the audiences addressed within today's passage--drunkards and wine drinkers (vs 5) and the priests (vs 9). Commonality? They all would miss the wine, but for different reasons.

Those drunk on wine would no longer have wine upon which to get drunk. What would that scene be like (not that I'm encouraging drunkenness by any means)? Long-term health benefits; short-term withdrawal crisis! The social drinker would not have wine either, which would put a damper on celebratory festivities, weddings and the like. [I know, who is celebrating at this time?] "Priests mourn...." This was still in the time when drink offerings were made to God as part of the worship of the people. Without wine--without grain, too--how could they make offerings? How could they be in relationship to God?? And, for the priests, my study Bible notes that they would have been personally affected by no offerings in that they received a portion of that offering for their own sustenance. The health of the priests was at risk!

'Vine' and 'fig tree' are mentioned often in tandem throughout Scripture. Strong's elaborates:
"Plenitude of fruitful vines and fig-trees, specially individual ownership, thus came to be emblematical of long-continued peace and prosperity. In the days of Solomon, 'Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree.” (1 Kings 4:25). But we are now talking about the days post-Solomon in which the kingdoms of Judah and Israel are divided. For both vine and fig tree to have been so widely destroyed was a sign of concern for safety and future growth.

But, more so, this was a sign of God's wrath, God's temporal judgment. "A nation has invaded my land," says the Lord (vs 6). The people of God were facing earthly judgment for their disobedience. And what is the people's response? Catch these verbs: "Awake...weep and wail...Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth...mourn." When we are called on the carpet before a holy omnipotent God, we are called to repent!

In Luke 13, Jesus is talking about news stories of the day with the crowds. Some have brought to Him questions about why certain folks suffered extreme deaths, like being sacrificed at the same time as drink offerings were being made or having a tower collapse upon them. The crowds wondered if those who had perished were "greater sinners." (13:2) Not once, but twice, Jesus responds, "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." And with that introduction, He tells the parable of the fig tree:

"And He began telling this parable: 'A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"
--Luke 13: 6-9

Why was it so important that what was happening in Judah be passed down from fathers to sons, to their sons and to the next generation? Because if Judah didn't bear fruit, the Lord could "cut it down." If the bride, God's chosen, did not repent, her relationship with the bridegroom, the Lord, would be severely hampered. Look at the vicious circle created: Sins of disobedience and forsaking their true love led to God's wrath and the destruction of their land. Through the destruction of the land, the basics for sustenance and the elements used in worship were also destroyed. Without re-establishment of a relationship with God, their Father, Judah faced sure death. Joel's message was a cry to repent so they might live!

One last thought on these verses today. I can't read 'vine' without recalling Jesus' teaching in John 15:

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
--John 15:5

God saw the fruitlessness in the life of the people of Judah. Had they not seen His power and presence in the days in which they had rested so comfortably under their vines and fig trees? "Apart from Me you can do nothing." Surely, they had tried to go forward without God, forsaking His ways. Now they sat in the middle of their calamity with the option to repent or die. Which would they choose?

A look from the farmers' perspective in a week. 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Joel 1: 10-13

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...

We're studying different books, but yet the message is very much the same. "For without Me, you can do nothing." That's so encouraging!

When we begin to look deeper, there is just so much, isn't there?! This was a good post! Thanks!!

Edie said...

This was excellent Sue J. I love your insight on this and your connection with the verse in Luke and of course in John. I'm with you, the word vine always takes me to that verse too.

It's very hard for me to read these lessons and not think of where our own nation is right now.

"When we are called on the carpet before a holy omnipotent God, we are called to repent!" That is the bottom line.

Good stuff here! Thanks for doing this!