Relax and clear your head. Listen for the voice of God. What is God saying to you today?
Joel 1:1-14 (NRSV)
The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel:
Hear this, O elders,
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days,
or in the days of your ancestors?
Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children another generation.
What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten.
What the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten,
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
Wake up, you drunkards, and weep;
and wail, all you wine-drinkers,
over the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
For a nation has invaded my land,
powerful and innumerable;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
It has laid waste my vines,
and splintered my fig trees;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches have turned white.
Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth
for the husband of her youth.
The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off
from the house of the LORD.
The priests mourn,
the ministers of the LORD.
The fields are devastated,
the ground mourns;
for the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up,
the oil fails.
Be dismayed, you farmers,
wail, you vinedressers,
over the wheat and the barley;
for the crops of the field are ruined.
The vine withers,
the fig tree droops.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple—
all the trees of the field are dried up;
surely, joy withers away
among the people.
Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests;
wail, you ministers of the altar.
Come, pass the night in sackcloth,
you ministers of my God!
Grain offering and drink offering
are withheld from the house of your God.
Sanctify 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.
Today’s reading seems especially relevant in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which have caused serious damage and loss of life in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Joel’s natural disaster was not a hurricane, but a plague of locusts. I have never seen an invasion of locusts, but I have heard stories of insects that could strip a field of grain in a few hours’ time. Joel compares the invading insects to an invading army that strips the vines, the figs and the grains from the field, threatening starvation to the people.
While Joel never blames the disaster directly on God, as if God had sent it in punishment, he does call the people to repent and pray to the Lord for deliverance. In time, the deliverance comes, because of God’s steadfast love for the people.
Whatever disasters we experience, whether caused by storm or illness or economic hardship, God promises to go through the darkness with us. God also gives us strength and resources to be there for others who are going through disasters of their own.
God of mercy, forgive our indifference to the suffering around us, and help us to know your compassion in every time of pain, and to share that compassion with all who are suffering around us today; through Jesus Christ, our companion and guide. Amen.
Go with God.