Our curriculum focuses on God’s promise of presence in v27, and the removal of the people’s “shame” in vv26 and 27. Some of us, however, might have difficulty abstracting that promise from the larger context of the book of Joel, in particular God’s direct statement that God sent the army of locusts in the first place (v25). This is a promise of presence that comes explicitly after a demonstration of the opposite of that presence. How then are we to understand all the various aspects of God’s character and relationship with the people that are disclosed in the larger text of Joel? We may find that our central, challenging question.
Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple of more focused questions we might want to reflect on or discuss in class:
Why do we think the instruction not to fear, and to “be glad and rejoice,” comes first to the earth, and to the beasts of the field, in vv21-22? What’s the impact of that instruction on the reader? What does it tell us about the relationships involved in this situation?
Any implications for us today? What are those, do we think?
How do we understand the cause of the people’s suffering? What about its purpose? What in the text leads us to think this? Why?
How do we understand God’s promise to be with the people, “in their midst”? Thoughts, feelings about that? Why?
How do we understand God’s relationship to the people, as described or demonstrated in this text? How would we describe it? Why?
How is this relationship similar to other relationships we can think of? How is it different from those relationships? How do those similarities and differences affect the way we think about God’s relationship with the people?
[more personal] How is God’s relationship with the people in this text similar to, or different from, God’s relationship with people today? Do we think? What do we think, how do we feel about that? Why?
[a lot more personal] What do our responses to the text tell us about ourselves and our theology, our understanding of God, do we think?
[still a lot more personal, actually] How does what we read in the Bible inform our understanding of God, do we think? How do we feel about that?
Why is the people’s adversity a source of shame, do we think? How does God’s presence in the people’s midst remove that shame, do we think?
How is that related to the conditions that bring shame on people today, do we think? What is similar? What is different? How does that affect the way we understand this text, do we think?
[more theological, and also more personal] Do we ever attribute our own or other people’s present-day suffering to divine activity? When? Why, or why not? What seem to be the pros and cons of thinking that way about God’s relationship to people’s suffering? What questions do we have about this?
All in all, this text gives us a lot to think about, however we read it, and whatever we find ourselves wanting or needing to do about that.
Image: “Christ and the Samaritan woman at the Well,” [crop] John Linnell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons