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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 29, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Joel 2:23–32

O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Then afterward 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. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. (NRSV)

Reflection
Although scholars have found it difficult to date the book of Joel due to its lack of connection to particular historical events, this lack of specificity helps lend the prophet’s words a timeless quality. After prophesying of judgment earlier in the book, Joel shares verses of comfort and promise in our verses today—referring to a coming abundance and a future day in which God’s spirit would be poured out on all humanity (a verse quoted by Peter in Acts 2 after the Pentecost event!). Even more comforting is that the hope that Joel refers to is imminent; this is not a case of a prophet sharing a message that God will intervene many years from now, but one in which God is actively intervening in the present.

All of us have experienced periods in our lives like Joel describes in the trajectory of his book: lean years and abundant years, times where it felt like we were out of control and times when it felt like things were finally going our way, periods of gloom and periods of hope. In many ways, this matches Ecclesiastes 3’s famous rumination: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Sometimes while we are in the midst of those heavy, painful times in our lives, we feel as though we’ll never escape it—that our grief, our loss, our sorrow will come to define us. Perhaps as you’re reading this, you feel as though you’re in such a place right now. To all of us, though, Joel reminds us that God’s abundant love is still all of our futures—even if we’re in a place right now when we don’t feel its presence.

Prayer
God of all the seasons in our lives, remind me that you are there with me no matter what. When I am struggling, remind me that you are there supporting me. When I am feeling blessed, remind me to give thanks to you as I seek to be a blessing to others. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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