December 13 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” ~Joel 2:13

OLD TESTAMENT

The prophet Joel is the one writing prophet that we have very little information about. The book has traditionally been dated somewhere after the fall of the northern kingdom (722 BC) but before the fall of the southern kingdom (586 BC). If this is correct, then Joel was a prophet from the southern kingdom offering a message of warning and hope.

It was common for ancient people to view natural disasters as an act of God’s judgment. In this passage, Joel tells the people that a recent infestation of locust will result in widespread famine and disease. So great is the damage that the insect swarm is likened to an invading army. Joel isn’t shy about laying the cause of the devastation at the feet of God’ people. They have abandoned Him and taken up a lifestyle of drunkenness and debauchery (Joel 3:3). So the Lord brought an economic crisis to get their attention. “The seeds are shriveled beneath the clods. The storehouses are in ruins, the granaries have been broken down, for the grain has dried up. How the cattle moan! The herds mill about because they have no pasture; even the flocks of sheep are suffering” (Joel 1:17-18).

In our own day, we hardly ever consider the possibility that a natural disaster or an economic crisis might be an act of God’s judgment. We use the legalese expression “act of God,” but we rarely examine our collective heart as a people to discern if an act may truly have been aimed at straightening our path. I am not saying that God is punishing us every time something bad happens (see the book of Job). Nor am I affirming the awful practice of decrying the evils of our society after disasters like 9/11, especially not from platforms like national TV. (This is problematic for many reasons.) However, we should at the very least be open to the idea that God uses natural disasters and economic recessions to turn people back to Him. Acts of God, as the expression rightly implies, are under His sovereign control. As Joel makes clear, God’s dream is for us to have plenty of grain and lots of new wine. He is a good God, but He will not turn a blind eye to a people who pollute the land with evil practices like child abuse and chattel prostitution (Joel 3:3).

The good news for everyone in every age is that God stands ready to restore what is broken and damaged (Joel 2:13)!

NEW TESTAMENT

John was given a glimpse of God sitting in glory ruling over the nations. We might say that he is allowed backstage to witness what is known but cannot be seen. The vision shows that God is sovereign over all creation. He rules the universe and is aided by important officials and powerful angels who do his bidding. (We do not know the precise identity of the twenty-four elders, although church history, in the form of Christian art and literature, holds that the elders represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. If this is not the case, at the very least they appear to represent all of those who are in the kingdom of God.)

God created in order to display His glory (His awesomeness). As the Creator, He has the power to unleash judgment on creation and to remake it. That’s what John will see. That’s the story of Revelation.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.