Mar 6 2022 Joel 1- How Should the Church Respond to Disaster after Disaster?

Go back to Christmas of 2019 – the last normal holiday – could any of us have imagined where this pandemic would take us? Welcome to the book of Joel! We will be sharing from here until Easter. As I read this, it was like reading my newsfeed.

Joel 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: 2 Hear this, O elders, And listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days Or in your fathers' days? 3 Tell your sons about it, And let your sons tell their sons, And their sons the next generation.

First thing we see – Joel’s prophetic word is for everyone – leaders of the community (elders) and ALL the inhabitants of the land. No one is excluded – what is happening is affecting everyone. And not just those who were there, but those yet to be born! EVERYONE! He lays out 4 generations – fathers, sons, grandchildren, greats… has anything happened like this in your day?

What is happening – something has gone terribly wrong. No one could imagine what was taking place They never thought this could happen. For them, it is taking place in the natural cycle of a locust invasion – but it has supernatural results or consequences.

4 What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.

For us – pandemic. Racial tension. Political/cultural divisive world – and now a war.

I think of Ukraine – this is what is happening to the people of Ukraine. This is what has happened to all of us in the past 2 years. You lose a job, what happens next? Your car breaks down. What happens next? You need a new refrigerator… that is what is happening in Joel.

Walter Brueggemann

“In our modern experience,… it is believed that enough power and knowledge can tame the terror and eliminate the darkness. But our honest experience, both personal and public, attests to the resilience of the darkness.”

I love that phrase – the darkness is resilient – it continually comes!

Cindy’s sister and I were talking earlier this week – “I thought we had made a lot of progress – that humanity was changing! What happened?” Her husband said – “I think it has just been hiding under the surface, waiting to come out.”

Darkness is part of this world. We may go through times where we think it was not so bad.

Go back to Christmas of last year – everyone was getting COVID – and now we are concerned about nuclear war. Just a few months later – some unbelievable stuff that could take place.

I was talking with Henry – “Russia has taken over Ukraine multiple times” – I googled wars in Europe – it goes back about 2500 years – guess how many of the 2500 years there were wars in Europe? About 1200 years. It wasn’t always world war – but it is the reality of humanity. Our political and cultural divide is not new – it has existed since this country began.

Racial tensions are not new – they have occurred since slavery and before.

What are God’s people to do?

Joel 1: 5 Awake – WAKE UP! The first thing to do is to wake up to what is happening. There is a spiritual issue happening in our world spiritual darkness – drunkards, and weep; And wail, all you wine drinkers, On account of the sweet wine That is cut off from your mouth.

He is calling for sobriety – and he is not just calling to those who drink too much alcohol. They symbolize the apathy of the community to the crisis. They need spiritual sobriety to understand what is happening.

Two problems that I think are going on – as to how the church is responding to things – it has been divided and conflicted in its response. For some, there has been no response. Let’s just ignore it. We are so wrapped up in our own (many) problems, that we have been unable to respond. As a church. The Church. Second – we have become too self-focused – unable to look outward.

The other problem – we are responding – unbiblically – in inappropriate ways. This is a response of anger. We have allowed the actions of others to legitimize our anger.

Willard -the true test of discipleship – controlling one’s anger. The other response – is to try to control. As everything is out of control, they are trying to control things themselves.

6 For a nation has invaded my land, Mighty and without number; Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, And it has the fangs of a lioness. 7 It has made my vine a waste And my fig tree splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast them away; Their branches have become white.

What he is doing – what God is doing – He acts on His own behalf. Look – this is about Me – My reputation is on the line. I think what a lot of us have done – the reputation of the Church is not so great right now – in the world – and that is putting it nicely – and God is saying – it is My reputation that is being hurt here – by the way His people are responding to all of this. The Church belongs to Jesus – not to any of us. Jesus said – I will build My church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.

One word of caution – we, not living in the Old Testament time – should never draw a comparison between Israel in the Bible with any nation today. No nation – not even ours.

The Church is the only people of God – the only Nation of God – and it is made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. The Church has no geographical location. God’s people do not have a geographical location. People of every nation make up the church – and to make a comparison with a nation today with the Nation of Israel in the Bible – it is a mistake.

In May, we will start a series in the Book of Acts. I am shocked, as I have begun to study this – how crystal clear this is in the book of Acts – the Church is global, universal, and spiritual – and they cover the world.

8 Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth For the bridegroom of her youth. 9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off From the house of the LORD. The priests mourn, The ministers of the LORD. 10 The field is ruined, The land mourns; For the grain is ruined, The new wine dries up, Fresh oil fails.

Our reaction must coincide with the true reality of the situation – what is going on. Virgin = young woman just married who loses her husband – the grief. That is the reaction that is called for right now. That is the reaction I believe that is called for in the Church today.

When it says the wine and oil are ruined – those were staples – this, for them, was life and death. We have some supply chain issues – we might not be able to get toilet paper! That is not this.

Think about gas prices – what would our world be like if there was NO gasoline?! What if all the energy plants were gone. That is what is happening here.

Then he says – the priests the ministers of the Lord – this is a spiritual problem which requires spiritual leadership. Too often, the church looks to political leadership – and yes, they make decisions on the issues and the policies, but this is a spiritual problem in our country – and we are the spiritual guides in this country. We have a great opportunity.

Here, Joel says this:

11 Be ashamed, O farmers, Wail, O vinedressers, For the wheat and the barley; Because the harvest of the field is destroyed. 12 The vine dries up And the fig tree fails; The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree, All the trees of the field dry up. Indeed, rejoicing dries up From the sons of men.

He goes into detail. Disaster upon disaster. This physical environmental disaster is taking an emotion, spiritual and psychological toll on peoples’ lives – and that is what is happening in our world. Our response will determine the lasting impact.

39% of pastors have contemplated leaving ministry in the last 2 years.

That is unreal! There are issues that go beyond the pandemic and the other stuff going on.

When the war started – shock, fear, anxiety are all expected responses. What happens next is what matters.

3 inappropriate responses – vengeance, striking out in anger. If that is in our hearts, we are in spiritual dangers. Second – to be paralyzed by fear and anxiety – there is a natural response, but when we allow that to take control, we are in danger. Third – to pretend it is no big deal.

Now, Joel’s prophetic solution – and it is not what you think, and probably not what we do:

13 Gird yourselves with sackcloth And lament, O priests; Wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth O ministers of my God, For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God.

Here is the solution. Lament. A complaint directed AT God. Not TO God, but AT God to correct what has gone wrong. It places the responsibility on God. We think – you should not do that! But if you feel that way, you have not read the Psalms.

We cannot lament if we don’t recognize that something is horribly wrong. It is not just all that is going on – there is a spiritual reality that has gone wrong and it will require some lamenting. I have been a pastor for 40 years – and I have never heard a conference on lamenting! It is changing – you are hearing some speak of this more and more.

14 Consecrate a fast, Proclaim 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.

Gather the elders and everybody – to cry out to the Lord.

Lament is for all of the people – it should begin with the leaders of the community.

This week we had a State of the Union address. I did not watch, but read it. All SoU addresses are the same – they differ on opinions – they rally the troops, put a different spin – their spin – on what their administration is doing.

No president has every gotten up and said, Wail, America, like a young woman who just lost her husband. They would not get a standing ovation if that were their message.

I did hear of one president who did something like that – Jimmy Carter – I was a young Christian and it was almost like he was using Psalms and Bible language. That did not work well for him, as he got beaten badly in the next election.

We as Christians need to learn to lament. There is not a small amount.

We get on the British about their stiff upper lips… but the concept of wailing and lamenting is foreign to us. How can we apply this to ourselves – it can be transformative.

In the Church, something has gone horribly wrong, and we cannot assume we know the reason. Others are not to blame. We need to dive into what is going on in our own spirituality and find it there.

Our current situation is unacceptable – we can’t live this way.

Third – things don’t have to stay this way! The Psalms of Lament follow this pattern.

Something has gone wrong.

It is not acceptable

Things must change

Only God can change them. Only God can make a difference now. Not policy (yes, those are important) But only God can work on our behalf.

I’m sure we have all been praying for the people of Ukraine – it is incredible what is taking place.

We need to be doing the same for churches. The spiritual condition we find ourselves in.

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