Archive for the ‘Joel 1’ Category

Dependence on God, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image in the Public Domain


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25


For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.





Adapted from this post:


A Light to the Nations I   1 comment


Above:  A Candle

Image Source = Martin Geisler


The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:7-14 (Monday)

Joel 1:1-14 (Tuesday)

Joel 3:9-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 63 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:29-35 (Wednesday)


The hit parade of judgment comes in these days’ readings.  Among the themes therein is the final judgment, which a glorious future for God’s people will follow.  First, however, one must survive the judgment, if one can.

A theme from the New Testament informs the Old Testament lessons nicely.  Faith–by which I mean active faith, in the Pauline sense of the word, not in sense of purely intellectual faith one reads about in the Letter of James–is not just for one’s benefit and that of one’s faith community.  No, faith is for the good of those whom one draws to God and otherwise encourages spiritually.  The people of God have the assignment to function as a light to the nations.  That was the mission in which many Hebrews failed in the days of the Old Testament.  They became so similar to other nations that they could not serve as a light to those nations.  The same holds true for much of Christianity, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, for organized religion has a knack for affirming certain prejudices while confronting others.  Some denominations, especially in then U.S. South, formed in defense of race-based slavery.  Others, especially in the U.S. North, formed in opposition to that Peculiar Institution of the South.  Many nineteenth-century and twentieth-century U.S. Protestants recycled pro-slavery arguments to defend Jim Crow laws, and one can still identify bastions of unrepentant racism in churches.  Also, mysogyny and homophobia remain entrenched in much of organized Christianity.

To separate divine commandments from learned attitudes and behaviors can prove difficult.  It is, however, essential if one is to follow God faithfully and to function as a light to others.  May those others join us in praying, in the words of Psalm 63:8:

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)









Adapted from this post:


Stereotypes of God   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Joel


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Joel 1:1-20 (January 21)

Joel 2:1-17 (January 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–January 21)

Psalm 54 (Morning–January 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–January 21)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–January 17)

Romans 10:1-21 (January 21)

Romans 11:1-24 (January 22)


Some Related Posts:

Joel 1-2:

Romans 10-11:


Rend your hearts

Rather than your garment,

And turn back to the LORD, your God.

For He is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger, abounding in kindness,

And renouncing punishment.

Who knows but He may turn and relent,

And leave a blessing behind

For meal offering and drink offering

To the LORD your God?

–Joel 2:13-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Now suppose that some branches were broken off, and you are wild olive, grafted among the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree….

–Romans 11:17, The New Jerusalem Bible


Sometimes a lectionary is too choppy.  At such occasions extended readings are appropriate.  Such is the case with the readings for January 21 and 22 on the daily lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006).

The Book of Joel, from the Persian period (539-332 B.C.E.) of Jewish history, opens with frightening images.  Read the first chapter, O reader of this post, for full effect.  Locusts, flames, and other forces have devastated the land.  And, as Chapter 2 opens, the terrifying Day of the LORD approaches.  The earth trembles, the sky shakes, and stars go dark.  Yet even then there is the possibility of forgiveness, assuming repentance, or turning around.

Paul spends Romans 10 and 11 dealing with the question of Jews who have rejected Jesus.  In this context he likens Gentiles to branches grafted onto the tree of Judaism.  Gentiles, he advises, ought not to become proud and dismissive.  As much as there is divine mercy, there is also divine judgment–for Jews and Gentiles alike.

There is an often repeated misunderstanding about God as He comes across in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The God of the Old Testament, we hear, is mean, violent, and vengeful.  This is a gross oversimplification–read Joel 2 for evidence of that statement.  I am convinced that some of the violent imagery and some of the stories containing it result from humans projecting their erroneous assumptions upon God.  Yet I refuse to say that all–or even most–of such incidents flow from that practice.  I seek, O reader, to avoid any stereotype–frightful or cuddly–about God.








Adapted from this post:


Judgment and Mercy, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Joel 1:13-2:2 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.]

…Gird yourselves and lament, O priests,

Wail, O ministers of the altar;

Come, spend the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my god.

For offering and libation are withheld

From the House of your God.

Solemnize a fast,

Proclaim an assembly;

Gather the elders–all the inhabitants of the land–

In the House of the LORD your God,

And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

Blow a horn in Zion,

Sound an alarm on My holy mount!

Let all dwellers on earth tremble,

For the day of the LORD has come!

It is a close–

A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of densest cloud

Spread like soot over the hills.

A vast, enormous horde–

Nothing like it has ever happened,

And it shall never happen again

Through the years and ages.

Psalm 9:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

2  I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

3  When my enemies are driven back,

they will stumble and perish at your presence.

4  For you have maintained my right and my cause;

you sit upon your throne judging right.

5  You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked;

you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6  As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin,

their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

Luke 11:14-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.  But some of them said,

It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.

Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them,

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan:  if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?–Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils.  Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?  Let them be your judges, then.  But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.  So long a a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, ‘I will go back to the home I came from.’  But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and bring seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they god in an set up house there, so that the man ends up being worse than he was before.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Luke 11):

Matthew 12 (Parallel to Luke 11):

Mark 3 (Parallel to Luke 11):

Mark 8 (Similar to Luke 11):

Mark 9 (Similar to Luke 11):

Luke 9 (Similar to Luke 11):


The Hellenistic world was a spirit-haunted one.  This was a time of pre-scientific thinking, when the common understanding held that demon possession caused epilepsy and a variety of other conditions.  I, as a product of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and the ensuing Enlightenment, as well of subsequent developments, understand the workings of the world differently.  The cause of epilepsy is organic, not demonic.

Yet one must understand the cultural background to grasp the reading from Luke.  Consider, for example, the section about the unclean spirit who leaves a man, wanders about, finds company, and returns.  It did not stay home because something good had filled the void there, so the spirit went back where nothing had filled the vacancy it had created.  The lesson is that good must replace evil, or else evil will take up residence.  Nature abhors a vacuum, in other words.

And the charge that Jesus worked by the power of Satan was a slander, of course.  Our Lord and Savior, by his existence and work, called into question the religious authorities of pre-70 C.E. Jewish Palestine.  Frightened people might embrace change now and then, but usually they fight back, often irrationally and blindly, grabbing on to any straw they can find.

They need to fill their voids with good–and God.  This is what Joel says to do.  This day’s reading from Joel makes more sense when one reads not only it but what precedes and follows it.  The judgment is upon Judah itself, due to its sins.  Yet, later in Chapter 2, we find evidence of repentance.  Then we read these words, credited to God:

Yet even now

Turn back to Me with all your hearts,

And with fasting, weeping, and lamenting.

(2:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then, beginning with 2:19, we have these words, also attributed to God:

I will grant you the new grain,

The new wine, and the new oil,

And you shall have them in abundance.

Nevermore will I let you be

A mockery among the nations….

So, once again, we see the juxtaposition of divine judgment and mercy.  Actions lead to consequences.  Sometimes God intervenes, other times not.  And, sometimes, after negative consequences have run their course, God steps in to show extravagant mercy.  It is better, of course, to follow God faithfully more often than not, to reap the harvest of righteousness, not bitterness and the gnashing of teeth.

May Jesus fill all our voids, present and future.  And may he displace that which ought not be present.  In other words, may we cooperate with God, not cast unfounded accusations.





Adapted from this post:


Posted May 8, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Joel 1, Joel 2, Luke 11, Psalm 91

Tagged with