It’s another Gratitude Day around here. I chose Psalm 107 for today’s passage because, while most of the psalms that contain some version of the word “thanks” contain it only once, Psalm 107 contains it six: in verses 1, 8, 15, 21, 22, and 31. Let’s type some words about that word and the words around it.
Let’s talk about Axiom Verge again. Axiom Verge is a retro action-adventure computer game, and one of its weapons is called the Firewall. It launches a short-range bomb which, on impact, erupts in a vertical pillar of flame. Literalism! It’s a play on words, because computers! But God made the same play on words thousands of years ago, long before digital firewalls were even a thing.
You probably already know a verse from Micah. You know the expression “beating swords into plowshares?” Maybe you own the Magic: the Gathering card. Well, the idiom comes from Micah 4:3: “Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” You may not have known that you knew a verse from Micah, but there it is. And if you didn’t know before, now you do. We all can say together, “We know that Micah is the book with the ‘swords to plowshares’ verse.”
We’re not done with you yet, Jonah. Astute readers may have noticed the word “thanksgiving” at the end of Jonah’s poetic prayer in chapter two, so for this installment of Totally Hip Gratitude, we’re rewinding back into the belly of the big fish. Jonah was pleased with the shade-plant that God provided in chapter four, but he’s actually grateful for his divinely-appointed piscine rescuer. What can Jonah’s words tell us about thankfulness?
I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until I was in junior high that I discovered there was more Jonah after Nineveh’s repentance. You may have had a different experience, but it seemed children’s Bible stories always stopped short of the scene where Jonah gets bent out of shape over Nineveh’s non-destruction. Then again, I may be misremembering, or perhaps I somehow never realized that the guy in the picture books grousing about his dead plant was still Jonah. Either way, I’ve got my intro paragraph, so let’s look at the actual text.
The second chapter of Joel begins with a trumpet warning of war–if you can call it a war. Joel sees a vision of an advancing foreign nation, and he devotes nearly half the chapter to describing their power. Even at a distance, it’ll be clear to the people of Israel that they’re terrifyingly outclassed by the horde; Joel prophesies, “Before them the people are in anguish; all faces turn pale” (6). The advancing crowd are disciplined soldiers, besieging cities with ease, and their power even shakes heaven and earth with apocalyptic might. And on top of that, they’re sanctioned by God.
Pre-industrial agriculture is one of those aspects of the ancient world that I know next to nothing about. I have no hands-on farming experience, but I know enough about it to know I’m glad I don’t have to know about it. Plowing is hard work. Sowing is hard work. There’s a reason they call all the farm activity that gets done before sunrise “hell to breakfast,” and weeding the flower beds is about all the horticulture I can handle, thank you very much. If God had put me in the fifth century instead of the twenty-first, I guess I’d have to get my hands dirty and sweat out ten-hour days just to eat. But thank God I don’t.