Friday, September 02, 2011

110902-Joel-Hope Even in Chastisement

S: Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Because grain offering and drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. (Joel 1:13-14)

"Yet even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments." Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. (Joel 2:12-16)

"So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it. "And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Valley of Shittim. "Egypt shall become a desolation and Edom a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the people of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations. I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for the LORD dwells in Zion." (Joel 3:17-21)

O: These little samples show the love of God so well - He knows how to chastise yet not destroy hope. King David knew the principle that the judgment of God left room for repentance (2 Samuel 12:22) and even the pagan Ninevites knew (Jonah 3:9). But for God to call for such destruction upon His own vine (Joel 1:7) to withold grain and drink offering from His own Temple - it must have seemed there was no more hope.

A: When things seem most hopeless, we must always remember that wherever there is life, there is still hope. This, too, is a test: will I continue to believe in God's goodness even when it seems everything is going wrong and even He has turned against me? I must! There is no other choice. I don't have to enjoy the present's suffering - but I must maintain hope for the future. God will bring chastisement and allow temptation - but His love and character are unchanging.

P: Thank you, Lord, that even in wrath, you remember mercy and that your plans are shalom and not evil, for hope in the end.

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