Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, & Micah: Day 5

Israel Blessed

by

Today's Text: Joel 3:1-21, Isaiah 33:20-22, Jeremiah 33:1-11

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.  

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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.

  • Kristen Clegs

    I finished today’s reading overwhelmed by the promise of restoration – it is the thread that runs thru the entire Scripture, the promise on which our hope is based, the purpose for Christ’s first and second coming. It is everything to us! Jeremiah 33 promises everything my heart longs for: “I will heal. I will restore. I will rebuild. I will cleanse. I will forgive.” God made our hearts to yearn for His wholeness and perfectness. Having never known Eden, we still ache to return there.

  • Sarah D.

    Just finished watching the new movie Wonder Woman again, and I love the ending lines of the movie: “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. I’ve touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they’ll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever”

    I just love this so much. Especially with all the horrible things that have happened recently, it is so reassuring to know that Love had already won. And our mission is to continue to put our hope in Jesus and in love every single day and to share it with others. Lord, help me do just that.
    Here is a post I thought was really cool, about how Wonder Woman depicts Biblical womanhood: http://www.marilettesanchez.com/marilettesays//wonder-woman-might-be-the-most-accurate-on-screen-depiction-of-biblical-womanhood-and-heres-why

    • V

      Yes. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Lexi

      Loved that part too…such a good movie! I’m super interested to read the article you posted…thanks for sharing!

    • Tara

      I have been behind and am just getting to this study but wow! I also loved that part of the movie what a wonderful image of Gods live and justice that others can relate to. Thanks for sharing that article I am excited to read it.

  • Melody Suarez

    I feel like this so so relevant to what is going on in the world currently. It’s crazy.

  • All I can say is amen and amen!!

  • Ashley BB

    Anyone else feel like Joel was written for 2017?

    What a timely study, so thankful that God’s Word is living and active, as relevant for us today as it was for the Israelites back then.

  • ~Amy F.~

    How would it change the way I look at people I consider “enemies” if I remember that Christ died for them as well as for me? I remember one day when I was about fifteen or sixteen and we heard that a man we knew had been violently murdered. He was coming to town in his horse cart and was ambushed five minutes from his home. The murderers were likely people he knew or were helped by people he knew, which makes it all the more terrible in a small community like that. As I was trying to process what had happened, I suddenly realized: God loves the men who killed don Pascual. He LOVES them the way He loves me. Because to God, my sins are not less serious than theirs. I am not better than they are. We are all chief of sinners before a holy and righteous God. I cannot love the unloveable until I understand who I really am before God.

    So when we advocate for justice, let us remember that our enemies are not the people committing the injustice. Let us be very aware that Christ loved and died for them. Let us never forget that Christ is grieved not only at the suffering of the victims but also at the godlessness of the oppressors. Let us go out with the consciousness that “Christ died for sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

    “Oh Jesus, Friend of sinners,
    Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
    Let our hearts be led by mercy
    Let us reach with open hearts and open doors
    Oh Jesus, Friend of sinners,
    Break our hearts for what breaks Yours.”
    —Casting Crowns

  • Lizzieb85

    For some reason I am struggling a little bit with Joel. And not just this book, but some of the concepts. I trust God is perfectly Holy & Just & Right. And I put my hope in that. I rest here whether I understand or not.

    But… this is my struggle. So the Israelites were unfaithful to God time after time. He “gave them over” to their sin, as Romans puts it. Foreign nations invaded & divided as a sort of punishment. Now God is going to vindicate His unfaithful nation by severely punishing their enemies- that He allowed to & used to punish Israel. I get that, regardless of whether God allowed them, the “nations” are still guilty. And I know that God’s faithfulness is infallible. But I’m just wrestling with this back & forth judgment. Maybe it just boils down to humanity is just truly sinful & destructive. And until God’s final judgment it’s just a back & forth of sin & punishment & pain & sadness. Thoughts?

    • Emily

      I take it back to God’s mercy. Israel is His chosen people. No matter how many times they fall He will always have mercy and restore them, as He does for us as Christians and His adopted sons and daughters. He allowed them to be punished for their unfaithfulness but He always brings them back, much like He does with us. We follow Him and His Son but we still sin and still receive the consequences for that sin. In the end we still receive our inheritance no matter how many times we stumbled here on earth. The same was for the Israelites. They received the punishment due but still received their inheritance because God never breaks His promises.

    • Lisa dK

      I have a hard time with this too. When reading the Old Testament, I just try to remember that Jesus rewrote the story when he accepted the ultimate punishment – disrupting the pattern of punishment & vindication often seen in the Old Testament – so that it’s not about our goodness or our sin. It’s about our faith. And when He returns then final judgement or everlasting glory will prevail. Interested in other thoughts.

    • KimN

      Good morning Lizzie! The thought that came to me was raising my kids. In teaching them manners or other behaviors (like obedience), repetition is key. Sometimes it only takes a reminder (to say please or thank you) but other times it requires a more extreme measure (time out, loss of toy, etc) and it seems to happen over and over and over.
      I think we as people are naturally sinful and selfish and want our own way. Over and over and over!!! Because God loves us, he provides correction and discipline. But because He loves us He also provides mercy and grace.
      This is how my finite mind has grasped it today but I’m sure there are further reaching implications in the BIG picture!

    • Elle

      One of the ways I have come to understand it(through way of commentaries), is that the other nations that pit themselves against Judah and Jerusalem are not sinless people who would otherwise not bring any harm to God’s people. These are men who already have wickedness in their hearts; they are men of war(especially against the innocent), pride, greed, and idol worship already, in most, if not every case. God does not tempt man(James 1:13). What comes out from man is what is already in his heart to do. In the case of Joel (and others), God has allowed man to carry out what was already in his heart and since God is just He must at some point deal with the sinful & wickedness that goes unrepentant. I have also come to understand, by way of commentary, that Joel 3 is speaking not just of the nations that were at the time against God’s people, but also those who will have to stand and give an account later at the final judgement.

      Hopefully I have written anything out of context and I was able to shine a little light on the subject for you. God bless.

    • Rosemary

      I typically focus on what these passages are saying about what IS, rather than focusing on what they are saying about what WAS.

      So….the world is like this RIGHT NOW, isn’t it? One group of people is awful, and another group wreaks their retribution on them, and then the first group gets back at them, and around and around and around the cycle goes. The world IS like that, today. Look at….my word. Anywhere in the Middle East, just to start.

      I believe God grants us free will, and won’t just MAKE us behave. So in Joel I see God — then and NOW — struggling to redeem the cycles of human violence and try to re-create the Kingdom of Heaven in and through our broken human ways. God is trying to call us back to him, but if we humans insist on using violence, God has no instrument to use but violence.

      We know God is capable of struggle and of suffering because Jesus struggled in Gethsemane and suffered on the cross. I think a lot of these difficult Old Testament passages are about God struggling and suffering alongside us, entering into our human condition.

      But then, of course, he sent Jesus…..

    • Lizzieb85

      Great thoughts to chew on. Thank you, Ladies!

  • “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know.”–Jer. 33:3
    I’m so thankful we have a God who knows it all so that I don’t have to figure it all out on my own, and I’m thankful that His plans are the best ones.

  • I worked the overnight shift last night and read this. My response, “Okay, yeah, another Old Testament passage I don’t really understand or relate to.” Had something come up at work where I feel like I was wronged by others. Read this passage again, and oh yeah, it’s relevant now. I’ve been praying to know God, not just know about Him. Help me to see the truth and look beyond the injustice. Help me to look to Jesus.

  • That little passage in Jeremiah tucked at the end of today’s readings, has always been a huge comfort to me. Especially the next couple following it, verses 12-13. Seemingly random and unrelatable to our lives today, but when your life seems chaotic, or to have seemed to have imploded, a virtual wasteland(v. 12), take heart! Even the desolate places will once again ring with the sounds of life!

    • Laura

      I love that imagery of a desolate place being filled with life again. Thanks!

    • amylou

      Thank you Allison for calling attention to that; I needed that reminder today!

  • God is so gracious to me. I don’t know why I am continually amazed when He speaks the words I need to hear, just when I need to hear them, but I am and He does. So…yesterday was an incredibly bad, frustrating day – like an “I hate my job and I’m going to be a greeter at Wal-Mart” kind of day. I teach high school – midterms this week, Fall Break next week, a full moon, and teen-agers – enough said. Nothing earth-shattering or life-threatening happened; it was just one thing after another until I had had enough. Total melt-down when my husband got home. I didn’t sleep good last night, but then God…and this devotion. Peace flooded this weary soul. Such an assurance that God has got all of this.
    Papa God, I pray that I will always be an advocate for justice, but help me, at the end of the day, to lay it all at Your throne, trusting that Your hope will have the last word. You have got this. I can trust and rest in that trust. You are more than capable of balancing the books. Today is the day that You have made. Help me to choose to rejoice and be glad in it. Help me to let go of yesterday and move on into today.
    Be blessed, sisters. God is our refuge. He is on the throne.

    • SB

      Prayers for you Kathy!

      • Karen

        Had a similar day yesterday, Kathy. I teach elementary, so I understand completely. My prayers last night is that I continue to seek out the Lord as my refuge. What a timely message this morning from Joel. Prayers for you today!

    • Annie

      I teach high school, too. Yesterday, I’m teaching the heck out of Hamlet, and some of them look at me like cows… boooored. May the Lord remind me today to look at the engaged students, to focus on the blessing to influencing the next generation, and on his love for the frustrated, the boooored, and the obnoxious. May he give me supernatural love for each one!

    • Tor

      I teach high school too. I had the “I’m going to the batting cages after school” kind of day. Thanks for sharing your prayer. I needed it. I also need some prayers for a student and myself. There is a huge disconnect and it’s a battle EVERYDAY! I’m at my wits end and I don’t know what to do.

      • Kathy

        I have one like that. It is a battle everyday. I find myself praying that God will help me to see this child through His eyes and hear them through His ears and “please don’t let me rip their head off their shoulders!” Often I have to just walk away from them. I’ll be praying for you. I wish I had a good answer, but God….

      • Heidi V

        Praying for you both. Praying that the Holy Spirit will moment-by-moment remind you that He has already been victorious. Praying your eyes will miraculously see the challenging students as hurting souls and yourself as distributors of God’s restoring love. I cannot imagine the weight you must feel about the state of our society, but praying with my whole heart God will strengthen and gird you for His purpose.

    • Shari Miller

      Hi Kathy,
      I teach 4th grade. I too understand frustration and exhaustion, and at times the desire to be a greeter at Wal-Mart ;) You encourage me. You remind me to put my focus back on the hope and strength I desperately need – on my Lord God, my refuge.

      Love and hugs to you!

    • Heidi V

  • churchmouse

    Justice and restoration. Yes. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

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