By Sherry Black
A Reading from Joel 1:1-13
1 The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel:
2 Hear this, O elders;
give ear, all inhabitants of the land!
Has such a thing happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
3 Tell your children of it,
and let your children tell their children,
and their children another generation.
4 What the cutting locust left,
the swarming locust has eaten;
what the swarming locust left,
the hopping locust has eaten;
and what the hopping locust left,
the destroying locust has eaten.
5 Wake up, you drunkards, and weep,
and wail, all you wine drinkers,
over the sweet wine,
for it is cut off from your mouth.
6 For a nation has invaded my land,
powerful and innumerable;
its teeth are lions’ teeth,
and it has the fangs of a lioness.
7 It has laid waste my vines
and splintered my fig trees;
it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down;
their branches have turned white.
8 Lament like a virgin dressed in sackcloth
for the husband of her youth.
9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off
from the house of the Lord.
The priests mourn,
the ministers of the Lord.
10 The fields are devastated,
the ground mourns,
for the grain is destroyed,
the wine dries up,
the oil fails.
11 Be dismayed, you farmers;
wail, you vinedressers,
over the wheat and the barley,
for the crops of the field are ruined.
12 The vine withers;
the fig tree droops.
Pomegranate, palm, and apple—
all the trees of the field are dried up;
surely, joy withers away
among the people.
13 Put on sackcloth and lament, you priests;
wail, you ministers of the altar.
Come, pass the night in sackcloth,
you ministers of my God!
Grain offering and drink offering
are withheld from the house of your God.
The word of the Lord that came to Joel…
Who is this Lord who speaks these words?
The Hebrew YHWH is nearly universally translated as “the Lord.” We occasionally will see it translated “Yahweh,” or even “Jehovah.” Few modern translations use anything but “the Lord,” even though Yahweh is the best, most direct translation.
Yahweh is the name of God as God revealed it to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM,” and “I AM has sent me to you.” It’s a personal name reflecting the intimacy of relationship and encompasses the promises Yahweh made to the Hebrews. “Lord,” a name of power, authority, and high position, emphasizes God’s “aboveness.” But remember: this is also the Lord who is also known and who knows us, who is named Yahweh, who speaks to his people.
Yahweh is not removed, but intimately involved with his people, even during the catastrophic devastation of locusts we hear of in our reading today, where life fails in every order, from drunkards to priests, from elders and children to beasts: “Surely, joy withers away among the people.” And still, Yahweh is the One to whom we cry out.
Crops are still destroyed by pestilence, fire, drought; there are devastating floods even now in Pakistan. We have lived through the terrible pandemic of COVID-19.
Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord. (v. 14)
We call upon Yahweh most readily in times of trouble. And God, whose name is Yahweh, hears our cries.
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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The Diocese of Newcastle – The Church of England
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