Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Day of the LORD

A Lenten reading:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy hill.
Let all who live in the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming.
It is close at hand-

2 a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and blackness.
Like dawn spreading across the mountains
a large and mighty army comes,
such as never was of old
nor ever will be in ages to come.

12 "Even now," declares the LORD,
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning."

13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the LORD your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.

16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.

17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD,
weep between the temple porch and the altar.
Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
'Where is their God?' "

What do you make of verses like this? I know they were written for a people about 2500 years ago in a very different place. But why were these words preserved as scripture for believers in the LORD?

Maybe the key lies in the possibility of vv. 12-14. That if we return to him with all of our heart, that the calamity can be avoided. I'm going to camp out there for a bit in my prayers. Last night at the Ash Wednesday service I attended, we were challenged to examine our own lives to see if the sins of Pilate were in us? Were we in too much of a hurry? Did we fear loss of our own prestige when we ignored the words of the Lord Jesus. Are we unwilling to look at his truth?

Those are hard words to chew on, and a bitter meal to digest. But that is the beauty of Lent. It's a season of reflecting on what Christ has done for us. It's a time to measure ourselves against what God expects of us. It's a time of sacrifice and penitence for us.

This year, let the LORD speak to you during Lent. Quiet yourself before him and let his words penetrate your inner being as you "seek first the Kingdom of God" in all that you do. I won't promise you exorbitant blessings for doing it. But you will draw closer to the one who loves you, created you, and redeemed you.

Join me in this prayer focus. I think God has something to tell us, individually and corporately.

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