One Pursuit (Joel 1:13-15)

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Have you ever been devastated? When you hear news of something that overwhelms you spirit, you cannot think clearly, you can barely stand and immediately need to find a seat. Tragedies like this take away your breath that you literally have to remind yourself to breathe in/out; and you simply cannot believe the circumstances are true and factual.

Even in the days ahead you think (and pray) that what you are living is all a bad dream, so that all you want to do is go to sleep with the hope that waking up to everything back to desired normalcy. The problem is two-fold:
1) You can’t sleep. Your heart races and can’t experience enough peace of mind for your eyes to stay closed long enough. Your body runs on adrenaline thinking there is something you need to do, or could possibly change to fix what has gone wrong.

2) You realize the bad news is irrevocably life-changing. There is no getting over or moving on from this situation. You are impacted by this reality in every shape and form. No amount of nightly sleeps will regain your physical strength. No pill or liquid courage will erase the pain. No sermon or three easy self-help steps can reverse the devastation you feel and daily face.

Have you ever been here?

  • For many, we have experienced trials and troubles but nothing of this level. We can be thankful. But perhaps we have known family or friends who have faced such devastation and you were uncertain how to respond. You think there’s a script and you attempt to stay on script, but realize the script isn’t your story. So, instead of being present with the devastated person you drift away. It’s not that you want to leave them but it’s just what happens when you don’t have the answers.
  • For others, you have experienced confounding devastation. Your life situation is more about surviving than thriving. Every day is like driving through fog and mindless traffic. And sometimes you just wish your world would all go away.

The book of Joel resonates with these experiences.

one pursuit

EXAMINE                       Joel 1:13-15

Joel 1:13-15
13  Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God.
14  Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.
15  Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.

Joel was written at an uncertain time, but perhaps during time of Ezra & Nehemiah. Joel does not mention any specific kings, any specific sins or circumstances of Israel. Yet, Joel alludes to writings from various other prophets: Amos, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Obadiah, Malachi, and even the book of Exodus. The idea is that since Joel was familiar with these prophets, his readers would be too. And in the word of God we can find hope.

Joel 1:1 “The word of the Lord that came…”

  • Isn’t that what we need? We are thankful for the words of friends. We hear and appreciate the words of learned women/men who have taught and inspired us. But we have also heard so many words, so much soapbox shouting in the media and messaging of the world that we need something more. We need the words of life and power – the word of the Lord. Jesus is the word – He is what you need.
  • The prophets receive the word of the Lord and speak God’s message to the people.

 

Joel 1 – 2       A word of judgment.

  • Joel 1:2 “Hear this…”
    • Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.” [That’s 5 generations!]
      Here, Joel is referencing plagues of judgment that are to be repeated to future generations as a warning to not turn away from God.
    • Locusts that swarm the land destroying farms, food, and even disrupt faith in God (Joel 1:4-12).
  • Joel 1:5 “Awake… and wail”
  • Joel 1:8 “Lament…”
  • Joel 1:11 “Be ashamed…”
  • Joel 1:13-14 “Put on sackcloth and lament… consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God and cry out to the Lord.”
  • Joel 2:1 “Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain!”
  • Joel 2:12-13 “The Lord declares, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
  • Joel 2:15-16 “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants…”

 

  • Joel’s message is serious and sobering.
    • The OT Prophets are like that – ever have a friend who is brutally honest, sometimes too honest? It’s not that they’re wishy washy – one minute they love you and next minute hate you… these friends are loyal but they’re strongly opinionated; batteries are included with these people and the off button is hard to find!

 

*Sometimes our devastation happens from the default of living in a world under the consequences of sin.

**Genesis 3 consequences

  • Relational disharmony: Adam & Eve blameshifting fault and having broken unity & love.
  • Spiritual division: Adam & Eve hid from God… humanity separated from Eden.
  • Psychological disarray: we feel exposed and experience emotions of fear, shame, and guilt that need covered.
  • Ecological disorder: Animals are cursed and everything living experiences decay.
  • Biological disturbance: Women experience pain in childbirth; fruitfulness and offspring are not challenged.
  • Sociological distractions: Conflict and competition among gender with ruling rather than complementing. Man’s pain in work purpose – gardens have weeds & thorns.
  • Physiological death: “for you are dust and to dust you shall return”
  • Epistemological disguise: Knowledge of life, right/wrong, truth are no longer plain (1Cor 2:10-16; 2Cor 4:3-4)

 

  • When faced with devastation from a Genesis 3 world, there is often no earthly solution. Healing may come in the present from technology, medicine, or a miracle, or healing may have to wait until we are wrapped with a new body in a new earth.

*Sometimes our devastation happens from the disobedience toward God from our choices and priorities. In this case, earthly consequences can be painful but eternal consequences are permanent. We must be very careful to evaluate our life under the Lord Jesus.

 

  • We try to run from God, but He can send locusts that are faster.
    • Financial locusts consume everything from impulsive spending and foolish debts.
    • Fulfillment locusts that devour personal peace and prosperity in your professional life.
    • Family locusts that ravage relationships with conflict and hurt; where old wounds keep resurfacing and new problems become pains that cause family life to be a burden than a blessing.
    • Faith locusts that spoil joy and hope, and causes lingering mediocrity in your spiritual life.

 

  • We try to ignore God, but He waits and sometimes will show up for you to face Him when you least expect.
  • When faced with devastation from spiritual disobedience, there is one path toward healing: “cry out to the Lord” (Joel 1:14). If God is the one sending punishing devastation then He is the only source of help. Locusts are meant to lead you to return to God. When the locusts of life come, we are called to return/repent to the Lord. Our excuses will not lead us to escape spiritual drift. Until we believe that God has a locust behind our every excuse we will continue in discontentment. Only God can rescue us from our spiritual rebellion.
  • And it’s important to note that in the midst of Israel’s rebellion He sent prophets like Joel. God’s warnings through the Prophets are His love.
    • Like a dashboard light on your vehicle communicating something needs fixed.
    • Like a doctor advising physical changes and/or follow certain medical instructions.
    • Like an employer annual evaluation seeking to improve communication and competency in org.
    • Life a friend caring enough to critique with feedback about life lessons.
    • Like a parent rebuking a child for discipline to form better behavior for a better future in personhood and life path.
    • Life a spouse weeping with a warning and final ultimatum before departure.

 

FASTING

Biblical fasting was often, if not predominantly, a response to a concerning circumstance.[1] As Jesus said, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Mat 9:15). Prosperity seldom prompts prayer and fasting. Instead, it is difficulty that motivates the discipline to pray with determined focus without the distraction of food or other worldly pleasures. Individuals or communities in biblical times fasted because they mourned what was present and longed for God to bring clarity and change.

Consider when you experience a profound grief, we often will say, “I’ve lost my appetite.” It is hard to imagine a grieving person yearning for beef or chicken. Circumstances that cause sadness, anxiety, discouragement, guilt, shame provide us an opportunity for our soul to express true hunger. This is why and when we should fast.

 

SPBC Prayer (and Fasting) for 40-days

  • Personal revival. I believe God wants to redeem and renew His people.
    When locusts destroyed a crop they wiped out the seed saved from the previous year, the harvest of the current year, and the seed that would be used the next Locust devastation of vines, food, and trees would take years to redevelop. Locus years are lost years.
    So, while we cannot rewind time, God can redeem time. He can restore what has been lost. Pray with us.Joel 2:25 “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”

 

  • O Lord, restore to us years that have been wasted on our selfishness and sin. Grant our sorrows be transformed into greater joy, seeing that whatever we have lost fails to compare to that which is gained in Christ and Your future kingdom. Restore us lost years with healing relationships and a harvest of eternally abiding fruit to overcome time spent apart from serving You.

 

  • Church revitalization. I believe God wants to do more among all nations (all flesh), all ages (young and old), all genders (sons and daughters), and all status (even servants). God wants to pour/spill/gush generously His Spirit upon all who call and cry out to Him (cf. cf. Ez 39:29; Zech 12:10; Acts 2:17-21; Rom 10:13)


Joel 2:28-29, 32 And it shall come to pass afterward, that 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 servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

APPLY/THINK

2 Applications:

  • Ask God for a holy irritation.

The OT people of God put on sackcloth. Sackcloth wasn’t soft cotton, but coarse material fashioned from goat or camel hair. The action of wearing sackcloth was an outward symbol to indicate inward reality. Inside the person is dissatisfied, and they are irritated enough to make a change.

> What will it take for you/us to change and put God first?

> Where in your life do you need a holy irritation? We get irritated by watching the news because we view a certain political party is speaking untruths… We get irritated when a person doesn’t share our perspective on life conflicts and problems… How do you think God feels when we do not share His mind and heart?

  • Ask God for a communal invitation.
    Joel charged the priests to lead the act of repentance. Ministers of the temple altar were called to wear the sackcloth and offer the sacrifices that were being withheld. The leaders were to call and carry out the fasting experience. The leaders were to summons the people to gather for a solemn assembly in crying out to the Lord.> Who is your partner – helping you step forward and being there when you fall? Pray for one.

    > Who are your people – those you’ve committed to regular gather to grow from and with?

 

 

[1] Inspired from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/fasting-not-spiritually-elite-hurting/

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