Unprecedented Spirit

Scripture Focus: Joel 2.32
And everyone who calls 
on the name of the LORD will be saved; 
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem 
there will be deliverance, 
as the LORD has said, 
even among the survivors 
whom the LORD calls. 

Psalm 142.5
5 I cry to you, LORD; 
I say, “You are my refuge, 
my portion in the land of the living.” 

Acts 2.39
39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Reflection: Unprecedented Spirit
By John Tillman

When joyous prophets pour into the streets, people want to know why. This is especially true if this joy comes at a time of suffering, a time of oppression, and a time of sadness.
 
This was the situation in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit directed Peter to Joel to describe the experience of being filled with the Spirit of God and explain why men and women, sons and daughters, were prophesying in the streets. (Acts 2.2-21

Peter’s audience would have also been familiar with the locust images in Joel’s description of the Babylonian invasion. The Roman legions Peter’s contemporaries were familiar with would, perhaps be an even better visual match than the Babylonians had been for Joel’s images of locusts marching in perfect rows of chitinous, armored doom.

Joel’s prophecy was multilayered in meaning. It referred to the near future of the Babylonian invasion. It also foresaw the far future in which the Lord’s armies will destroy evil, dispelling and disposing of the armies of the opposing empires of this world. Afterward, God will cause growth and abundance to replace barrenness and want.  

God himself will repay the suffering caused by evil upon the earth. The explanation for the significance of this prophecy’s fulfillment is also a part of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. God’s victory over evil, his repayment for loss, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to all who call upon him are all direct outcomes of the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

The very Spirit promised in Joel and poured out in Acts is a deposit, a guarantee, of the inheritance God has for each of us in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1.22; 5.5; Ephesians 1.13-14)

No matter the disaster that seems to surround us or is on its way, there is time to turn to the Lord. There is a time when he will relent. There is always a time when the Lord will relent.

But relenting only comes after repenting. No matter what we have done in the past, up to and including murdering his only son, we can repent and return to God. And the time for repentance is now. It is always now. 

The pouring out of God’s Spirit comes after repentance. It always comes after repentance.

May that day be soon.

And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved… — Joel 2.32

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.” — John 15.4-5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joel 2 (Listen – 5:26)
Psalm 142 (Listen – 1:01)

Read more Rend Your Hearts
God will replace what is lost—including replacing our hearts of stone with the pierced-heart of Jesus.

Read more about The Radical Procedure of the Gospel
It’s lovely to think of God giving us a new heart and putting a new Spirit within us. But it is terrifying to admit to the diagnoses that would lead to such a radical procedure.

Unprecedented

Scripture Focus: Joel 1.2-3
2 Hear this, you elders; 
listen, all who live in the land. 
Has anything like this ever happened in your days 
or in the days of your ancestors? 
3 Tell it to your children, 
and let your children tell it to their children, 
and their children to the next generation. 

Reflection: Unprecedented
By John Tillman

It’s unprecedented how often we’ve used the word “unprecedented” in the past few months. 

“Unprecedented” would fit well in Joel’s narrative. He described a plague of locusts unlike anything seen before…except it wasn’t quite. Joel seems to intentionally reference language similar to when God used locusts (and other plagues) to bring the people out of Egyptian slavery. He repeats that they should tell “their children and their children.” (Exodus 10.1-2

Joel senses that something has gone wrong. These locusts are sent against God’s people. Joel doesn’t waste time blaming the locusts. He knows the problem is in the hearts of the people.

The Israelites were intended to tell future generations how God brought plagues on Egypt that they would “know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10.1-2) They had been told to “ask about the former days” (Deuteronomy 4.32-40) to see if God had ever done anything so great for any people. But now it seems the future generations, settled comfortably in their own land, have forgotten the Lord. They have taken for granted the immense privilege and wealth they have as people chosen by God.

God, in judgment, institutes a fast through the destruction of the plague. The people had no food. The animals had no food. The priests themselves, who were fed by the offerings of the people, had no food because there was no food to be offered.

In response to unprecedented times, Joel encourages the people to enter into a time of unprecedented prayer and repentance. 

We, like Joel, should be able to sense when something has gone wrong. Christians should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit when unprecedented pressures, difficulties, and struggles arise. 

When we have forgotten our liberation from sin by Christ’s mercy, when we have been unfaithful to pass on the story of the gospel to the current generation, we may soon have a new story to pass on about the loving, yet terrible, discipline of God.

Not every crisis is a judgment. Some tragedies are simply the result of the fallen world and raging spiritual forces. But we would be wise to look first to our own hearts and our own sins for the cause rather than blaming outside forces or the sins of unbelievers. 

May we engage in unprecedented prayer, repentance, and service to others who are suffering. (Joel 1.13-14)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “ And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joel 1 (Listen – 2:59)
Psalm 140-141 (Listen – 2:44)

Read more about Facing a Biblical Disaster
2020 has brought multiple disasters described as being of “biblical proportions.”

Read more about Apocalypse, How?
We have apocalypses all wrong. Apocalypsis, does not mean destruction or the end of anything…Jesus told his disciples that he would “apocalypse” the father to them.


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