Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
"Return to the LORD your God."
I heard a sermon on this text recently that made a seemingly self-evident observation, but one that had never occurred to me. The observation is that the word "return" implies going someplace one has been before.
The book of Joel has few internal hints as to its original setting. There is an imminent threat. It may be an ecological disaster (a plague of locusts that is like an army) or a military disaster (an army that is like a plague of locusts). Whichever is the case, Joel declares to the people of Jerusalem that the LORD desires that they return to where they had once been, to the covenant relationship the LORD had established.
If we understand that covenant to have begun at creation, might we expand our vision of all people in the world being called to "return" to a place they have been before—to "the LORD their God," the source of life?
Creator God, you are the source of all life. Your desire is that all your children return to the one from whom they come: you. May it be so, beginning with me. Amen.
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (NRSV)
1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near--
2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.
12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, "Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'"