Posted by: lepages | November 25, 2010

Responding to failure…

Notes from my second preach from Joel, and another locusts video clip…..

Getting real about living in a fallen world
Responding to failure – Joel 2:1-17

Turn with me if you would to Joel 2:1-17.

Before we read the passage I want to show you a video clip from the BBC series Wild Africa to help you visualise what we then read of. We will go straight into the reading after the clip.

READ Joel 2:1-17

So, where is your God?

In a week which has seen Muslims burning a large poppy in protest at British involvement in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, when thousands of students and lecturers protest against increased student tuition fees and violence breaks out from some, some might turn around and say ‘Where is their God? If there is a God why doesn’t he do anything?’

As Joel wrote and the people faced the failure of their crops as a result of this invasion of locusts, there was a fear that other nations would mock and say ‘Where is their God?’

Joel sets out to cause the people to respond to the failure which they are seeing. He builds on what is written in the first chapter – and in fact through the 3 chapters of this prophecy there is a progressive building. Some commentators would say that in the passage we have just read he is no longer using graphical language to describe the devastation of a locust invasion, but has moved on from there and is using the illustration of the locusts approach as a metaphor for the invasion of the country by Assyrian forces. Whether that’s a true interpretation or not I’m not sure. There doesn’t seem to be any physical reference to the Assyrian people at this point in the prophecy – and all the language is in metaphor – v4,5

‘they gallop along like cavalry… with a noise like that of chariots…’

If Joel was speaking of a physical army invading from Assyria, or any other country surely he wouldn’t say ‘like cavalry….like that of chariots..’

Joel ups the metaphors of this invasion of locusts to get people to stand up and take notice.

He’s going to repeat what he’s said before – he’s going to remind the people of the awful affect that this invading army of locusts is going to have, and he’s going to repeat his call to the people to not just live with the failure of their crops, but to respond to the failure by coming together and calling out to God.

We need too to take seriously the failures that we face – the personal failures, the economic and moral failures in our nation, the failures that exist around our world that leave communities devastated. In our cell group on Thursday we had a good honest think about the failure of the economy and its resultant effect on individual lives as a result of the Government’s seeking to address it and get Government spending back under control – we thought about how it is affecting lives that we know and the potential to affect some of the lives in the group and those around it.

Last week we thought about ‘facing the facts’, ‘feeling the feelings’ and the call to ‘Cry out to the Lord!’
Joel repeats the calling this week, but he adds to it.

He says, don’t just think about the effect on your life, but think about what this will mean for the honour of your God.

You see the reason God is calling his people to repent, to turn their lives around to him, to cry out to him in the midst of failure is because he is concerned for his honour, he wants his character to be known!

So Joel reminds the people about the awful situation they’re facing, he reminds them of the call to fast and call a sacred assembly – he repeats the call to blow the trumpet to call attention and sound the alarm – he calls the people to cry out to God to spare his people so that God’s promises do not become an object of scorn (v17), so that he does not become a byword among the nations – I can’t help feeling at times that the name ‘Jesus’ has become a byword amongst so many in our age – the lyrics of that fantastic hymn:-

Jesus! the Name high over all,
In hell or earth or sky;
Angels and men before it fall,
And devils fear and fly.
Jesus! the Name to sinners dear,
The Name to sinners giv’n;
It scatters all their guilty fear,
It turns their hell to Heav’n.

are not words that would ring in the thoughts of those who use the name of Jesus as an exclamation each day.

Joel reminds the people that they are to declare this holy fast, this sacred assembly and to call out to God, because they should call on God to act so that people cannot say mockingly, ‘Where is their God?’

Don’t you want to see God acting in our day so that people cannot say ‘Where is their God?’

Well, come on Thursday. Take time out of your normal schedule. Fast, whether from food or from something else so that you can give extra time to cry out to God – to cry out for our nation, for our world, to cry out for the name of Jesus to be honoured again in our land.

Come and remind yourself of the character of the God that we come to cry out to.

Joel calls the people to respond to the situation they are facing, he calls them to turn their lives back to God and he reminds them of the nature of this God they are come to.

I want this morning to just remind you, as Joel did, of the character of our God.

Firstly, he is gracious.

‘Courteous, kind, and pleasant, esp. toward someone of lower social status’

Isn’t it fantastic when someone treats you with grace, treats you with respect that you have no right to expect. That is how God chooses to treat you and to treat me – not because he has decided to be kind to us, but because it is his nature.

God is gracious. It’s not just that he acts with grace – it’s his nature.
He is gracious!

2 Peter 3:9 says:-

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’

God’s gracious nature means he is prepared to wait so that as many as possible will turn to him.

God is compassionate.

Noel & Tricia Richards penned some fantastic lyrics in their song ‘Filled with compassion’
Words which sum up in a few words the incredible nature of this God that we are called to turn to, to cry out to:-

Filled with compassion for all creation,
Jesus came into a world that was lost.
There was but one way that He could save us,
Only through suffering death on a cross.

God, You are waiting. Your heart is breaking
For all the people who live on the earth.
Stir us to action, Filled with Your passion
For all the people who live on the earth.

God, that we might have compassion for those around us like you do.
Willing to give your all in our place.
Willing to sacrifice your Son for us, to rescue us.
Willing to hold back on your judgement so that people do not perish.

Perhaps if we cry out to God for our nation, we might be able to say with Joel (v14)
‘Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing….’

Wouldn’t you just love God to demonstrate his grace and his compassion in our nation again and turn back many people to himself so they do not perish!

Wouldn’t you just love him to show grace and compassion which turns our society again to care for the bruised and the broken….

Our God is gracious, and our God is compassionate, but he’s also slow to anger

Act out
Would you stop doing that right now!!
How many times do I have to tell you!
Don’t you know how much that annoys me!

I guess we’ve all received that sort of reaction at some time in our lives.
Maybe we’re guilty of making that sort of reaction.
Maybe, even today we’ve already gone off the handle at some one – perhaps a member of our family, perhaps the idiot who cut you up at the junction, or who didn’t stop for you at the pedestrian crossing.

(Blogger pops in here on his notes as he posts them and says – this became a reality for me that morning! – listen to the preach online to hear how! Talk about embarrassing!!)

Aren’t you glad that our God is slow to anger
He should justly be angry with his church, for the way in which it has failed to really fulfil it’s mission, to really share this fantastic news of a God who is so gracious and compassionate that he does everything to save his people. God should justly be angry for the way in which his people the church have failed to love one another as he has loved us, of how we have failed to love our enemies.

But our God is slow to anger

The God we are called to come to is gracious and compassionate, he is slow to anger and he is also abounding in love.

What a fantastic phrase! ‘Abounding in love!’
The Message puts it as ‘extravagant in love’

God’s love isn’t conditional – well if you love me and obey my commands then I’ll love you – no, it’s exactly the opposite – ‘We love because he first loved us’ 1 John 4:19

‘God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16

God loves you so much! He loves this world so much!
It grieves his heart when he sees it messed up, but his longing, his desire is to restore it to how it should be. He could justly come in at any point in history, today, and destroy all that damages our world, but he relents from sending calamity

He doesn’t like to do it unless there is no other way. Some times it is the only way to get attention. Sometimes with a young child the only way to really get their attention is a short sharp smack on the hand – but it’s not God’s desire.

Our God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Surely we should have confidence in approaching a God like that.
Surely it should encourage us to turn back to him, to plead before him on behalf of our country, to plead before him to take action and to be ready to work with him, so that people will not say ‘Where is their God?’

Let’s come before this gracious, compassionate God, who is slow to anger, who is abounding in love, who relents from sending calamity and let us worship this amazing God as the only fitting response to who he is and his nature – and let us come together to cry out to this God to make his name known in our day and in our time.




  1. […] Last week we looked at some of the characteristics of the nature of the God we come to cry to. […]

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