Scripture Reading: Joel 3:1-21, Isaiah 33:20-22, Jeremiah 33:1-11
Whenever we witness injustice, or experience injustice ourselves, it feels as if vindication cannot come quickly enough. Whether it’s a friend who suffers character assassination, a neighbor who is victimized by crime, or children who are targeted by war—all of these injustices create a deep sense of urgency. We pine for justice, for God to make things right again, and in the meantime, every passing moment can feel like an eternal delay.
This is one of the most gut-wrenching challenges of being a human in a broken world. Jesus will come back one day, but that day is not here yet. And until then, we must wait for justice with all the agony of a woman in labor.
This agony is one the Israelites knew well. Joel 3 catalogs a long list of unspeakable suffering: young boys traded for prostitutes; young girls sold for wine; a people scattered from home and subjected to the torment of their enemies. Without a doubt, Israel longed for the day of restoration, the day when God would intervene on behalf of His people and bring an end to their misery. Surely there were days when they wondered if God’s justice would ever come.
But Joel 3 is the Lord’s response to Israel’s questions and longing: justice is indeed coming. One day, it will come like a roaring lion. All will be made well again. God’s people will be restored. Vengeance will be swift. “Shall I leave [my people’s] innocent blood unavenged? No, I will not,” He proclaims ( Joel 3:21). Because the Lord is, and always will be, a refuge for His people.
This is the promise of Joel, but it is also the promise of eternity. In Joel we see the character of God and the arc of human history, which guarantees two things:
First, God’s justice is coming. Throughout Scripture, God promises that justice is coming. Sometimes the wait is long, but the promise is sure because we can trust the Promiser. As Christians, we bear witness to God’s in-breaking justice when we advocate for justice in the world, but on those days when evil seems triumphant and justice escapes us, we can have confidence that this is not the end of the story. We do not have to grow cynical or despair, because hope will have the final word.
And second, God’s restoration is radical. It would be easy to read Joel as a story of two sides: God’s people versus the world. Throughout this chapter, God condemns “the nations” (meaning everyone who is not Israel), and He promises their demise. Destruction would seem to be their fate.
But if we zoom out and consider God’s heart for the nations, we realize this is not a story of “us versus them,” or “the good guys versus the bad guys.” In Isaiah 49:6, God tells Israel, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” In other words, God intends restoration for Israel, but He intends restoration for their oppressors as well.
This truth is radical, because it means God’s vision of restoration is much bigger than us and our individual injustices. While God promises vindication for the hurting, He desires restoration for all.
That is both the promise and the character of God. We can trust His justice and live in the hope of it, but His character also calls us into a vision of restoration much greater than ourselves. God’s plan of restoration—the good news of Jesus Christ—is so radical that it even lays claim to our enemies. Without a doubt, God intends to restore us, but He also intends to restore the world.
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.