Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Minor Prophet Pushing Major Repentance and Mercy

"The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel."
     -- Joel 3:16

The book of Joel, like so many other prophetic books, is incredibly rich with language of repentance followed by restoration. Joel begins his book by assuring us that this is indeed the word of God that came to him (1:1). He continues by speaking of the sins of Judah, and their immediate result: an army of locusts that has devastated the nation. Joel speaks gently to his people, speaking the truth with loving respect, but not skimping out on the penetrating Law Judah needed. He called them to repent, pleading with them to rend their hearts to God instead of to sin (2:12-13). The reader almost gets the impression that the tender-hearted Joel is begging them to turn to their LORD. Following Judah's repentance, God answers them with abounding grace and blessings, for which one can tell Joel is eternally thankful.
Joel has a lot to say to us. It's a shame his book rarely gets cracked open. St. Peter found it worthy to base his first sermon on, leading the way for Christian preaching that came in the millenia following the first Pentecost. The message of repentance and restoration has its roots in Genesis 3, and continues to be preached by faithful pastors today. And while we don't experience earthly punishments such as locusts for our sin today, sin is equally destructive to our lives now as it was then. Joel does well to lead us to repentance. And in this Christmas season, we find our joy in the grace Jesus won for us on his cross, and the restoration that will come on, as Joel says, "the Day of the LORD." The LORD dwells in our hearts as surely as he dwells in Zion (3:21).

-- Jonathan

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