The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


Joel 1
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By Stephen Green. (First Published in Christian Voice July 2007)

Joel 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.

2 Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers?

3 Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.

4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten.

5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth.

6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion.

7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.

8 Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth.

9 The meat offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the LORD; the priests, the LORD's ministers, mourn.

10 The field is wasted, the land mourneth; for the corn is wasted: the new wine is dried up, the oil languisheth.

11 Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished.

12 The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men.

13 Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God.

14 Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,

15 Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.

16 Is not the meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God?

17 The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.

18 How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.

19 O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field.

20 The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

I am going to stick my neck out and say that the recent floods which have ruined large parts of England are the judgment of God.  The first objection which is bound to be raised is that it is more reasonable to wave a hand and blame Global Warming.  Well, even that, if it is proved to be caused by man, is the judgment of God on wasteful disobedient mankind - and even environmentalists are saying something similar.

But secondly, even if Global Warming is accepted as the result of any kind of divine retribution for our profligacy, to move from a general feeling of a sentence passed on the world to a specific judgment on England at this precise time involves a theological leap too far for most people.  I heard a sermon the weekend before last during which the clergyman scorned the idea that God can be involved in the specifics of the weather.  'We don't believe that God brings storms any more,' he chuckled.

Amusingly, we then sang the hymn 'I cannot tell why he, whom angel's worship' which contains the priceless line: 'When at His bidding every storm is stilled.'  After the service I gently (I can actually do 'gently') reminded the minister of that line, and of the occasion upon which the Lord Himself calmed the storm on Lake Galilee and of God sending drought then 'an abundance of rain' at the bidding of Elijah.  I asked him if he thought it was the case that God can't actually do stilling storms and sending rain any more, or whether He simply can't be bothered.  His response was that these Biblical things were 'allegorical'.

Allegorical of what seemed an unfair question, so I reminded the minister, who appeared just about old enough to know, of the miracles of weather when we were fighting Nazi Germany during World War II.  Many of them are recounted in the excellent little book 'We have a Guardian' which we sell for just 1.50 incl P&P.  To take just one and possibly the most famous example, the weather forecast for D-Day was distinctly unfavourable, and General Eisenhower came close to postponing the invasion.  But then, as he himself put it:

'If there were nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an almighty and merciful God, the events of the next twenty-four hours did it ... The greatest break in a terrible outlay of weather occurred the next day and allowed that great invasion to proceed, with losses far below those we had anticipated.' (Op cit, p53)

'Some people said that was God,' replied the minister.  How depressing to think of God as a distant deity far removed from the affairs of this world, not troubling to intervene in answer to prayer, not caring if - well - if we all die or go to hell or both.  And how forgetful of that wonderful event in human history when God Himself became one of us, walked this earth, did miracles, real not allegorical ones, when He fed the hungry, healed the sick and raised the dead, and with a power that Harry Potter will never know, laid down His life and took it up again to bring salvation for all who will repent and believe the good news.

But I digress.  Two years ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and its three abortion clinics.  I observed at the time that the coincidence of the hurricane's name was uncanny.  'Katrina' means 'purity' I observed, and I suggested that purity had indeed washed over that city just before the 'Southern Decadence' parade.  It was objected that the French Quarter, where much of the actual decadence would happen, was the only area of New Orleans built on high enough ground to escape the flooding.  So 'the gays' partied anyway, while bodies floated in the water.

But at least in New Orleans , Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco called for a State-wide day of prayer.  New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas commented, 'Maybe God's going to cleanse us.'  On this rather less God-fearing side of the pond, my speculations were described as 'extreme'.

Nevertheless, after the flooding at the end of June which devastated parts of Yorkshire , the Bishop of Carlisle, Graham Dow, suggested that the floods were the result of both a lack of respect for the planet and a judgment on our society's moral decadence.  He cited laws which undermine marriage, citing the Sexual Orientation Regulations as the latest example.  He was, rather predictably, castigated, and again it was unsure whether his critics thought God could not do that sort of judgment any more, or whether, if He still could, He was these days a lot more relaxed about institutionalised homosexuality than He used to be.

Bishop Dow was not alone.  The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, observed that 'People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God,' but went on to say, 'We are now reaping what we have sown.  If we live in a profligate way then there are going to be consequences.  God is exposing us to the truth of what we have done.'  The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, was even more centred on the generality of global warming as a judgment and less specific to Britain , or England , than Dr Jones, but His God was still a God a judgment, and rightly so.

However, the prophet Joel is quite clear that God sends judgment on a nation for her sins and that this judgment can, and in the case he cites has, come in the form of adverse weather.  Joel speaks specifically of drought, while the plague of locusts to which he refers was brought in on the wind.  It is only at the end of his prophecy, when he is talking about a worldwide judgment, that he specifies the sins of Judah, to whom his words are directed.  Joel 3:3, 19 and 21 show that judgment described in Joel 1:1-2:11 had come upon Judah because of prostitution, homosexuality, drunkenness and the shedding of innocent blood, probably in child sacrifice (of which we in Britain have our own modern-day version).

But why am I quoting Joel, who wrote about the devastation brought about by drought and locust, in connection with flooding?  Firstly because it is different forms of weather which bring adverse effects in different climates.  In the Middle East , rain is precious, and is seen as a sign of God's blessing.  The absence of rain there is more serious than here, where all it seems to mean is flushing the loo less often.  Locusts devastate even the sparse crops and vegetation which the drought has left.

For us, the wreckage from flood of horticulture and arable farming across counties known for growing is every bit as serious as the damage from locusts.  Livestock too have either been washed away or seen their pasture vanish and their winter feed destroyed.  Farmers are talking of selling what stock they have left because of the ruin of the hay and silage crops.

Property also has been washed away or wrecked by the floods.  The costs of the summer flooding so far is 5 billion.  The economy will suffer from businesses being submerged and from the amount of time people have had to spend either stuck on the M5 in traffic or simply clearing up.  So the extremes of our weather have affected us just as badly as the extremes of their weather did for Judah .

But there is another twist to the drying up of Joel's 'rivers of waters.'  For me, the most paradoxical thing that happened in the floods over the West of England this month was that in the midst of flood, there was a drought.  The water treatment plant at Mythe near Tewkesbury flooded.  Either Severn Trent Water or their predecessors built it on a flood plain.  That's right.  A company which knows all about water built a treatment plant where any fool could tell them it was certain eventually to be flooded.

When we read on in Joel we find that his desire and that of the Lord is that Judah should repent of her sin.  When they do that, says the Lord, everything will be restored to them and 'Ye shall know that ... I am the Lord your God' (Joel 2:27 & 3:17).  This is 'seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matt 6:33).

It is also a recognition the 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom' (Prov 9:10).

I firmly believe that a people humble before the Almighty and having the fear of God before their eyes would be made wise in everything.  It would not just be that they would pass righteous laws amongst which would be those to stop the shedding of innocent blood in the land.  It would also be that the Lord would send them the wisdom not to build water treatment plants and power substations on flood plains and to spend the money which is currently going on immoral and expensive wars on infrastructure - including flood defences - to protect the taxpayers who have provided it.

Certainly, if we follow our Lord's teaching about the Galileans and the tower in Siloam (Luke 13:1-5) the people of Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire are not worse sinners than those in the rest of this United Kingdom, but unless we all repent, worse will happen.  It cannot be any coincidence that all this has happened just as the most destructive Prime Minister in living memory departments and a new man steps into his shoes.

If he were listening to the Lord, or if he had any prophets who were listening to the Lord, Gordon Brown would be doing more than Governor Blanco and calling a day of prayer, although he would do that.  He would be seeking the face of God and leading the people in repentance for our national sins, of which not the least is the shedding of innocent blood.  Reading Joel 2:12-27, we see that God commanded exactly that in Judah , and promised a blessing.  God does not change.  He desires to bless, not curse.  He desires to be in the midst of us too, as our Shield and Protector:

Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:

13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto 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 elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.

17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?

18 Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.

19 Yea, the LORD will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen:

20 But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.

21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.

22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength.

23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.

24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

25 And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.

26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.

27 And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel , and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.