Week of Proper 22: Saturday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of the Prophet Joel

Image in the Public Domain

God is Like What God Does (And Has Done)

OCTOBER 14, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Joel 4:12-21 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joel 4 in Jewish Bibles is equivalent to Joel 3 in Protestant ones, for Joel 3:1-5 in Hebrew Bibles is the same as the end of Joel 2 in Protestant translations.  Versification in parts of the Hebrew Bible can be confusing without access to a table showing the differences, so I share those two with you, O reader, here.

(God speaking in this text)

Let the nations rouse themselves and march up

To the Valley of Jehoshaphat;

For there I will sit in judgment

Over all the nations roundabout.

Swing the sickle,

For the crop is ripe;

Come and tread,

For the winepress is full,

The vats are overflowing!

For great is their wickedness.

Multitudes upon multitudes

in the Valley of Decision!

For the day of the LORD is at hand

In the Valley of Decision.

Sun and moon are darkened,

And stars withdraw their brightness.

And the Lord will roar from Zion,

And shout aloud from Jerusalem,

So that heaven and earth tremble.

But the LORD will be a shelter to His people,

A refuge to the children of Israel.

And you shall know that I the LORD your God

Dwell in Zion, My holy mount.

And Jerusalem shall be holy;

Nevermore shall strangers pass through it.

And in that day,

The mountains shall drip with wine,

The hills shall flow with milk,

And all the watercourses of Judah shall flow with water;

A spring shall issue from the House of the LORD

And shall water the Wadi of the Acacias.

Egypt shall be a desolation,

And Edom a desolate waste,

Because of the outrage to the people of Judah,

In whose land they shed the blood of the innocent.

But Judah shall be inhabited forever,

And Jerusalem throughout the ages.

Thus I will treat as innocent their blood

Which I have not treated as innocent;

And the LORD shall dwell in Zion.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Luke 11:27-28 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now as he [Jesus] was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said,

Happy is the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!

But he replied,

Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


For three weeks the first reading in this Monday-Saturday series of devotions has come from the Persian period.  That sequence ends with this post, for the first reading, beginning with Monday in the Week of Proper 23, Year 1, will come from Romans.  It is appropriate that this miniseries of devotions end with Joel’s description of the Day of the LORD.

Historical context is useful here.  The returned Jews and their descendants lived within the Persian Empire.  It was a benevolent empire as far as empires went, but this was a state of affairs far removed from the glory days of David and Solomon.  And enemies surrounded the Jews.  Joel spoke of a time when god would punish these foes, restore the glory of the Jews, and judge the nations from a seat in Jerusalem.

This is all about what God will do.  A Greek way of speaking of God was to describe attributes, but the Hebrew methodology was to recall what God had done.  (We see this in the Book of Psalms, for example.)  God is like what God does and has done, the reasoning went.  So this is the God who judges and forgives, who avenges his beloved people and conquers empires.

If God is like what God does (and has done), we are like what we do, barring accidents.  What are our dominant patterns of life?  May they reflect that we, like Mary of Bethany, listen to the teachings of Jesus and follow them, to the best of our abilities, as grace empowers us.  We have a model to follow; his name is Jesus of Nazareth.  As the Moravians say, “Our Lamb has conquered; let us follow him.”

Jesus is the ultimate observable example of what God has done.  God has become fully human, suffered, died, and risen again.  This is what God has done.  God has walked among us; may we walk with God, imitating Christ in the circumstances of our lives, whatever the cost may be.



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