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Lenten Devotion 5 March 2, 2020

Joel 2: 28-29
 
28 Then afterwards
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
 
Who was Joel?
 
Except for the fact that his father’s name was Pethuel, we do not know. The book of Joel is unique among the prophets in that it offers little identifying information about Joel or his times.
 
We do know this: Joel means “Yahweh is God”. He is mentioned nowhere else in the Old Testament.
 
Why is Joel important?
 
It is cited in the New Testament by Peter (Acts 2); Paul (Romans 10:13) and is the lection reading for Ash Wednesday every year (Joel 2: 1-2; 12-17).
 
Joel also cites earlier prophets to bolster his claims. He talks about “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13, Ezekiel 30; Obadiah; Zephaniah 1-2; Malachi 4); “the enemy from the north” (Jeremiah 4-6) and the judgment on foreign nations (Jeremiah and Ezekiel). Joel also quotes other prophets. (Isaiah 1: 2 and 13: 6; Amos 9: 13; 2: 32 and Obadiah 17)
 
Joel couches his proclamation as God’s revelation to him of a continuation of the revelations to his forebears. Joel is saying that God is not done. God’s prophetic word has not yet been fulfilled and might happen in Joel’s lifetime or at some later time, even our times.
 
Prophets do not interpret the Word of God based on current events, but interpret events based on the Word of God. “This is what is happening, so this is how God is at work.” One author put it this way: For us it means that our times do not interpret the Bible. Rather the Bible interprets our time.
 
What does this mean? As we look around us, we might ask: “Where is God in this?” That is interpreting events through the lens of the Bible. This is different from looking at the world around us and then seeking to find texts that support what we believe.
 
What does Joel say to us today? Because Joel has no specific dating and does not reference any particular event or events, many think that the book was used as a kind of liturgy used when “sacred assemblies” (assemblies called to ask for God’s intervention, forgiveness and mercy) were called in response to national calamities. Think 9/11 when churches were filled, and attendance jumped 25%. What might we think of today?
 
The text for today appears at the end of a passage that describes Israel’s repentance and prayer for forgiveness. God grants mercy and a new prosperity. Then, here, God promises something much more significant than worldly prosperity. God promises that God will pour out God’s spirit on all God’s people, even to the lowest, the slaves. Then, according to God, all who call on God’s name will be saved.
 
Have we repented from our rebellion against God? Have we felt the benefits of doing so? Have our lives prospered (not in wealth but in peace and contentment)? Have we felt the spirit pour into us? Have we called on the name of the Lord to be saved from the temptations and trials of this world? Lent is a good time to think about these things.



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