So I’m reading Joel today, and the first chapter just slaps me as if it were a commentary on our modern economy. Joel starts by saying,
Listen to this, you elders; pay attention, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your whole life or in the lifetime of your ancestors? Tell your children about it, have your children tell their children, and their children the following generation. Joel 1:2-3
What happened that was so bad? There was a major economic collapse in Israel. Here’s how the NET Study Bible describes it:
The circumstances that precipitated the book of Joel surrounded a locust invasion in Palestine that was of unprecedented proportions. The locusts had devastated the country’s agrarian economy, with the unwelcome consequences extending to every important aspect of commercial, religious, and national life. To further complicate matters, a severe drought had exhausted water supplies, causing life-threatening shortages for animal and human life (cf. v. 20).
Sound familiar? If Joel were writing today, I think it might sound something like this:
What money you had after paying property taxes, inflation ate. What inflation left, your credit interest devoured. And if you thought you were able to manage your interest payments, then you were laid off! (see Joel 1:4)
And, as many charitable organizations are seeing today, when people don’t have (or don’t think they have) money, they don’t give to charity. In Joel’s day, the priests actually ate part of the animal sacrifices the people brought. That was their main source of income, and that dried up, too (Joel 1:9, 13). Today, charities are laying off people – some are even closing altogether – because of the lack of donations.
So what is the solution? Government bailouts? Economic stimulus packages? Bankruptcy? That’s not what Joel told God’s people. His solution was completely different:
Announce a holy fast; proclaim a sacred assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the temple of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Joel 1:14
Could it be that God simply wants to hear from his people en masse? Could it be that God is just waiting for his people to return to him today like in Joel’s day?
“Yet even now,” the Lord says, “return to me with all your heart – with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your garments!”
Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love – often relenting from calamitous punishment. Who knows? Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve, and leave blessing in his wake – a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God! Joel 2:12-14
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a prayer meeting is going to fix America’s economy. It took a long time to get into this mess, and long-term messes usually require long-term fixes.
But I am asking with Joel, “Who knows? Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve.” Honestly, what’s the worst that could happen if we were to re-commit ourselves to God and his work, trusting that he is big enough to handle the details?
That’s going to be our focus on the final Sunday of 2008 at OTCC. We’re going to celebrate communion, and bring in the new year praising God for both his past and future victories, and re-commit ourselves to him in prayers of repentance and trust.
I hope you’re here next weekend. Who are you going to bring with you?