Therapeutic Theology III: The Lost Context

Well, friends, it’s time once again to review one of those silly images shared on social media that take a passage of scripture and turn it into some feel good therapeutic nonsense. This one says: “God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. All you need is faith.” It claims to come from Joel 2:25.

As we always do, let’s see the original wording of the verse:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

Huh…so God can restore what is broken, eh? I assume what’s broken is…uh…whatever the locusts, hoppers, destroyers, cutters, and God’s great army ate? And where in the heck does faith fit into the picture? Do I need faith to handle the locust problem? Uh…I’m really confused here.

All right, so already we see a problem. Let’s review the real context of the passage:

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.

I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things.

Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.

The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” [Joel 2:18-27]

So is this about God taking something broken and making it all better, and all you need is faith? Actually no, it isn’t at all about that. The Jewish people had been called to repent, and this section takes place after said repentance would happen, and presents the promises which shall be fulfilled. The Lord promises to remove the plague of locusts that had come upon the people (see Joel 1:4), and proceeds to make promises for relief and joy…even eternal promises – promises which many commentators (even Jewish ones) believe to be about the age of the Messiah. The rest of the chapter continues on speaking of eternal rest in God and a prediction of Pentecost and the apostolic era.

This is all a fairly brief explanation, I know, but the overall premise is fairly well seen and clear in the entire reading. To be frank, these therapeutic interpretations of scripture are simply getting more and more removed from the original context. Please people, stop sharing these things!

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