I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely he has done great things! Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. – Joel 2:20-24
In today’s passage God is recounting how He will show up and have the backs of the people of Israel amidst calamity and invasion from the north. God describes drowning the invaders like a huge gust of wind, blowing them east into the Dead Sea and west into the Mediterranean Sea. This reminds me of the scenes from the Lord of the Rings when many foes are felled by superior power. Certainly God has that power if He chooses to use it and witnessing His doing so could certainly be scary. Perhaps that is why the passage says “Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
I find it interesting that God refers to the people of Israel as “wild animals”. The last time I remember reading about “wild animals” was back in Daniel when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was domesticated by God after being given the mind of an animal. So what is the difference between being a wild animal and being a human? I would argue that the main difference is that humans have the ability to reason and make choices and wild animals are driven by instinct and impulse. We make choices based on a complex calculus of emotions, physical needs, and experience.
So why would God refer to the people of Israel as wild animals? It seems like they were behaving in a way that made them subject to instincts and impulses rather than the reason given to them by God. The evidence for this appears to be the bad fruit, or lack of fruit, that the people are experiencing. God, the Father of the Rain, promises here to give the people “autumn rains because he is faithful”. God will make the people fruitful if they are “glad”, and “rejoice in the Lord your God”. God’s rain will bring both judgement and growth for the people.
God will send “abundant showers”, “both autumn and spring rains, as before”. I am not sure what is meant by “before”, perhaps that was hearkening back to God providing rain on a dry and dusty land or water to fill ravines. Rain is a funny thing. If you have too little rain plants die, too much rain and rivers flood, and rain at the wrong time and things get water logged.
I spend quite a bit of time in Haiti and it rains a lot there during certain times of the year. The first rainy season starts about when I usually arrive in Haiti, in Mid-May. For some reason most Haitians do not really like the rain, although they do appreciate the need for rain for their crops. I am not sure why they dislike the rain, perhaps it is because it sometimes brings danger and adversity in the form of thunderstorms and hurricanes. I suppose that is the same reason we fear God sometimes. We are afraid of the adversity and danger that following Him might lead to along the way. I guess the reassuring thing for me is that God has promised to be with us in the midst of adversity, ready to carry us like a son or daughter.
Prayer: Thank You God for providing the rain we need and being with us when things get hard.