Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joel 2: 23-27

23So rejoice, O sons of Zion,
And be glad in the LORD your God;
For He has given you the early rain for your vindication
And He has poured down for you the rain,
The early and latter rain as before.
24The threshing floors will be full of grain,
And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil.
25"Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,
The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26"You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
Then My people will never be put to shame.
27"Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel,
And that I am the LORD your God,
And there is no other;
And My people will never be put to shame.

What on the surface reads as a mere accounting of God's physical restoration of Judah has yielded for me a treasure of words and thoughts about His character and His mighty acts of grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Joel tells the people to "Be glad" for what God has done. Could not God have treated Judah like the Edom of Obadiah's day?

I came across a news story--again, as I'm finishing a post--that has brought me back to add a paragraph, because I think the content fits in so well with what we are learning here. The Vatican is taking some hard hits with the allegations facing priests in Europe. Pope Benedict XVI made this statement to the press yesterday: "“The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice." The crux of his statement was that sin comes from within the church and not from external influences upon the church. Bold new beginning words.... Is this not reflective of what Judah faced? Truly, it's what we all face.

"Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge."
--Psalm 51:4

But, would God handle Judah as He did Edom? No, He would not. He would deal with this people--His people--"wondrously". (vs. 26)

I read this 'wondrous' treatment in two ways. First, He completely restores Judah's natural world, re-establishing the growth of crops, the health of the animals and the seasonal process that will, once again, bring food and resources to the nation. He not only restores those functions, but He promises a great and satisfying yield to the people. How else is God wondrous? That He chose to do any of this at all! "I will make up to you...," (vs. 25) is how the NASB words the concept of restoration, of God's saying that what He brought upon the people ["My great army which I sent among you"], He will take up from them--and more. The Hebrew meaning of 'restore' here is "to be in a covenant of peace." [Strong's] That's wondrous, amazing grace at work, and Joel issues the call for rejoicing.

"Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
'The LORD has done great things for them.'
The LORD has done great things for us;
We are glad."
--Psalm 126: 2 & 3 (cross-reference for vs. 26)

Verse 23 brought forth some fascinating finds and connections. "He has given you the early rain for your vindication...." To vindicate someone means to clear him or her from an accusation or to uphold them. Throughout our mid-chapter reading, in Joel's calling for repentance, we read how Judah's reputation was becoming that of a "byword" among the heathens. But, God promised deliverance and indicated this with the tangible sign of rain, in its proper season.

In exploring the roots of 'vindication', I came across two significant definitions. First, to vindicate means "to set free" as "to free from servitude." ( Tying in with last week's thoughts about 'deliverance', the people of Judah needed to be set free from their serving other gods. The Father brought about His discipline in the form of a "day of the Lord" that His children might remember Him and His works. They needed to break free from the bondage of reliance on other gods who could never be like their one and only Father.

Second, vindicate means "to show authority," and I'm sure you can see how that dovetails into the first thought. In fact, when referred to in Roman and civil law uses, vindicate means "to regain possession, under claim of title of property through legal procedure, or to assert one's right to possession." As surely as Judah needed to see the error of its ways and to repent, God also saw this as an opportunity to restate His authority over His people, His possession--not in a dictatorial sense, but out of utter unconditional love.

One last note on the phrase "the early rain," my study Bible notes that this may be translated "the teacher for righteousness" as in "He has given you the teacher for righteousness for your vindication." Praise Jesus!

Finally, a closer look at verse 27: "Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other...." God is speaking at this point, summarizing His thoughts on the subject. By His works, the people will "know", which the Amplified Bible expands to add "and understand and realize." It is not enough just to know as factual knowledge what God did for Judah. The people needed to understand--why? for what benefit? at what cost?--and to realize that it was THE God who was at work.

God granted them wisdom of this and reminded them that He was in their midst, which, in the Hebrew carries the notion of being at the "inward part or the center" [Strong's]. When God is at the heart of the people, there is restoration of the nation. The story of the Bible is one of God's continuing to be in the midst of His people. As Joel and the prophets and teachers of old would tell us, it's a story that needs to be passed down through the generations.

"O LORD, You are my God;
I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name;
For You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."
--Isaiah 25:1

Peter quotes Joel in Acts, and more on the Day of the Lord to come.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Joel 2: 28-32

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...

What an amazing God we serve! Full of grace and mercy! This was really well put, Sue.

One little 'off-side' thing that stood out to me was the mention of God's army. God's great army which he sent out among them were an army of LOCUSTS! God can and will use anything to lead us back to Him. So amazing!

Edie said...

This spoke to me in several ways today Sue J.

"Then I will make up to you for the years
That the swarming locust has eaten,"

This is the 2nd time today that I have run across this verse and both times it has jumped out at me. I have never seen this translation of it where it says "I will make up to you". Give me something to think about.

Really loved today's lesson! Stirred me up to want to go sit down with the LORD for a bit. :)

off topic - I just have to share my DWV with you... blingsic