Joel 2:23-32

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 23rd, 2016.

Van Gogh
Van Gogh

This sermon series began three weeks ago in Lamentations 1:1-6 and ends this week in Joel 2:23-32. This series allows the pastor to trace the arc of redemption as told through Israel’s story with God. This is the foundation of Christ’s coming, through which this story finds its fruition and fulfillment. Such a series permits a congregation to re-engage the movement of their own life with God through this story, starting in Lamentations with disorientation over their sin and its consequences. This confrontation with sin is necessary if a church is to engage in the faithful application of hope toward Joel’s vision of life and land indwelled with the presence of the Spirit.

Last week, in Jeremiah 31, the text focused on the promise of renewed relationship and renewed covenant. Such a promise is hope on the move, God approaching people to establish relational wholeness, expressed in human relationships and covenant life with God. Today’s passage provides the people of God with a vivid image of the reality of that day. Such a day combines the fruition of created existence with the life-quickening reality of the Spirit of God. The prophet Joel thus communicates an earthly spirituality, one that joins heaven and earth. To illustrate this reality, today’s passage shows that the fear of agricultural loss gives way to abundance. Joel expertly ties such abundance to life in the Spirit, poured out on all people. Joel is written to the nation of Judah, likely after the fall of the northern kingdom. The prophet centers his message around common themes, such as “repentance, guilt, and punishment”. However, the prophet makes sure to balance a word of warning with the promise of God’s rescue and restoration.

Verse 23 opens with a word of admonition for the people of Zion. They are told to rejoice in the LORD, who sends the rains faithfully. Their God is no mere localized deity. No, the LORD is in charge of the weather and the seasons. Furthermore, despite the lack of rain and abundance, the LORD is ever faithful. As the LORD sent rains in the past, so shall the LORD again. Rejoicing in the LORD’s faithfulness is a distinct response from the grief communicated in Lamentations chapter 1 several weeks ago. The choice to rejoice in the LORD is a step into the promises of God. Verse 24 communicates the result of God’s promises. The rejoicing people of God will have their fill of food and drink. In fact, their needs will be filled to overflowing. Joel makes clear that Judah serves a God with the power to withhold and to give abundantly.

Verses 25 and 26 reiterate such providence. The locusts had consumed everything in successive years. Now, YHWH would replace their consumption with food for the people. The people will move from those empty of food to plenty. They will have their fill of sustenance from God. Such fullness of life is reflected in praise. Judah will respond to God’s sustaining power with adoration. No longer will they live in shame. Instead, they will approach God in wonder. Judah will, in turn, know that YHWH is the God of Israel, as verse 27 explains. In fact, Judah will know that there is no other God like YHWH. Their grief, emptiness, and despair will give way to rejoicing, overflowing, and praise.

“And afterward,” verse 28 begins. After the LORD fills the people, after their God turns their shame into praise, God will pour out the Spirit on all people. Judah’s full stomachs will become full lives in the Spirit. This promise in verse 28 is for all the people: men, women, young and old. This is an astounding statement, considering the patriarchal culture of that day. The language of verses 30 and 31 reiterate the dark and fearsome cosmic aspects of the Day of the Lord. However, this reckoning concludes in salvation for Mount Zion.  As verse Joel concludes, “there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls” (Joel 2:32, NIV).

What direction might this sermon take in the arc of God’s redemption narrative? One direction a pastor could take is to use this sermon as the conclusion of a series focusing on faithfulness amidst grief and suffering. If in Lamentations several weeks ago, the pastor communicated how a congregation can engage the language of grief and longing, here one might focus on moving through grief into rejoicing. What is the process for moving through suffering, from mourning to joy? How does our faith story reiterate that God, and God’s people, do not sweep aside sin, suffering, and injustice? God does not ignore our grief, nor does God act like the brokenness of the world is unimportant. Instead, God provides a way through our grief and despair. How might people and congregations walk with God through such despair and into fullness of life with God, marked by praise and life in the Spirit?

A second direction this sermon could take centers on the arc of the redemption story, as told through Israel’s life. Beginning with the grief inherent to the calamity of Lamentations, a pastor could conclude with Joel’s passage a sermon on the reality into which God’s people move; namely fullness of embodied life with God, in creation, marked by the indwelling and overflowing presence of the Spirit on all people. A sermon series of this trajectory can function as a lens through which people and congregations can view their faith and their lives in the world.




waltonMatt Walton, D.Min.
Associate Pastor of Missions & Spiritual Formation
Southland Baptist Church, San Angelo, TX





Tags: hope, rejoicing, faithful, overflow, shame, life, restoration, day of the lord, spirit

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