Time to find your voice

Hey, I’m back! New year, new month, new book of the Bible! We’ve arrived at the book of Joel.

Joel. That’s one of those names that’s endured. It’s a popular boy’s name even now (although the highest it’s ever ranked among boys’ names in England and Wales was at 62 in 2001). Unlike Haggai or Amos or Obadiah – you don’t hear of many of those, do you?

Joel is a Hebrew name meaning YAHWEH is God. YAHWEH was the name given to the Hebrew God by His people, when they believed it was unacceptable to utter the name of God itself. The name of God was too holy to be spoken aloud. This word is where the English name Jehovah comes from.

Not much is know about this man Joel in the Bible. He’s ranked among the minor prophets – he’s not one of the big players –

The book of Joel is small and can be easily overlooked and yet it is packed with some big ideas. We’re going to have fun discovering these massive truths together this month! This book is a prophecy written as a poem and was written at the time when Jerusalem has been almost completely destroyed. Around 400BC. The people have returned from exile in Babylon (have a look at Daniel and Ezekiel if you need reminding of what it was like for God’s people to live in exile) and have built a new temple and repaired the walls of the city (as recorded in Nehemiah and Ezra).

Joel’s attention seems focused around the temple, so maybe he’d been a priest or served in the temple. Some of his phrases resonate with earlier writings of Ezekiel, Isaiah and Zephaniah, so perhaps he was aware of those.

Here goes –

The word of the Lord that came to Joel son of Pethuel.
Hear this, you elders;
listen, all who live in the land.
Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.  Joel 1:1-3

Joel doesn’t mess about. He grabs the attention of his listeners straight away. He knows that what he has to say is of utmost importance. For all the people – the elders and all the people who live in the land. God is speaking to His people – all His people – and everyone must sit up and take notice. God’s message is for everyone.

He’s going to reveal something new – something that has never happened before. To these people or to their ancestors. God’s people have seen a lot over the years and the stories have been passed down through the generations – we’ve worked through them ourselves as we’ve journeyed through the Old Testament. But that’s nothing compared to what Joel is about to reveal.

What he is going to speak about will be told and retold for generations to come. They won’t be able to keep it to themselves. It’s going to be big!

We’ll come to that tomorrow. I’ll keep you hanging until then!

find-your-voiceJust a thought though as I leave you today. I’ve been thinking a lot the last few weeks about finding a voice. I don’t know if you agree, but I feel as Christians, we’ve lost our voice. Our message of love and hope has become diluted. Partly, I believe, because we have become too comfortable and complacent and have conformed to the world in which we live. We don’t have much different to say because we’re not living particularly differently to those around us. Partly too because those who have spoken out loudly as Christians are not saying or doing the things that I want to align myself with. I’ve become embarrassed at times to call myself a Christian. I’ve become afraid to upset or offend anyone so I’ve ended up saying nothing.

But I feel strongly that I should be finding my voice this year. Maybe you do too about yourself. I feel we should be speaking up for God’s love and hope and truth and joy. We should be living God’s way and showing that God’s way is the best way to live. Showing it in action. We should be speaking up about injustice and for all those who have no voice.

I believe that we should have so much to say through our words and actions because living with God is exciting and how can we keep that to ourselves? I’m not a big fan of strategies and programmes and missions really – I don’t think they should be necessary because we have all the opportunities we need with the people around us every single day to share what’s going on in our lives and how God is at work in the world.

So I’m with Joel –

Hey! Listen up! Has anything like this ever happened before? You’ll never guess what God did in my life this week.

Yesterday, my auntie was telling me about an answer to prayer that she’d shared with her house group and when she’d spoken up the following week, the leader had said ‘This isn’t another one of your little stories, is it?’  She hadn’t gone back to the group again.

One of your little stories? A story about how a woman in her eighties with plenty of tough stuff going on is praying and being encouraged by God. How is that a little story? That’s a great story. That is God at work right here, right now. These are the stories we should be telling. We shouldn’t be struggling to talk about God at work in our lives because God should be at work in our lives every single day.

These are the stories those around us need to hear and we need to be finding our voice and not keeping all this good stuff to ourselves!


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