Jim Wilkens, Associate Pastor of Care
These passages deliver both tough warnings of future judgment and reminders of God’s kindness and mercy. Even though Joel and Malachi were specifically speaking to the people of Israel, their admonitions and assurances are for us too!
Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!” Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. (Joel 2:12-13 MSG)
Joel’s admonition was intended to bring Israel to a place of genuine, tearful repentance. He pointed to the plague of locusts and crippling drought that had laid waste to their crops and herds, offering these as a glimpse into potential future judgment from God. He then reminded the Israelites, and us today, that by genuinely turning back to God they could, and we can, trust in God’s “extravagant” love.
In Joel’s day, the people of Israel were, once again, in need of deliverance. Having recently come out from under the subjugation of yet another nation, they were desperately looking for their Deliverer to care for them in the midst of a devastating environmental catastrophe.
They, and we, have been invited to turn back to God in order to receive His prodigal outpouring of love; which is His very nature! He “takes a deep breath” whenever we veer off course—by nature He is the “most patient God.”
“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. I’ll even pour out my Spirit on the servants, men and women both.” (Joel 2:28-29 MSG)
God also inspired Joel to assure the people of Israel, and us, of far more than deliverance from physical hardships; God’s promise was—and is—to “pour out my Spirit on every kind of people.” The people of Israel watched and waited for God to deliver them, but they often tired of waiting. That is why God periodically put His Spirit upon a Prophet in order to call the people of Israel back to Himself.
It is different in our day. Luke 24:49 recounts Jesus telling the Apostles to wait for, and Acts 2:16-18 records Peter’s announcing the fulfillment of, God’s promise of His Spirit being poured out on both men and women, old and young, rich and poor on the day of Pentecost. As recipients of God’s love and temples of the Holy Spirit we are called to proclaim good news to a world desperate for a Deliverer!
Here we are at the conclusion of our SOLID reading plan! My hope is that each one of us, after pursuing this project together, will have developed our own individual habit of regularly spending time with God the Father, listening for the Holy Spirit, and walking with Jesus. A habit not of simply reading but of receiving—of digesting—and of yielding to all that the Holy Spirit has given us “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.”
Let’s change our lives not just our clothes and enjoy God’s “extravagant” love to the full!