This passage in Joel is one of the lectionary readings for Thanksgiving Day. You can imagine it being read aloud at a Thanksgiving Service, with its images of lush, green pastures, abundant rain, and vats overflowing with grain and oil. So tied to the land, the people of Israel viewed fruit trees and vines bursting with fruit as a tangible sign of God’s blessing. Looking back on the previous chapters reminds us that all this bounty comes after a period of intense suffering and scarcity in which harvests were ruined, animals starved, and the people’s joy completely withered away.
But now, things are dramatically different, and these images of restoration and plenty exceed their past painful memories. God’s presence is assured, as is their complete recovery:
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you (v. 25).
Would the Israelites in today’s passage have recognized their abundance if they had never known such scarcity? Would they have taken for granted the gifts God rained down upon them if they had never experienced a dry spell? Were there unseen gifts of community and grace even in the harshest of times? In between the experience of loss and the experience of riches, the Israelites find their way back to God. Maybe it was in being again brought near to God that they are able to see the sweep of their lives, and all its happenings, as infused with God’s abiding love.
What current struggle of yours may be a “seed” for a better tomorrow? How could you cultivate that idea by living in ways that bring you deeper hope?
God, give me a fresh perspective when I need it. Remind me that I see things only in part, and that there’s an abundance of grace when I return to you. Amen.