Joel 2: an army of locusts
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is close at hand—
2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was in ancient times
nor ever will be inages to come.
Rend Your Heart
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
Solemn words from the book of Joel, the Old Testament prophet.
It’s a book and passage that doesn’t sit comfortably with us. The first half of Chapter 2 talking about God’s Judgement: darkness, gloom, fire, violence, wilderness and anguish. It goes on.
It’s not all that uplifting reading and we see from it how seriously God takes our rebellion, selfishness and sin.
Yet amidst this bleak outlook, the prophet Joel prophetically reveals God’s heart towards his people, verse 12:
“yet even now, return to me with all your heart.
Return to the Lord – for he is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Return to the Lord…with FASTING. Today marks the start of Lent – a time traditionally given to prayer and fasting.
What do you think of when you hear the word FAST?
Well, here are my 3 reflections today…my play on words…please go with it!
“You’re going too fast!”
Have you ever been caught speeding? Been on a speed awareness course? I never have, but I’m told they do work and get you thinking.
But, whether or not you’ve been caught – I bet we’ve all had moments of self-realisation that we live in a fast world and we’re living frenetic and frantic lives.
There are demands on us from others, from ourselves.
These days our lives are often defined not just by what we do, but by how successful, efficient, productive we are.
We’re taught that faster, quicker, stronger is better.
But have you ever asked yourself? Am I going too fast?
Or, more poignantly, has anyone said to you: You’re going too fast?
Is it time this Lent to SLOW DOWN?
You’re going to fast?!
The Spiritual discipline of Fasting is not one that people know about.
Some might say it’s for the religious nutcases.
“You’re going to fast?” the world might say
“I’m not going to fast?” you might say.
FASTING is something that in a consumerist world is counter cultural and radical.
Denying yourself FOOD, as the bible instructs, to make us aware of our total need for God, and to make us desire His word, the bread of life.
Perhaps the idea of Fasting is one which you think:
“I’m not sure that’s for me”
“I’m not sure whether I can do it.”
“I’m not even sure I want to do it.”
Perhaps it feels awkward. Perhaps it’s the same feeling you have if colleagues were to know that you’re a Christian.
You’re going to fast?! You’re a Christian?!
Are you caring too much about reputation and what people think of you?
Are these thoughts and feelings something that God wants you to deal with today, or in this Lent season?
Is it time this Lent to let go of what others think of you? [or what you think they think of you!]
You’re going to fast!
Yet, Jesus says in Matthew “when you fast” the same instruction as “when you pray” – this is something that we’re being expected to do, it doesn’t sound optional.
We’re reminded of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days. Fasting, and the season of Lent, is a time where we can shift gear, and adjust our pace. To seek God, to depend on him in new, deeper and profound ways.
To seek His will for our lives – His plan for our futures – His provision for our need.
My prayer is that you will not only embrace Ash Wednesday today, but the whole Lent season, and beyond – and that you will pray and fast in new or even brand new ways.
So, are you hungry for God?
Is it time this Lent to say: “Lord I want to have a greater Spiritual hunger and desire!?”