29 September – 5 October 2019.
The Book of Joel opens with a heartbreaking description of Israel’s destruction. Foreign armies have marched into Israel’s lands and have destroyed everything. Joel describes the armies as locusts, destroying and devouring everything in their way. Those armies don’t just demolish Israel’s fortresses, they destroy Israel’s environment and the whole countryside. The earth, the farms, the vegetation, the beauties of nature, even domestic and wild animals suffer under this attack. So Joel offers up a lament to God over this destruction, and a plea to the Israelites to fast and pray and beg God for help.
It’s not a surprise that an ancient author like Joel would describe an invading army as locusts. Local farmers cared for the land and its animals, they protected their land’s fertility and its fruitfulness, preserving it for future years. But invading armies didn’t care about the future. They simply stripped the land of everything as they marched through, sucking up all resources with no thought for tomorrow, leaving an empty and lifeless land behind them.
This destruction of the land was the nightmare that Joel and the ancient Israelites faced. But this violent act of using up nature and its resources is a disaster we are also facing today. The only difference is that this destruction isn’t happening at the hands of foreign armies; we are doing it ourselves. In our own carelessness, we abuse nature, rip out its resources, and use up all its provisions until there is nothing left. The land loses its fertility, we eat the seas empty, and we watch countless species disappear each year. As Joel writes in v. 16, “Our food disappears before our very eyes.” And yet, like the locusts of vv. 3–4 we keep destroying, keep devouring everything until there is nothing left over for future generations. In v. 18, Joel describes the way domestic “animals moan with hunger. The herds of cattle wander about confused, because they have no pasture. The flocks of sheep and goats bleat in misery.” In v. 20, “Even the wild animals cry out to you Lord, because the streams have dried up, and fire has consumed the wilderness pastures.” How well that describes the same distress our earth finds itself in today.
Our Creator God does not call us to live in his creation like an invading army, stripping all the resources from this world until it is left a wasteland. Instead God blesses this world, calls it good, and gives us the responsibility to care for the amazing things his hands have created. Let’s pray it’s not too late for us to live up to this great responsibility and to save what’s left of this world God has made.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis