Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Book of Joel

                                                Written by a pastor at the Genesis Project

Peter had walked with Jesus for three years. Jesus was his best friend. To be honest, He was more like a brother than a friend. They had walked together, ministered together, and shared, well, everything. And now Jesus was gone. He was snatched away by a Roman centurion in the middle of the night. He was not given a fair trial. He was crucified on a Roman cross. He was gone. And to top it off, Peter had denied Jesus. He told the little servant girl that he didn’t even know who Jesus was. Peter was a coward. And Jesus was dead. To Peter, life was an accumulation of failures, disappointments and heartaches.

Then, a glimmer of hope; Jesus rose from the dead!! Surely he was the Son of God. Surely now Jesus would establish His Kingdom. But then Jesus gave his disciples instructions and ascending back into heaven. He told them to wait in the Upper Room. Wait? Three years of my life and now you want me to wait? There was more confusion, more sadness that his friend was gone again. What would become of Peter now?

What happened was that Peter was transformed. He became a preacher. The once cowardly friend of Jesus, who had lost everything, became a bold proclaimer of God’s Word. He had become transformed by the Spirit of God. The first words that Peter proclaimed to the crowds after God’s Spirit had fallen upon him were the words of the prophet Joel.

Acts 2:4-21

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning!16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.

18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.

20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.

21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'

Joel is considered a minor prophet in the Old Testament. He is considered a minor prophet simply because of the length of the book he wrote; it is only 3 chapters long. Like the other prophets we have studied, the Word of God that Joel brings is harsh. He brings a promise of destruction for Israel. Joel chapter 1 describes at length, the swarms of bugs and locusts that God will use to wipe out crops, livelihood, and Israel itself. But by far the most compelling chapter of Joel is chapter 2. In this chapter, God delivers a different kind of promise. He makes promises to Israel of what He will do if Israel will turn to Him.

Joel 2: 25-26 "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten — the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm -my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the L
ORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." God had sent destruction in the form of locusts. The locusts had demolished Israel’s way of life. Years had been taken from them, but here God promises to repay these years. Though Israel had so often brought destruction upon themselves; God in his mercy was going to set things right. HE was going to repay THEM!

God proves His mercy and love are even greater when he makes another promise a few verses later in Joel 2:28-29. These are the verses that Peter echoes in the book of Acts; verses that promise God’s Spirit to be poured out upon mankind. So not only does God restore Israel, He sends them a fresh pouring out of His Spirit.

Joel has me thinking this week, that our God is still fulfilling these promises in our lives today. You and I have destroyed our lives. We have sinned and paid serious consequences for it. We have probably lost a lot in the name of sin; relationships, dignity, love, freedom, self-respect, joy, peace, and on, and on and on. We did it. We earned the consequence. Most of the devastation in our lives is our fault. And while some of the devastation in our lives is just plain "bad luck", God wants to repay us for all of it! If we will turn to Him, He repays us for the years the locusts have eaten. Maybe you have experienced this work of grace in your life. Maybe you have seen the beauty that God brings from our ashes. I know I have. And here is the thing; God wants to bless us. He wants to make things right for us. He wants to restore us. He wants to repay us. Let Him!

And God doesn’t just restore us to our former selves. He transforms us by giving us His Spirit. It was this promise that Peter spoke of in Acts 2. I am sure that Peter must have been thinking about the locusts in his life. He had been a failure, a screw-up; even before he denied Christ he was constantly doing stupid things. And the disappointments he had faced; well, they were too many to count, culminating with Christ leaving him to wait in this
upper room. But then the Holy Spirit came and changed everything for Peter. The Holy Spirit is still changing everything for us today. God’s Spirit is what gives us power to live in victory; to live out the calling that God has given us. God’s Spirit is the second half of our inheritance. God will restore us, but then, He will renew us. The Holy Spirit renews us if we allow Him.

So the book of locusts is really a book of promise. How about that!!

1. How do you think it felt to be Peter? What do you think he was contemplating sitting in that upper room for 40n days?

2. What locusts do you have in your life? Do you have hope that God can restore what they have taken from you? Have you witnessed God restoring what the locusts have taken?

3. What about God’s Spirit, what does the promise of His Spirit mean to your life?

4. How does God want to boldly use you today?

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