For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 10
From Gospel Translations
2 Kings 23; Hebrews 5; Joel 2; Psalm 142
THE OPENING VERSES OF JOEL 2 provide a stunning picture of the advancing hordes of locusts. The last verse of the section (2:11) makes it clear that these locusts are the Lord’s army. The fact of the matter is that “the day of the Lord” in the Old Testament, i.e., the day when the Lord manifests himself, is as often a day of judgment as of blessing and light: “The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” (2:11). Transposed to the ultimate day of the Lord, the same thing is true: it is very great and dreadful. Who can endure it? Only those who have fled for protection to the security that only God himself provides will be able to proclaim on the last day, when the wrath of God is fully displayed, “I need no other argument / I need no other plea; / It is enough that Jesus died / And that he died for me” (L. H. Edmonds).
Two highly memorable passages follow:
First, in Joel’s exhortation to return to the Lord comes this remarkable verse: “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (2:13). The habit of wearing sackcloth or of rending one’s garment at times of great distress or as a sign of repentance was well known. Like all outward manifestations, however, it could be aped. Instead of being an outward manifestation of inward repentance, it could easily become one more piece of religious cant. God wants a change that stems from within, not an external display that hopes it can wheedle blessings from him. This also suggests, in strong terms, that deep repentance involves not only a turning away from sinful behavior but an emotional, visceral response—a rent heart, a deeply shamed repugnance at previous engagement with sin. It does not produce people who try to negotiate a new contract with God, but men and women who, convicted by the Spirit, cry out in desperation, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
Second, the closing verses of the chapter (2:28-32) tell us what God will do “afterward,” i.e., after the blessings that he promises to pour out on the people in terms of their homeland and harvest. He will pour out his Spirit on all people (2:28) so mightily that all will have the knowledge of God, all will enjoy the prophetic Spirit. These verses are quoted by Peter as being fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21); they are parallel to various promises of the new covenant (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36). See the meditation for July 15 in volume 1, and, in this volume, for August 3 and October 3.