Dirty Word

Joel 2:1-2 Blow a trumpet in Zion;
    sound an alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near,
a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness, there is spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful people;
their like has never been before,
    nor will be again after them
    through the years of all generations.”

Isaiah 58:1 “Cry aloud; do not hold back;
    lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
    to the house of Jacob their sins.”

We love the imagery of a trumpet blowing to announce some good news. Concerts excite us with uplifting music. The arrival of a king in his majesty is declared to inspire awe. Christ himself will return with the blast of a trumpet.

It is less fashionable to blow a trumpet to declare some bad news. But this is exactly what the Old Testament prophets had to do. A trumpet has to be blasted. A voice has to be raised. And the message being proclaimed is not a message of joy or gladness. It is a message of sorrow and shame.

The prophet Joel was making sense of a whole series of calamities that had befallen the people of Israel. Locusts had destroyed their food. Enemies had desecrated the land. And many more were still to come. But Joel’s prophecies were not to conjure up a sense of righteous indignation. Every bit of the woe that had befallen the people was a result of their own sin. 

Lament is an idea foreign to much of our 21st-century American worship. Repentance is a dirty word in the modern church. But to be faithful to God we must embrace lament that leads to repentance. We must mourn over sin. We must weep at the resulting suffering that evil has brought. This day is a day to be sad. Only through lament can we find our way to God.

Questions to think about

  • How have you experienced lament as loud as a trumpet?
  • Why does God want his people to cry?
  • What are the things you see in your own life that cause you to lament today?