Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joel 2: 6-11

6Before them the people are in anguish; all faces turn pale.
7They run like mighty men, They climb the wall like soldiers;
And they each march in line, nor do they deviate from their paths.
8They do not crowd each other, They march everyone in his path;
When they burst through the defenses, they do not break ranks.
9They rush on the city, They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses, They enter through the windows like a thief.
10Before them the earth quakes, the heavens tremble,
The sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness.
11The LORD utters His voice before His army;
Surely His camp is very great,
For strong is he who carries out His word
The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome,
And who can endure it?

We begin this next section of Joel 2 with the need to look back on last week's passage. Who are "them"/"they"? The locusts--representing the famine and devastation of Judah--which Joel compared with mighty war horses. In today's passage, he continues with his comparisons, describing in painful detail how destruction will come.

The people are anguished at the coming; their faces "pale" which my study Bible says means "become flushed." That would seem to mean the opposite of pale. As I look at the King James, verse 6 says, "all faces shall gather blackness." Wow! What color are we talking about here? I'm joking a bit. The Hebrew for 'blackness' means "Properly illuminated...a glow, a flush (of anxiety)." [Strong's] I would suggest that 'flushed' has more to do with the onset of the emotion than it does color of face, and that 'pale' suggests more of a dimness of the face of the people in light of the great scene to come in which "the Lord utters His voice." (vs. 11)

We alluded to 'blackness' in last week's post. Again, not just the literal loss of color and light, but the onset of, what Strong's calls "...picturing the fearful gloom and blackness of moral darkness and calamity."

Reading on, Joel provides phrase after phrase of military-like comparisons, with the locusts now resembling an army. They run, they climb, they march, they are unified, they are seemingly unstoppable. Liking the King James, once again, with its translation of verse 8: "...And when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded." Orkin is not your savior.

They are missional! Even though each has his own way, they swarm together in a common attack, like thieves. Remember what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians? "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." (I Thess. 5:2) How about Jesus in Revelation? "I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you," (Rev. 3:3) referring to "His sudden and unexpected coming to His unrepentant, dead church to inflict harm and destruction." [S.B.]

Verse 10 illustrates the appearance of physical, tangible signs accompanying the day of the Lord in the form of earthquakes and other changes in the universe. Not uncommon in Scripture to see such references.

"Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry."
--Psalm 18:7 (emphasis mine)

"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs."
--Matthew 24:7-8

I can't help but think about our recent days, with earthquakes in Haiti, Chili and China, widespread famine worldwide, a volcano that continues to erupt, and wars and violence--however you wish to define 'nation' vs. 'nation'. Jesus tells us, this is the beginning of the time preceding His second coming, and the Day of the Lord. Powerful prophecy!

[OK, I've just caught a headline that gave me more to say: "Volcanic ash chaos 'a lesson for Europe'" The text of the BBC News article from yesterday goes on to say, "Europe's ash cloud has triggered a flurry of ANGUISHED calls for the EU to improve its CRISIS RESPONSE and co-ordination, as countries STRUGGLE to help thousands of stranded passengers....(emphasis mine) [Quote from aviation specialist David Learmount] "The tactic for dealing with ash clouds, until now, has been to fly around them," he writes [on his blog]. ...Eurocontrol must make better use of the available technology, Philip Bradbourn, a UK Conservative MEP, argued on Tuesday. It is time to move on from 'licking your finger and sticking it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing,' he said. (!!!!!, emphasis mine)

I'm sure I'm extending myself beyond the boundaries a bit, but does anyone else see a metaphor for Judah's problems here?]

Finally, verse 11, "the Lord utters His voice...." and "strong is he who carries out His word." All too casually, we might say, "The Lord spoke to me about this...." We generally mean that through the Holy Spirit or through God's Word, the Lord spoke to me. This is not what verse 11 means. Uttering is the production of sound, which comes with the audible recognition of a voice--God's voice! And God is saying that He's ready to "carry out His Word," which, as Joel has related so far, is not very encouraging.

The day is coming, He says. "...Who can endure it?"

"Can your heart endure, or can your hands be strong in the days that I will deal with you? I, the LORD, have spoken and will act."
--Ezekiel 22:14

Next week, yet an opportunity for repentance! 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Joel 2: 12-17

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).


Carmen said...

Excellent post Sue! I heard a radio announcer refer to the volcanic ash from Iceland as "sackcloth." I thought that was an interesting term to choose. We certainly are living in revealing times. I am reminded of Daniel. We are told there that the meaning was hidden until the times of the end...and it seems like things are really beginning to make sense on so many fronts. What a time to be alive, and what a time to consider and lay things to heart. The clock is nearing midnight! Another thought provoking post. Thanks! :)

Sue J. said...

WOW! Sackcloth!! Revealing times for those who are hearing!

I'm excited to look at Daniel in depth, when we get there. Continue to have this book come up in all kinds of places. Really looking forward to digging into the language and the subtle details.

It's good to SEE you! I know I haven't been in consistently, but I don't remember your profile having a picture. HELLO!!

Edie said...

Great stuff as always Sue J.

"I, the LORD, have spoken and will act." That is usually an encouraging word but in this case it is far from it.