"Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing…" - Joel 2:14
So much of popular religion seems so formulaic. The most popular religions are the ones that promote a certain set of scriptures, messages, symbols, rules, codes and even 'secrets'as the key to unleashing the blessings of divine favor.
The guarantee of divine favor is just about certain to garner mass appeal and applause.
Living under the rigors of Persian domination and suffering with a plague of locusts sometime between 500 to 450 BCE, the people of Israel could have used some sacred certainty or some religious formula to assure them of imminent deliverance during their dark days of duress.
But that's not quite what they received when they looked to God's word through the prophet, Joel.
To be sure, Joel directed the people to rend their hearts and repent before God - indicating his certainty regarding the sinfulness of humanity.
Then Joel assures the people of who God is: "The Lord your God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…"
But what the prophet is careful not to do is give any kind of formula, prediction or assurance of what God will do.
Maybe God will alter the course of events with mercy and blessings. Or maybe God will continue the course of events with the execution of judgement. According to Joel, no one knows. But God.
This is the kind of faith that is so unsettling to so many of us. We want definite divine requirements and guarantees of definite divine results.
But real faith is not about promising what nobody really knows. Real faith is about trusting God in the face of all that we really don't know.
God, grant us certain faith in these uncertain times. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.