Connections 10.23.2022: God in the Midst

Joel 2:23-32

The “end times” are big business.

When I was in youth group in the 1980s, we had a leader who was really into end-times stuff. At lock-ins we watched ‘70s-era apocalypse movies, and for many years I carried a bookmark in my Bible describing all the possible tribulation timelines. I remember feeling a lot of fear and worry because of the “last days” they told us were coming very soon.

People have been waiting forever for the time when God would come to eternally punish those who deserve it and to make all things right for the rest of us. (I hope you can “read” me winking broadly at that sentence!) The earliest Christ-followers expected Jesus to return any minute now. That was more than two thousand years ago. Ever since then, Christians have been looking toward the skies. We’ve been buying books that stoke fears of being left behind, watching movies that warn of thieves in the night, and sending big bucks to TV evangelists and blustering preachers who claim they are the ones who have finally correctly interpreted all the signs and portents.

The yearning for that “day of the Lord” has been tugging at the hearts of God’s people since long before Jesus. In fact, he is the product of centuries of this yearning. For the Israelites exiled to Babylon, and for those—like the community of the prophet Joel—ravaged by invading armies, the promise of God’s ultimate salvation is a dream they simply must cling to. The same prophets who proclaim God’s judgment and anger also proclaim that God will fulfill God’s promises in the long-awaited “great and terrible day of the Lord” (v. 31).

In Joel’s prophecy everything about God’s restoring work is larger-than-life. God will bring abundant rain for every season; the harvest will be abundant, the wine overflowing, God’s spirit pouring out and the people’s praise rising up. Yes, Joel also describes the dramas of a darkened sun and blood and fire and smoke, but this is not separate from the harvest and the wine and the spirit and the praise. All these things take place for a reason: not to scare us, but so “you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other” (v. 27).

I don’t remember my youth leader ever teaching us that in the end times, God would be in our midst. I don’t remember ever hearing that God would “deal wondrously with you” (v. 26). I definitely didn’t hear that God’s spirit would lead both sons and daughters to prophesy (v. 28)! Suns turning to darkness, blood moons, and signs and survivors will probably always be big business. But those who yearn for God’s true justice, for ultimate restoration, for the coming of God’s spirit to all people, and for abundance and praise will “never be put to shame.” We can take part in justice and restoration today. We can respond to the spirit, share our abundance, and join together in praise. Instead of buying into fear and fantasy, we can already rejoice in the truth: God is in our midst. We can already proclaim: The Lord is our God, and there is no other.


  • What have you been taught about the “day of the Lord”? What are you hopeful for? What are you fearful of?
  • How does Joel’s prophecy of restoration and abundance connect to the pouring out of God’s spirit on all people? How is his prophecy of a darkened sun and blood and smoke connected? How do these events communicate “God in the midst”?
  • What does it mean to you to remember God’s presence among us? How do you think that presence will change in the “end times”? How is that presence real and powerful in your life today?
  • Think about each of Joel’s prophecies: abundant harvests, bountiful praise, the spirit working through all people, and even the physical portents. Can you think of instances you have witnessed in your own life when you knew God was at work in one of these ways? What made you associate those events in your life with the presence of God?
  • If all these prophecies are to take place so that God’s people can know that God is in their midst and that God is the one Lord, do we need to wait until the “end times” to know this? How can you practice being aware of God’s intimate presence in your midst this week?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at


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