Waiting in the Wasteland: Past + Present
Through the month of August, we’ve journeyed through the Old Testament book of Joel. We did the series because we are living in interesting days. The Bible is clear that God has everything under control. That said, the Bible calls us to share what we know with the world. As early as verse 3 of the opening chapter, Joel calls on people to tell others what God’s doing in the world. Before opening their mouths, however, these people are called to hear and listen (discern) to God’s perspective on what they are experiencing.
Throughout the series, we asked what we should do with the constant rhetoric of God's judgment being unleashed on the world. At the start of the series, we discovered that in times of national tragedy and debate, what we say and how we pray matters (Joel 1-2:14). In the first half of the book, Joel functions more as an interpreter than a seer. As he looks out upon the devastating impact of a locust plague, he sees God acting in judgment in accordance with the covenant promises laid out in Deuteronomy. That said, Joel uses such judgment as a motivation for prayer and intercession. In week one we were encouraged to realize that in times of national turmoil, we are to do the same.
In our second week, we discovered that the doctrine of judgment should make us both mindful and thankful (Joel 2:1-17). While it’s never easy to talk about the coming judgment, Christians can’t escape its reality. Mindful because the day of judgment is universal in its scope and impact. Thankful because through the sacrifice of Jesus the penalty for our sin was placed on Christ.
In the third week of the series we discovered that in the midst of uncertainty and heartache, God promises to act for us and through us (Joel 2:18-32). Joel 2 is cited by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. At the start of the book of Acts, the disciples were locked away in fear and shame. Then the Spirit promised by Joel fell on them and they moved out boldly. In times of uncertainty, we were encouraged to wait for God to come and to recognize that when He does He moves.
In week 4 we discovered that the Day of the Lord promises retribution, restoration, and resurrection (Joel 3). Nations who have wronged the people of Israel would be called to account for their behavior and those who had been hurt could experience God to be a refuge and help. More than that, those things that were dead, those people who thought there was no hope could experience the power of God.
This four-week journey through the book of Joel has reminded us of four essential elements to living faithfully in times of great unfaithfulness.
First, in times of national turmoil Christians intercede. Joel’s love for his nation caused him to petition the faithful to pray. Rather than asking God to call time on the nation, Joel asks the people to ask God for more time. When tragedy strikes, rather than point the finger, we can lift up our hands and pray.
Second, seeing the past helps us interpret the present while seeing the future helps us evaluate our actions. The Bible is clear about a coming believers’ judgment (1 Cor. 3:10-15). God has shown us the future. In light of this, let’s use this season to evaluate our lives. Let’s live mindful of what’s coming.
Third, when God comes to His people He brings evidence of His goodness, freedom from shame and movement by means of the Holy Spirit. As we enter this fall season, let’s be mindful of God’s goodness and be moved by His Spirit into the opportunities that He’s prepared for us.
Fourth, God disciplines, restores, and resurrects those He loves. Joel uses the metaphors of fire and water to describe God’s work in the world. In Scripture, fire is a symbol of judgment and refinement. In this season, let’s embrace God’s refining work. In Scripture, water is a metaphor for new life. Let’s continue to pray for the eighty-four people who went through the waters of baptism as an expression of the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s thank God that Jesus does indeed resurrect those dead in sin!
Our hope for our church family is that in a contentious world, we’d be so convicted by Joel’s vision of the future that we’d be willing to evaluate our actions in the present. Let’s be people of prayer, who, precisely because we’ve experienced God’s goodness, being set free from shame and the controlling power of sin, would increasingly experience God’s restoring and resurrecting work in us and through us.