Content & Images © 2008-2014 - Rachel Miller, Ink Road Originals LLC, All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekend Snippet: The Return of the Green

In the time of the prophet Joel, Israel was facing destruction brought on by a drought that mirrored their spiritual condition.  They were hopeless, but Joel could foresee a time when the green could return to both the landscape and their hearts. The problem? Misplaced hopes...

The Drought

In Joel chapter one, the prophet described conditions so hot and dry that the fruit was shriveling on the trees (verse 12), the newly-planted seeds were drying up in the ground (verse 17), the livestock were starving (verse 18), and even the wild animals were perishing for lack of water (verse 20). This was no ordinary drought; it was a crippling blow that had weakened the national economy and left them open to foreign invasion.

It wasn't some random climate change, either; Joel recognized that it was a judgement from God, the fulfillment of a curse that had been promised to a disobedient Israel long before in Deuteronomy chapter 28. The nation had forgotten God, particularly His power. They worshiped the work of their hands and put their joy in created things (verse 12), which had now failed them. God had brought the drought to get their attention, and to show them that He was more powerful and more constant than anything they had put their trust in.

The Return of Joy

God was capable of carrying out Israel's total destruction--that much was clear from the trouble they were having.  However, those who looked back at the language in Deuteronomy 28 can see some hope for the situation. God, in His compassion, had warned them about what to expect. He'd even announced a remedy!  God punishes those who turn away and deny Him, but He blesses those who obey and follow Him. The solution to their problems, both personal and national, was repentance.

Joel chapter 2 calls for Israel to repent at at personal level, inwardly and not just outwardly, saying, "rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate," (Joel 2: 13 NIV).  He was calling them to shift their focus from the things of this world, which they had formerly trusted in, and put their hopes on the Lord, who was behind all of these things.

After they shifted their hopes and their faith back to God, their joy returned--and so did the rain, and the green grass, the fruit and the crops (Joel 2: 21-27).  They hadn't manipulated God into prospering them, but rather, they had prospered because God had chosen to reward their obedience.

Their focus had now changed, as well. Although now all their physical needs had been met, which had formerly been enough to satisfy them, they were still focusing on God as the source and the object of their joy.  Why the change? They had now looked beyond their physical notions of goodness and had seen the source of it all. They realized that as long as they followed God and knew Him, He would fill them with a kind of eternal joy that could never dry up or waste away! Joel said it clearly when he wrote, "You will have plenty to eat until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed" (Joel 2: 26 NIV).

Today, if you are feeling as if joy and other "green" things have dried up in your life, ask yourself if God is trying to get your attention.  If the problem is misplaced hopes in your life, I urge you to renew your relationship with God and put your hopes on Him, instead. Turn away from anything in your life that might come between you and God; repent of things that you know displease Him. Remember the true source of all that you have!  He will give you a new joy, which can never wither, and renewed prosperity that will have His fingerprints on it.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15: 13 NIV).