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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + February 22, 2017

Joel 2:12-16
Joel 3:12-21

Joel 2:12-16 (NKJV)
"Now, therefore," says the LORD, turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room."

Joel 3:12-21 (NKJV)
"Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow— for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again. And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from the house of the LORD And water the Valley of Acacias. Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom a desolate wilderness, because of violence against the people of Judah, for they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall abide forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; for the LORD dwells in Zion."

Commentary 

As we prepare this week for Great Lent, our Wednesday and Friday readings are from the prophets, preparing us for the Old Testament readings which we will be reading throughout Great Lent. By reading and praying these texts, written centuries before the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, we experience the sense of anticipation and longing for deliverance and salvation that they felt as they waited for the Incarnation of the Lord. Today in particular, we read from the prophecy of Joel.

Joel lived in the middle part of the 8th century B.C., roughly 750 years before the birth of Christ, shortly before the final utter destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by Assyrian invasion which also threatened Jerusalem and Judah as a whole. While Joel's prophecy is most famous for his prophecy of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as quote by St. Peter in Acts 2, today he speaks to us about something else. Today, Joel speaks to us regarding the coming of God's judgment. God's judgment came upon Israel in the form of foreign armies like a great swarm of locusts from the North. That same judgment threatened Judah, and Joel makes it clear that this is not because of the power of the Assyrians, but because Judah, too, has sinned, and is liable to judgment.

But as clearly as the Lord wants it to be known that he is not helpless before the Assyrians, but rather that they are executing His will even unknowingly, He makes it equally clear through the prophet that He does not desire the destruction of Israel or Judah, or of anyone else for that matter. He is a patient and a loving God, who is slow to anger and abundant in mercy, but because of His love and His goodness, He will not tolerate evil, injustice, and suffering forever. Nor will He allow those who have victimized others and performed evil escape justice forever. God's judgment is very real, and it was very real for those Israelites and Judahites who experienced it at the hands of the Assyrians. Every person who has ever and will ever live will ultimately have to give account before the Lord for what they have done in their lives.

And this is why the Lord calls His people to repentance. He does not want them to be caught up in the judgment that is coming upon the wickedness that is in the Earth, just as He protected Noah and his family from the flood. When we are hardened in our sins, or when we hide them, when we refuse the Grace of God that comes to us through repentance to restore us to spiritual health and heal our selfinflicted wounds, we bring wrath and destruction upon ourselves. When, on the other hand, we are open concerning our own failings, our sins and the wickedness that lies in our hearts, and confess our sins, we break the power which sin holds over us and our lives, and make ourselves ready to receive the Grace of God, and to be sheltered from the wrath to come. If we judge ourselves, we will not be judged.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we begin Great Lent, let us all abandon those things which we may have previously occupied us in this world for that which is truly important, which we have previously abandoned, repentance and the care of our souls. If we draw close to God, He will draw close to us. If we will confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness. As we anticipate, as Joel and his hearers did, the saving death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us fast and mourn truly for our sins, not by tearing our clothing or hollowing out our cheeks, but breaking open and emptying our hearts before the Lord.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Joel tells us today that God wants us to fast in a way in which we rend our hearts, and not our garments. God is not interested in us making a display, and certainly not in our harming ourselves out of guilt over our sins. What He seeks from us is a repentant heart. Are you willing, as we prepare for Lent, to take stock of your life, be honest, and accept the blame for your sins? Are you willing to humble yourself in confessing to God and to your confessor? Most importantly, are you ready and willing to make a new beginning in battling against your sins to overcome them?
  2. Joel reminds us that our Lord is not a God of anger and condemnation, but rather one who is gracious, merciful, kind, and patient with us. Are there sins with which you struggle that you have been afraid to admit to yourself, or to confess? Has the devil used the reminder of things you have done to tell you that you are unworthy, and to stay away from the Church or the Sacraments? Remember today Who God is, and what He wants for you.
  3. In today's second reading from the Prophecy of Joel, we are reminded that although it is true that God is merciful, compassionate, and patient, that ultimately there will be justice in the world, and those who have committed wickedness will receive His judgment. The difference, here, between God's people and the rest of the world is not that His people are perfect, but rather that they have been acquitted; forgiven for their sin. Are there people who you know who are suffering in this life because they don't know about the forgiveness offered to them by Christ? Do you know anyone who is heading down the wrong road in life who needs to be corrected for their own sake? What is stopping you from sharing with them the love of Christ?

Questions or Comments? FrStephen@stgeorgecharleston.org

Note from the Author – No rights reserved. If you find anything good, or helpful, or worthwhile in these Bible studies from week to week, feel free to take and use it as you see fit. I do not need credit.


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