"I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." - Joel 2:28 (NIV)
When I choose part of the Bible to read for my own inspiration, I rarely turn to Joel or the other "minor” prophets. Usually it feels like panning for gold – too many rocks to sift through.
When I start feeling that way, I need to get past my disconnect with locust plagues and listen to how God might still be speaking through ancient voices. Believers from Joel’s time to mine have preserved and passed on his words as inspired by God.
When the Jews faced the possibility of a 5th century B.C. holocaust, Joel's little book inspired Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai to gather, fast, pray, and trust (Esther 4:3).
When the Apostle Paul was writing to the Romans, he quoted Joel 2:32 as motivation to spread the good news: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
When the Jerusalem crowd accused Peter and the others of intoxication on the day of Pentecost, Peter noted that Joel had foreseen the day the Holy Spirit would make obsolete what we now call sexism and ageism. Crisis would help God's people see that we need every human voice as we seek to discern God's.
During our crises we might be tempted to blame or belittle God. In Joel's day people assumed their crisis implied God's absence or apathy. Eugene Peterson says God "used a current event in Israel as a text to call [God's] people to an immediate awareness that there wasn't a day that went by that they weren't dealing with God. We are always dealing with God."
Whatever disrupts my life, my community, or my world today, Lord, help me discern through unexpected voices how you are dealing with me. Through Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.
Bob Thompson is Pastor of Corinth Reformed Church (UCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, and President of Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC.