Shame, Distress, or Despair

What causes shame, distress, or despair to surface in you?

Given the current events of early May 2020 many are struggling with these very emotions. Some are feeling shame, distress, or despair because their personal skillsets were not deemed “essential” which resulted in loss of a livelihood for themselves and their family.  Hair salons and barbershops are certainly in this challenging place.

Joel 1:11 describes a similar precarious situation where shame, distress, or despair are not just unpleasant emotions but a call to action.

ESV  Joel 1:11 Be ashamed, O tillers of the soil; wail, O vinedressers, for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field has perished.

At this point in Joel we have learned that the LORD is speaking through Joel to get the attention of the Israelite community following the destruction of their vegetation by hordes of locusts.

Who is the focus centered on in this verse?

Tillers of the soil and vinedressers’ livelihoods have been decimated. The harvest they tend has perished. Wheat, a crop typically for the wealthy of the community, and barley, a crop typically for the poorest of their community are both destroyed. In other words, every single person of the community has been impacted by the loss of the harvest.

What are the farmers and vintners instructed to do in this verse?

The translation above says “be ashamed”, but others translate the Hebrew word as “be distressed” or “despair”.

  • To be ashamed about something means one is struggling with a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.
  • Despair is defined as losing all hope or confidence.
  • Relating to, or experiencing economic decline or difficulty is the definition of distressed.

The use of the words distressed, and despair connect with the fact that the locusts have eaten the vegetation to the point that there is no possibility of a harvest for people or other animals to eat. Economic decline is the reality which certainly generates a sense of hopelessness.

But be ashamed? Why mention shame in a situation that was beyond one’s control? What have the farmers and vintners done that indicates they should express personal guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety?

This verse is providing a foreshadowing of what will be revealed more clearly later in Joel, but the preceding verses have already given us some hints as to why the people are being told to be ashamed.

What hints can you find that help explain the use of “be ashamed” as you read Joel 1:1-11 ?

One hint I see is that locusts have previously appeared in the Bible as a tool of destruction. A significant example is found in Exodus 10:1-20, the eighth plague against the Egyptians because of their refusal to let the Israelites leave.

The opening verses of Exodus 10 aids in understanding both what is happening in Moses’ day and Joel’s.

ESV  Exodus 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”)

How does this compare with Joel 1:2-3?

ESV  Joel 1:2 Hear this, you elders; give ear, all inhabitants of the land! Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.

How does this apply to our situation today in 2020?

Please think carefully here. I stated above that Joel 1:11 described a similar precarious situation that yielded feelings of shame, despair, and distress.

Are we seeing evidence of these same emotions being expressed because of today’s current events? Absolutely.

 How should we respond today?

  • Are you rolling your eyes at what you believe to be a theater of fear that is over the top and trouncing people’s liberties current events?
  • Or are you cowering in fear at home and complaining on every platform that you can that government or others should do more…or less?
  • What does the LORD say you should do about current events?

First, from Exodus we learn that although we may not always understand what the LORD is doing, we can be confident that His purpose in whatever He allows or does Himself is to show us that He is not only our LORD but LORD of all.

Secondly, Joel 1:11 tells the community that they should wail about their current situation. Wail to who? Their friends on social media or the neighbor next door? No! They are to wail to the LORD!

Why wail to the LORD?

  • The LORD is the only one who can truly solve our current situation.
  • Sometimes He is the one that stirs up our current situation to get our attention.
  • Sometimes our current situation is a consequence of some sort of negligence on our behalf that again He is using to get our attention.

A response of wailing to Him is appropriate and called for. Why?

Because He wants us to rely on Him and Him alone. Not ourselves. Not our family. Not our friends. Not our governing officials. Him. The LORD.

Are you relying on HIM?

How can you demonstrate to those around you that you are relying on HIM?

ESV  Psalm 14:2 The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.


Barbara Lynn

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Current Crisis : Joel 1:4

Shortages Today : Joel 1:5

Gone Viral : Joel 1:6

Vulnerable: Joel 1:7

Heartbreak: Joel 1:8

Cut Off: Joel 1:9

What is Essential? Joel 1:10

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