Taking All the Toys Away

(Today's post by Tim David)

Joel 1:1 – 2:17

There are many flawed opinions of God, but the two most common are as follows:

1. God is love. Since God loves everyone…we all go to heaven – no matter which way we go.

2. God is always judging and in the end if you’ve done enough good to outweigh the bad…you’re good to go.

Joel is part of the minor prophet section of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, Joel doesn’t give us too much historical reference to determine when this book was written. Furthermore, Joel really doesn’t give us too much personal information to figure him out. That being said, he has a good knowledge of Judah and the temple. On first blush when looking at the destruction he describes, one would think this is an illustration and thus start trying to draw something out. Joel is literally describing a national catastrophe that will be caused by locusts. Interestingly enough, locusts were one of the plagues God used to free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery…kind of ironic, huh? Also, this is prophetic, meaning the catastrophe hadn’t happened, thus the Israelites could have avoided the locusts by doing what Joel suggested.

I know I’ve thought it, but maybe you’ve used it…”This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Recently, my wife and I both thought this when taking our son’s most loved Christmas presents. (Yes, the punishment fit the crime…trust me) Our eyes both filled with tears as we packed them up asking each other why he destroyed every ounce of trust. Judy especially remembers thinking her parents were completely full of “it” when they used this statement. However, we realized that we couldn’t let him just get away without punishment, otherwise his lies would get worse. At that moment, I became very aware of my condition with God. We all sin, it’s a fact of life…but do we own up to them, allowing Jesus the chance to make us right again?

Sin corrupts our relationship with God today just like it did back in the Garden of Eden…just like it did in Joel’s day. There are many who escape God’s judgment, but don’t have the relationship with Him. This first part of Joel serves as a reminder of God’s perfect mix. God is a God of love, judgment, punishment, and mercy. These attributes don’t make sense when combined in any other context than God. While I admit, bringing Israel to its collective “knees” through destroying their food source is a bit extreme, it was obviously necessary to get their attention. Taking every toy my son loves is extreme, but it got his attention and he is developing our trust in him again. Have I left God little choice in our relationship?

Remember this, punishment without love will fracture a relationship deep, sometimes beyond repair. Punishment because of love will restore a relationship that will last a lifetime, and then some.

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