23: "Children of Zion, celebrate! Be glad in your GOD. He's giving you a teacher to train you how to live right." - Joel is a prophet living before the fall of Jerusalem. This portion of his prophecy speaks of a time following God's judgment and wrath when His blessings fill the lives of the faithful.
25: "I'll make up for the years of the locust, the great locust devastation--locusts savage, locusts deadly, fierce locusts, locusts of doom, that great locust invasion I sent your way." - The locust plague that Joel foretells represents the judgment and punishment of God for a people who have chosen to drift from His ways.
27: "You'll know without question that I'm in the thick of life with Israel, that I'm your GOD, yes, your GOD, the one and only real God. Never again will my people be despised." - Despised, shamed, or disgraced. These descriptive words illustrate the depth of disfavor God feels when His people drift. And, yet, there is the promise - "Never again."
28: "And that's just the beginning: After that, I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters. Your old men will dream, your young men will see visions." - Peter quoted these verses from Joel (Acts2:16-21) as proof that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost had been promised and foretold.
32: "Whoever calls, 'Help, GOD!' gets help. On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be a great rescue--just as GOD said. Included in the survivors are those that GOD calls." - Judgment and mercy go together. In God's world you cannot have one without the other.
Points to Contemplate:
Do you celebrate?
Do you rejoice in all the blessings in your life that have flowed from God? In Daniel Defoe's book, Robinson Crusoe sat down and made a list of all the blessings in his life and even though he was stranded alone on an island, his list of blessings was longer than his list of problems. When you are struggling with issues in life and feel all kinds of locusts nibbling away, do you take time to list your blessings? Would this process help put gladness back into your heart?
Do you see visions? As you look at the world around you do see how things could be better? When you look at the pieces of a broken life, either yours or someone else's, are you filled with images of how things should be and can be? In your ministry as you help people encounter God's love, are you sharing visions of hope and promise? Are you building the kingdom of heaven in the lives around you and does this building not create a revelation of a brighter future?
What is the basis of your hope? What keeps you going in the midst of strife, suffering, pain, and frustration? How is it possible to continue pushing forward even when there is no logical reason to do so? Is hope evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in your life? When clouds of doubt threaten to darken your day, have you felt the guiding and encouraging breath of God lift and teach you? Have you learned to call on the Holy Spirit to provide comfort and to instill hope?
Which best describes your view of God: Judgment or Mercy? Do you feel that God's gift of grace is proof that He is merciful and loving? Has His forgiveness of your sins through the sacrifice of His only Son illustrated the bounty of His love? With all this evidence of mercy, does God still hold judgment over your life? With judgment, is there also a threat of punishment and damnation? Do you see that Mercy would have no value if it were not for Judgment? Does this help you to realize that these are not opposing views of God but aspects of His glory that must go hand in hand? Promises of the Gospel:
In the book of Joel, the Israelites are forewarned of the coming of God's judgment for the sins they are committing. He tells them of a great cloud of locust that will descend and destroy all things in their path. But then he fills their hearts with the promises of God's glory. The great news is that we are living in the midst of those fulfilled promises today. God has "pour(ed) out (His) Spirit on every kind of people." He fills our hearts with love and mercy, giving us visions of hope and images of His kingdom. It is through these images that we thrive. It is through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our Teacher and Counselor, that we experience the fullness of God's mercy and receive the strength to fulfill God's plans for His kingdom. God's mercy and loving Spirit are available to all who call out His name and when we do, the reality of His judgment for the sins we have committed is set aside.