The vision in Jeremiah 1:11-12 of a staff of almond wood contains a pun in Hebrew. But there’s something else going on in the text beyond just the pun.
Jeremiah accuses the Israelites of doing something incredibly foolish: forsaking a reliable source of water for cisterns that cannot even hold water. The prophet uses this image as a metaphor for Israel’s religious infidelity.
Many politically conservative Christians in America are tempted to resist, even to the point of armed rebellion, the results of the what they believe to be an illegitimate election. But Jeremiah’s letter to the exiled Jews in Babylon would point them in a different direction.
Joel sees the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as an eschatological event, an event that demarcates what was for him the “age to come” from what was his “present age”. As Christians, we live in the “age to come” and are beneficiaries of the ideal experience of all Israel having the Spirit and prophesying that is anticipated by Moses in Numbers 11:24-30.
A translation and commentary on Joel 2:32 – “And it will be that all who call upon the name of the LORD will be saved. For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be an escape, just as the LORD has said, and among the survivors, whom the LORD is calling.”
If we truly have hearts that trust in God – if we truly want to join in with the faith-filled worldview of the prophet Joel – let us wait on God and believe that that even now he is both willing and able to forgive us, to save us, and to save our world.
Does Joel see God punishing Israel’s sin through the natural disasters such as the locust plague described in chapters 1 and 2? Perhaps (he has the right), but God likely has multiple purposes in a disaster. Whether we are sinful or righteous, our response to disaster ought to be the same: turn to Yahweh.
The KJV rendering of Psalm 5:3 can give one the impression that this is a prayer of general devotion to be recited in the morning. However, a careful reading of the psalm shows that quite a bit more is going on here.
To get the most out of Hebrew poetry when reading it in English: (1) look for subtle comparison and contrast, not bland repetition; (2) look for layered parallels; (3) look for movement in the parallels. Want to know more? Read this article.
Reading the poetic portions of the Old Testament in English, especially in the Prophets, can be challenging. But the fact is that the more familiar one becomes with the poetic sections of the Prophets, the more one sees that they are absolutely, vitally central to the NT. In the end, the way to make OT poetry interesting and understandable is not by retreating from it but by studying it even more intensely using all the imaginative and scholarly resources at your disposal.