Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thoughts on the Book of Joel (in many parts); Part 5

Rejoicing dries up from the sons of men

“Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the bridegroom of her youth.  The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the LORD.  The priests mourn, the ministers of the LORD.  The field is ruined, the land mourns; for the grain is ruined, the new wine dries up, fresh oil fails.  Be ashamed, O farmers, wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field is destroyed.  The vine dries up and the fig tree fails; the pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree, all the trees of the field dry up.  Indeed, rejoicing dries up from the sons of men” (Joel 1: 8-12).

When a drunkard rejoices he often rejoices with wine, women and song; these are the natural man’s holy trinity of joy.  When God judges mankind, he judges them according to the very gods they worship.  Thus, all marriages cease and all forms of fruitfulness fail; families are destroyed before they begin, ministries are abandoned, and livelihoods shrivel away.  My guess is that these people were as oblivious as we are today, and as oblivious as will be the people alive when Christ returns (and we might be them).  “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).

I do not believe this is an indictment for any one or all of the activities cited, but it is an indictment to maintaining an even keel thought-pattern like “business as usual” when something extraordinary is about to happen.  We are required to know the sign of the times, and after we have enjoyed material merriment to the full, we would be wise to look upward for any future fulfillment.  To be materially sated is too often to be spiritually dull, but being blessed to the maximum degree ought to cause more praise and tend towards spiritual vigor.

There are five fruits mentioned in the above verses, one of the vine, and four of trees, plus an allusion to oil (olive oil most likely) and two earth bound grains: wheat and barley.  The vinedressers are lumped together with the farmers, just as both must meticulously attend to their crops should they desire a harvest; plus, both are more earth bound than the matured fruit trees.  The implicative to “wail like a virgin” in sackcloth or mourning for a bridegroom (supposedly lost in battle) is a picture of the worst kind of waste and destitution for it is a waste and destitution of a primary kind.  She is a virgin, has never known marital bliss, and yet, while imagining it with all her might, has it replaced with an irredeemable rape.  So devastatingly thoroughgoing is this fall from grace that attrition has reached even unto mature and historically fruitful trees—the very mainsprings of the land.  Let us look at what these four fruit-bearing trees symbolically represent: fig, pomegranate, palm, and apple.