Vindication

The book of Joel has long been one of my favorites. I really can’t explain why. I guess there’s just something about a book that talks about hordes of locusts infesting the land, legions of soldiers overrunning the place, and then God coming and putting an end to it all when the people repent. In Joel 2, we have the story of what God wants to do – what God will do – when we repent of whatever sin we may have allowed to nearly destroy us. It is the story of restoration and even blessing. Starting in verse 12, we hear the call for the people of God, nearly destroyed by their own sin, to “turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster.” And then the prophet goes on to explain that, if they do, God will relent from destroying them and bless them instead with grain, new wine , and olive oil – things which were virtually extinct in Israel of the day; honor; security; restoration from the locusts and armies; bountious food; and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All of these things are important, to be certain. But I think there is one thing, in particular, among this entire list that I know I have a tendency to overlook. But it is this one thing that should bring me more joy than just about anything else. Because it is this one thing which opens the door for God to do all of these other wonderful things.

Look at verse 23: “Children of Zion, rejoice and be glad in the Lord your God, because He gives you the autumn fain for your vindication. He sends showers for you, both autumn and spring rain as before.”

In the Old Testament, God was pretty clear. If the people were disobedient and sinful, He would withhold the rain, resulting in a dry spell which would develop into an outright drought, which would eventually become a full-scale famine. The first half of Joel describes exactly this happening. Not in so many words, mind you, but rather, we learn of a massive, four-wave locust infestation. Locusts thrive in warm, dry conditions. The warmer and drier it is, the more locusts you will have. To have four catastrophic waves, it must have very hot and very dry.

In other words, the people must have been very disobedient and sinful.

But in they will repent, then Joel 2:23 exhorts, “Children of Zion, rejoice and be glad in the Lord your God, because He gives you the autumn rain for your vindication” (HCSB).

Did you catch that?

If they repent, then they should rejoice because God would send rain. And the rain would be “for your vindication.”

Two things strike me about this phrase, and both come from possible understandings of the word “for.”

The rains came as a result of their renewed righteousness. In other words, now that they had repented, the sin issue was resolved. In God’s eyes, they were once more innocent. And so He allowed it to rain. That’s pretty cool.

The rains came to bring renewed righteousness. Just as baptism is symbolic of my cleansing as a believer, these showers were to be seen as symbolic of Israel’s.

The call to rejoice renewal of the rain is understandable enough. I can remember several occasions when, after long spells of hot, dry weather, I have stood outside in the first rain and simply let it soak me. It is such a refreshing feeling that it’s almost impossible to not rejoice. But this wasn’t really about the rain.

It was about the vindication.

When I have fallen down in sin and finally repent, I should rejoice in the fact that I am, because of God’s forgiveness, once again, innocent. That is, even though I was guilty, God once more considers me clean. This is phenomenal news, to be certain, and yet, how often, even after I repent, do I have a tendency to continue mourning, to keep beating myself up…

…to keep loathing myself for my failure, my sin!

But the good news of Joel 2:23, for me, is that, as soon as I repent, God will start blessing because I am once again clean.

I AM ONCE AGAIN CLEAN!

I want to shout it from the mountaintops! No longer do I have to beat myself up or tear myself down. The moment I repent, truly, earnestly, God vindicates me. And while I may still have some lingering consequences of that sin to deal with, I am clean.

And suddenly, I can rejoice. I should rejoice. Indeed, I must rejoice.

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