(Originally published 7 July 2012. Still appropriate.)
The Old Testament book of Joel has been on my mind the last week or so, especially with the severe weather and drought conditions in the US. My thoughts are in italics following the verses.
New International Version (NIV)
1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel. No-one knows who Joel was, or even when he lived. To me, that says God can speak to the everyday man or woman, not only to the well-known pastors or prophets.
2 Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? God is speaking to everyone, religious leaders and everyday people. He mentions the elders first, however. More responsibility on their shoulders?
3 Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. Although the people and their land will suffer, obviously some people will survive. Even generations of people will survive.
4 What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten. Some scholars think actual insects are meant by the word locust, although no-one is quite sure what the qualifying adjectives refer to; other scholars think foreign countries are meant. But I wonder if locust could also refer to natural disaster? Several kinds, or several stages of natural disasters? Neither insects or foreign soldiers cause drought, after all.
5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. Has the current crop of grapes suddenly failed? New wine can’t be made without fresh grapes. Only the drinkers and drunkards would care about that failure, so far…
6 A nation has invaded my land, a mighty army without number; it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. Fires started by lightning? In one day recently thousands of lightning strikes occurred and many, many fires were started, destroying dozens of homes along with thousands of acres of forest and cropland. Flames and hot ash jumped from tree-top to tree-top, starting new blazes faster than old ones could be doused.
7 It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white. Sand storms can do this. So can tornadoes and the freak hurricane strength straight-line windstorms that recently struck the northeastern United States.
8 Mourn like a virgin in sackcloth grieving for the betrothed of her youth.
9 Grain offerings and drink offerings are cut off from the house of the Lord. The priests are in mourning, those who minister before the Lord. No grain and no wine means no grain or drink offerings. In today’s economy, loss of livelihood means no giving to the church.
10 The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the olive oil fails. Not just grape vines and grain, but the actual dirt is damaged and the fields are ruined. Olive trees are affected, too.
11 Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed. Vines take a while to produce – despair seems to mean that the vines themselves are lost. Even for fields that have already been harvested, the grain in the silos is destroyed. Disease? Fire? Animals?
12 The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree — all the trees of the field — are dried up. Surely the people’s joy is withered away. All the vines, all the fig trees, all the other trees are dried up. That means no food for anyone; nothing for farmers to sell, no income for the growers, no way for them to support their families.
13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Surely the religious leaders worry – will the people blame us for what is happening? Fear, grief, mourning must lead to seeking God for help.
14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Cry for what? I hear lots of prayers for revival, but that’s not what we need. Mercy is! Repentance for not listening to God’s warnings, like these in Joel. It will take God’s mercy and a supernatural move of His hand to restore the natural and spiritual damage we are seeing in the world today.
15 Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. As long as His people obeyed him, God kept them aware of the enemy’s tactics, and forewarned is forearmed. When they ignored God and disobeyed him, they effectively took themselves out from under his shield of armor. There is a warfare going on for this planet. Woe comes to the unprotected who find themselves on the wrong side of this battle.
16 Has not the food been cut off before our very eyes — joy and gladness from the house of our God?
17 The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. Seeds already planted need water to sprout; if they don’t get it, seeds rot. Without rain, growing plants wither and die. This disaster has to go on for a long time if even the storehouses are ruined. Starving, desperate people will storm storage facilities and take everything they can.
18 How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering.
19 To you, Lord, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.
20 Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.
Sounds a lot like what is happening in America’s heartland today, 2012, doesn’t it? Just today I’ve seen sad news images of starving, thirsting animals, fish dying in the dried-up streams and rivers, and corn cobs with few or no kernels. See my 20 July 2012 post in www.Tapister.Wordpress.com.