Addressing A History Of Sin In A Nation – Joel 2:12-29
By Angela Dixon
About 2 years ago, a friend and I were praying about the army mentioned in Joel 2. I could not escape the Joel 2 passage for a long time. The imagery used is a swarm of locusts. As I studied the nature of locusts, I found something very peculiar that seemed to illustrate an issue that was close to my heart.
First, allow me to explain the peculiarity. Locusts start off as regular grasshoppers. When a large group of grasshoppers are pushed together in close proximity, something remarkable happens. The stimulus of having their legs bumped into and being crowded causes the hormone, Serotonin to be released in them. This hormone causes the very genetic DNA of the grasshopper to morph from a harmless, docile, independent creature to an aggressive, agitated, pack animal.
As each of these grasshoppers begin to experience this change, a sort of energy or momentum is built up, until the whole hoard takes off. They now begin to move as a common mass, consuming everything in their path. The swarm’s sole focus is to consume. They are driven by near panic to consume, consume, consume. Not only have they lost connection to their original nature, but they begin to do things that are totally opposite of their nature. Though they were once docile and independent creatures, they now only move with the fury of the hoard. Another remarkable change is that once a grasshopper has morphed into the locust state, they only give birth to locust babies, not normal grasshopper babies! Thus, their numbers multiply in aggressive measures. Locust swarms are virtually unstoppable. The only natural cause for a locust swarm to die out is if they can no longer find a source of food or if they reach a massive body of water like the ocean or a sea.
How similar has our history of racism been in America. First, a group of Europeans got a case of wanderlust and felt Europe was not enough for them. They were feeling limited in their territory and craved more resources to consume. Their exploration led them to a fertile new land. The frenzy to consume the land began to escalate. Soon the swarm of Europeans invading the new land brought along with them destruction at a near panicked pace. The native peoples and many resources of this land were decimated. Enslaved Africans were forced into this land. Those of the swarm with the most money, land, and power dictated the direction of the swarm. The consumption continued unchallenged for many centuries.
We finally came to a time in our nation when the system was challenged. The swarm was forced to slow down. The intensity of the pace of the swarm was curbed, but the damage had been done. Entire generations, entire races and cultures had been destroyed and irreparably altered. In the process of this destruction, the swarming locust gave birth to locust babies. Each generation of babies born into the swarm also bore children into the swarm.
Now we are a nation still suffering the consequences of the swarm’s destruction. Though the swarm may not be at a full frenzied flight, there are little pockets of them buzzing about, continuing to perpetuate the damage begun by their forefathers. When a nation is plagued by the sin of their forefathers they only have two choices. One, they can live with the consequences and do little to redirect their course. Or, two, they can turn the opposite direction of the course their fathers set them on and determine a new path. Up to this point, our nation as a whole, has allowed the pathology of our history to dictate the well-being of our future. As a result, we have plateaued and are limited in our growth and influence.
During those early days of colonialism there was a powerful force moving people to enslave other humans. It was not just disdain for a racial group. It wasn’t even entirely about greed. It was the sin of idolatry, making a god of one’s self and ambitions with total disregard to the Lord. The prevailing sin we have in America today is idolatry of self. It is not unlike the original sin in the garden of Eden, or the transgression Lucifer himself committed that got him condemned for eternity. As a result of this self-worship, we have a variety of ills in our nation. One of the most prolific of these ills has been bitter racism.
How Do We Address This History Of Sin?
I believe there is a model prescribed by God Himself in scripture to turn a nation back to righteousness. It appears several times over the course of the history of Israel. The instance I want to look at is found in Joel 2:12-17.
After meditating on the nature of locusts for many weeks, I continued to study Joel 2. I attempted to highlight Joel 2:17 in my Bible. As I marked the page, I noticed a passage already highlighted on the back of the page bleeding through. The passage appeared to be the exact same size as the part I was attempting to highlight. The scripture on the back of the page was Joel 2:25. Immediately the Lord showed me that the two scriptures are directly linked. You can not have Joel 2:25 without practicing Joel 2:17.
Joel 2:12-17 (NIV)
12“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing- grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say “Spare your people, O Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Joel 2:25 & 2:28-29
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 . . . . . “
28 “And afterward, 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. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. . . . . “
There is so much to gain and unpack from these references, but I want to focus on some practical points in these scriptures.
Who is God Speaking To? THE PRIESTS = CHRISTIANS
Joel 2:17 “Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, . . . .”
1 Peter 2:9 says we have been called into a royal priesthood. In Old Testament times, the only people permitted to go into the presence of the Lord were the priests that had been properly consecrated.
Now, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, the veil has been torn and we all have access to the presence of the Lord like the priests. The priests used to intercede on behalf of the people before the Lord. Now we are permitted to intercede and pray for others. We are permitted to worship before the Lord. The priests had been the only ones that could worship before His presence. We can now operate in ways much like the priests of old.
It is also important to note that Joel 2:16-17 lists out specific people. Elders, children, nursing mothers and babies, bridegrooms and brides are all included. Why is this passage so specific? It is specific because it means EVERYBODY. There were times in the Old Testament when there were exemptions for corporate participation for certain people. For example, a newlywed groom was not to be called to serve in the army for a full year after his wedding. In this case, no one is left out. This indicates that the Lord expects everyone to respond to the call.
If God expects everyone to take responsibility and get involved, how does he want us to go about it? What does he want us to do? In part two of this article, I will expound on what I believe God is saying about how to apply this scripture and go about the process of undoing a history of sin in a nation.