Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Embedded Hope

Daily Readings
Psalm 89:19-52, II Samuel 15:13-16:14, Joel 2:1-27, Hebrews 12

Daily Text: Joel 2:1-27

Hope Embedded
Joel 2 is a second poem or hymn describing a locust invasion in this prophecy. Is it a second description of the same infestation? Apparently not, for it is somewhat different, even though there are common expressions in both descriptions. Also in 2:25 there is a phrase referring to more than one year of loss.

Is the Day of the LORD one of these infestations or are the infestations metaphors for the Day of the LORD? In chapter 2:14 there is reference to the LORD’s relenting if the people will repent. If he relents one might assume that the Day of the LORD has not yet been fulfilled. It may be yet to come. In that case it does not come during Joel’s prophecy for the sense of 2:18ff. is that the people do repent and the LORD does relent and blesses them with plenty. Not only that he goes on to bless them spiritually in 2:28ff. That reference becomes the background for the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

The power of horror and the power of beauty in Joel’s lines give us some of the most passionate poetry in all of Holy Scripture. Images are drawn so graphically that the reader can visualize and feel them as if they are part of his/her own experience.

The God Israel identifies so closely with the people that he worries about how the nations will see their trial. And once their repentance is clear he promises never again to put them to shame. This reminds us of the promise to Noah, but it also suggests that the prophecy has not been fulfilled, for the Jews, the people of God have repeatedly been shamed before the world, the holocaust being the most contemporary version of that humiliation. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. was certainly another of these wasted times for God’s people. What can one say of this? The prophet was wrong? God was wrong? Or can we state that his vision was true in the making, but has fallen short in the long span of history? We could also resort to calling this apocalyptic material and refer it all to some indefinite future. Would this not be begging the question? It seems more realistic to say that it has not been fulfilled as written, but the hope embedded within it is good for the long years of the future.

Hebrew Melody
G. R. Smith

Sound, sound an alarm! let your clarions resound
Till God’s holy mountain shall echo around;
Blow the trumpet in Zion! his wrath to record,
And tremble, oh earth! In the day of the Lord.

A day of thick darkness, of gloom and of shower,
Like clouds on the crest of the mountain which lower,
For the mighty in battle, the proud and the strong,
To quench all thy glories, are hast’ning along.

Around them are flames, and behind them despair,
In vain is resistance, in vain is the prayer,
Before them the garden of Eden they find,
Desolation and terror are blackening behind.

Like the blast of the desert their chariots shall sweep
On whirlwinds, which frown o’er the wide dashing deep,
And the pride of Judea their horses shall tame,
With their hoofs of destruction, and nostrils of flame.

Oh! bright shine their arms, as the Gentiles press on,
From Acra, and Carmel, and Mount Lebanon,
And their chariots and horsemen shall scatter dismay
On the hosts led against them in battle array.

Oh! where is the strength of the mighty in war,
If the face of Jehovah be veiled from afar?
Jerusalem, vanquished Jerusalem, mourn!
When, alas! shall the light of thy glory return?

Collect for the Day
Remember us, gracious God, when we cannot see your way and purpose, and renew in us the joy of your kingdom of light and life. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.

[476:826:89 Psalm prayer]


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