Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar. Go in, pass the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! Joel 1:13
What are we to do when we see war and violence sweeping like an army of locusts across the Middle East? Or when we see an invasion of drugs sweeping across the United States of America?
What are we to do when we see shallowness and unfaithfulness sweeping in like a plague of locusts, stripping the church of vibrant faith and cutting out the life of costly obedience?
People want to do something about it, but they don’t know what to do. Why? Because we don’t know how to lament. Christians who don’t know how to lament will have very little to say in a suffering world.
Joel says that it has to begin with spiritual leaders: “Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O ministers of the altar” (1:13). These people are not volunteers, they are vocationally employed. They serve in the temple. It begins with them.
Then it extends to the people who are most spiritually mature—the elders, “Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders…” (1:14). Then it spreads to all the people, “Gather… all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God” (1:14).
Unless we learn to lament, the church ends up turning a blind eye to the needs of the world. Public prayer gets reduced to thanking God for all the wonderful blessings we have in our lives, and the world says, “This is supremely irrelevant.”
Do you remember that Jesus knelt down and he wept over Jerusalem? He knew what it was to lament. And if we are his people, we need to learn that too.
When do you cry out to God for mercy on our land?