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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 3, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Joel 2:1–2, 12–17

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—
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.

Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    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.
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?

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
    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.

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?’” (NRSV)

I confess that I didn’t know the book of Joel. Briefly I wondered if it was written by televangelist Joel Osteen. A connection of sorts rang true since the biblical Joel is judged a minor prophet (among twelve whose books comprise the end of the Old Testament). 

Yet this is no minor scripture reading. It’s a Great Wake-Up Call. A message of faith. And a perfect Lenten devotion often cited on Ash Wednesday. Ashes symbolize that we Christians are preparing to “return to the Lord” and to the season that leads to Resurrection Sunday: Easter.

Joel’s words also speak to our present day. They portend an apocalyptic “army” of what we now know were locusts that ravaged the country, much as the coronavirus devastates our land. The army signifies God’s judgment on an unfaithful people. But the scripture also implies the opportunity for repentance and a homecoming to God. 

Which brings us to the enduring question of Lent: What will we give up for Lent? What will signify that we as sinners will repent and return to God with all our heart? In this time of our own tribulations, I dwell on what I can change within myself to truly find my way back to our loving God. And I ponder how I can make my repentance a permanent pattern of my life well beyond Holy Week and Easter.

As you consider these questions, you might listen to the hymn “Remember You Are Dust“ by Paul Tate that is based on Joel 2:12–17.

Lord God Almighty, help us determine our locust storms and how we can take seriously our sin, blow the trumpet, and go forward in a fresh way to benefit from your goodness. In the name of your Son, who died willingly on the cross to have our sins forgiven. Amen.

Written by Tim Schellhardt, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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