Pay Attention to Joel and Amos
Joel and Amos were two prophets who reminded the Children of Israel that they needed to turn back to God, for their refusal to honor God would continue to cause further destruction of their homes, cities, and lives. They wanted the people to change, to purify their lives. In addition to reprimands, Joel and Amos gave people hope. In his introduction to Joel in the Bible, Eugene Peterson affirms that Joel "used a current event in Israel [a locust infestation] as a text to call his people to an immediate awareness that there wasn't a day that went by that they weren't dealing with God." God is always with us. And Amos declared that God, who was in charge of every nation, would rebuild the cities. All it takes is unwavering faith, humility, and genuine repentance.
- When emotional, physical, or environmental disaster strikes in our homes, schools, work, communities, countries, or world, how do we make a difference?
- If we make major mistakes, how do we set things right?
Joel and Amos give us ideas on how we can make a difference:
The major difference we can make is in our response. Rather than react with fear, worry, frustration, anger, we can remain calm and respond with love, even if we have been hurt. It's not what happens to us that defines who we are; it's how we respond to what happens to us.
- We must keep our faith in God and choose not to go along with the “naysayers” -- all the people who would deny that God exists.
- We're not going to throw in the towel because something awful happened, or jump to the conclusion that God is blind to us, or that there's no point in living.
- Are we going to say that God turned away when Jesus was crucified? Are we going to argue that if God is all good, He wouldn't have let His son be crucified? No! Jesus' crucifixion was for the glory of God -- to show that life is immortal. His suffering brought a greater reward.
- We can find strength knowing that others before us have overcome catastrophes. We have plenty of examples in the Bible.
- We can take comfort in knowing that God is not "in" destruction. God restores.
- Elijah learned this when he was running for his life from Jezebel. He learned that "the Lord was not in the wind … earthquake … fire." Rather, God was "a still small voice" (KJV I Kings 19:11-12).
- Jesus insisted: "Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh" (KJV James 3:12). God does not destroy. Suffering is the inevitable consequence of sin. God doesn't send suffering, since God is love.
- We can relax in the knowledge that God saves. Joel affirms, "GOD is a safe hiding place" (The Message, 3:16). Indeed, God is here for us even before we call.
- We can see any rough situation as an opportunity to find the blessings, to see God in action, and to glorify God.
- We can express our gratitude for all the good that is in our lives that God has given us.
- We, therefore, demonstrate unwavering faith by remaining calm in all situations -- willing and able to hear God's messages and direction -- because we trust that God has an answer of peace for all of us.
If we want to make a difference and be able to respond effectively with love in challenging times, we must use challenges as a chance to examine our lives, as Joel and Amos would have us do.
We all tend to make a lot of mistakes, but not everyone decides to learn from mistakes. Often, people think that others are to blame. Sometimes people become rather self-righteous about their own lives and condemn others' behaviors and beliefs without looking at their own lives -- an attitude that can create problems. What is needed is humility.
- We can begin examining our lives by asking and honestly answering the following questions:
- What attitude about others or ourselves do we hold?
- What in my own thought needs changing?
- What about my behavior needs to improve?
- We must be humble if we want to feel the power and presence of God.
- We cannot adopt a "holier-than-thou" attitude. That attitude breeds eventual destruction.
- Amos was pretty clear about this idea. We can't expect to be protected from the effects of sin, which is suffering, simply by talking righteously.
- We have to live pure, virtuous lives.
- We can be grateful that, as Joel reminds us, "it's not too late" (The Message, 2:12) to do what Amos tells us God wants us to do: "Seek me and live" (5:4). God is always welcoming us.
- Of course, we may have to do a little repenting. True repentance requires real change -- from the inside out.
- God is always ready to work with us.
- We just have to be ready to work with God.
- We can really listen -- open our hearts -- to the words of Joel:
Change your life, not just your clothes.
Come back to GOD, your God.
And here's why: God is kind and merciful.
He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot,
This most patient God, extravagant in love,
always ready to cancel catastrophe.
The Message, Joel 2:13
Joel and Amos call on us to:
- Place absolute trust in God; strengthen our faith;
- Express humility and examine our lives honestly;
- Change our lives from the inside out so that we honor God in everything we do.
When we do these, we cannot help but make a difference – in times of peace and in times of confusion. May you always feel that calm confidence in God.