HARVEST THANKSGIVING: 22 AUGUST 2021
Joel 2:21-27 God restores fertility to the land
21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! 22 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. 23 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. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.
25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.
How can the prophet say, surely the Lord has done great things! When the prophet is speaking in this lesson, Israel is in the midst of disaster. They have faced drought and then numerous plagues of locusts, which have wiped out everything they have, and God can have him say: “Surely the Lord has done great things!”?
How can we in Australia, give thanks in the middle of drought, and then flooding, and fires, and now the coronavirus Pandemic?
We live in such an extreme place? We know drought. We hear stories of farmers having to shoot their sheep, and getting less for their cattle than it costs to transport them to the saleyards. In the middle of that, can we say “surely God has done great things?”
And then we pray for rain, and we get devastating floods like the Grantham flood that claimed lives or the Townsville flooding that wiped out livelihoods.
Yet there are hints that we must, as God is wanting us to do in this text, see a bigger picture. We must believe there is more to the world, and more to God’s plan for us than this. Somehow it seems evident that we have some sort of hope, because we keep bringing children into this fallen world. How could we do this, if we did not believe that in the midst of all this, that God is somehow in charge?
We keep on doing this, and we keep on giving thanks even in the middle of all this, because we know that there is more to God, and his plans for the world, than all this devastation. We know. Somehow we know, that the heart of God towards you and me is good. We must know. Or else bringing children into the world would be a calculated act of cruelty.
So how do we know?
First we listen to his promises,
Joel 2: 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—
“for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
We look back to see if they hold true…..
All through the bible, we see that even when there is judgement and punishment, there is blessing and restoration. Cain, after killing Abel, is worried that he will be killed, and God puts a mark on the murderer, to protect his life. He didn’t have to do that! It was an act of pure grace.
The world is evil, and God wipes it out with a flood, but saves some through water, and then makes a new covenant with them, and a promise to protect them from something like this ever happening again. Again, he did not have to do that! He could have wiped it all out completely and started again.
We see it over and over again in the Old Testament, as well as the new. Like the reading says, God’s love really does outweigh any thought of God’s anger.
Don’t lose faith:
I had some people in South Australia ask me if there was a drought on because God was angry with them, because too many had turned away, or because we were doing this or allowing that. They began to doubt that the heart of God for them was good.
Now you have to realise that when you go to South Australia, they tell you that it is the driest state in the driest continent on Earth. They wear it almost like a badge of honour. They tell you all the time. We must be tough to be able to survive in the driest state in the driest continent on earth!
So then when they asked me why they were in drought, I told them it was not because God was angry with them, or punishing them. God doesn’t need to punish us for any wrongdoing. Jesus took care of that punishment. No, I said it was dry because they were trying to farm the edge of a desert. Strangely, that didn’t go down too well.
But if didn’t live in a world that had droughts in some places, then there would not be wet seasons in other places at the same time. We live in a world where there are earthquakes, but if we did not have a world with moving tectonic plates and a molten core, then we would not have a world that sustains life as it does. God is not punishing us when things go wrong as we see them. We cannot bend God to our expectations, and expect the world he has made to suit us, and only us, just when we want.
Look at verse 23 above:
23 Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he (emphasis mine) is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
Because WHO is faithful? He does not give us the rains because WE are faithful, or because we have prayed the right amount of prayers, like sacrificing virgins to some pagan fertility cult so that we can get what we want. He does not do anything because of who WE are, but because of who HE is. And he is good. And he is loving. And he is, we hear in Romans 8, for us (so who can be against us?).
If we need any further proof of whether or not the heart of God towards us is good, we need to look in one last place: we look to Jesus
In Jesus we see that the heart of God for us is good. In Jesus death we see the love of God suffering with us, and sacrificing his own firstborn to win us to himself, not the other way around, where we have to make sacrifices to the gods to get in their good books. And in the empty tomb we see that he is the real deal. He has the power over death and the grave and he gives that to us.
Do we need any more reason than this to give thanks? God gave us the best that he could give. How can we not give him all the thanks we can give?
Thank the Lord, who gives us so many things, who gives us life, and when it is over, gives us life again. Life that we cannot possibly imagine.
How amazing it will be!