Locusts, grasshoppers, fire, invaders, destruction, desolation, dust, death—these do not foretell the future but rather Judah’s current-day reality. Devastation and defeat overwhelm, and deportation to Babylon looms. Yet, following his descriptions of ruin in chapter 2, Joel moves toward words of hope. Joel does not shrink from the apparent disconnect between this good God and the devastating plight of God’s chosen ones. Joel sees a day when abundance and blessing will return to God’s people and their shame cast aside. Indeed, twice Joel speaks for God saying, “My people shall never again be put to shame.”
We too experience the challenges of shame: the eroding of our self-worth when the course of our lives has taken a devastating turn. Do bad things happen because we are bad people? Perhaps our shameful embarrassment hides an awareness of our ever-present brokenness and unfaithfulness.
Joel’s prophecy pushes beyond the shame issue and seeks to rebuild hope. Joel speaks boldly for God: God’s Spirit will return, and many will be touched by that Spirit. The people will gain confidence to dream dreams and see visions. God will again do that which is powerful, unexplainable, magnificent, and bring persons to salvation and wholeness.
Is this not the message we need to know in our own lives today? Joel’s words assure us of God’s relentless outpouring of the Spirit. Not surprisingly we hear them again on the day of Pentecost; they echo throughout scripture to give us the hope of healing someday soon. The goodness of God will surely be our reality in this life and the next. Thanks be to God!
Ask God to show you how you can bring hope to others today.
The Hebrew scripture readings declare the salvation of humankind and insist that the initiative for that sal- vation comes from God alone. The prophet Joel looks forward to the day when all Israel’s sons and daughters will become as prophets in the land. Psalm 65 is a psalm of thanksgiving for the “God of our salvation.” The writer of Second Timothy elevates his own achievements by means of athletic imagery, but the reading concludes with an acknowledgment that strength and deliverance have come and will come from God. The story of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke suggests the perils of ignoring the fundamental truth of Joel 2 and Psalm 65. The Pharisee presumes that his achievements are his alone; the tax collector knows that prayer begins and ends with a cry to God for mercy.
• Read Joel 2:23-32. In the face of tragedy, how can we encourage one another to see with Joel’s eyes?
• Read Psalm 65. What in the created world brings words of praise of the Creator to your lips? What ridges and furrows in your life need God’s softening?
• Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. What would it look like in your life to run the race God has set before you without striving to outrun others?
• Read Luke 18:9-14. Where might God be inviting your grati- tude? How can your gratitude to God lead to tangible love of a neighbor you might have otherwise disregarded?
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