June 30, 2014

I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you…Thus you will know…that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other… Joel 2:25-27

Yosemite is 150 years old today!

On June 30, 1864 Abraham Lincoln put his signature on the Yosemite Land Grant (it took another 26 years for Benjamin Harrison to make it a national park). “In the midst of our country’s civil war, with all the bloodshed, all the battle, all the anxiety,” said ranger and park historian Dean Shenk on NPR, “many of us would like to think that he took a moment and perhaps shook his head, or smiled, in just perhaps a sigh of pleasure”—perhaps just one example of the “very good” God saw at creation (Genesis 1:31).

Many believe photos taken by Carleton Watkins in 1861 helped persuade the president to action. Eighty of the original prints are on display at Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center through August 17, 2014. You also might want to check out the well-known Hudson River School paintings by Alfred Bierstadt (I have a print of the top one in my living room), as well as the park site’s own photo gallery, multimedia presentations, webcams and its sesquicentennial history page.

The current emphasis these days at Yosemite is restoration. Officials plan to restore the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias as part of the anniversary celebration. The trams that ferry people among the trees on paved roads eventually will be phased out and the parking lots built on top of the trees’ roots torn up. Visitors will have to hoof it to view the sequoias, much like those first visitors so long ago.

The Biblical book of Joel dates back much further than 150 years, to 835 B.C., yet it also concerns restoration. Joel was God’s spokesman to the Israelites during a period of severe drought and an invasion of locusts, which the prophet noted as punishment for the people’s sins, and also a harbinger of a time to come. This Day of the Lord, as it is called in Scripture, will involve God’s judgment not only of the nation of Israel but the entire world (the Old Testament books of Isaiah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel address this as well, and in the New Testament, predominately the book of Revelation).

“Has anything like this happened in your days or your fathers’ days?” Joel asks right off the bat in chapter 1. The obvious answer was no, no one had ever seen such disaster. Crops were devastated, water dried up and both animals and humans suffered tremendously. This, Joel declared, is a picture of the future as well.

But as is God’s merciful nature, He not only gives us ample warning of impending devastation and destruction, He shows us the way to avoid it. “Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain!,” the Lord urged through Joel. “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near…Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments” (2:1, 13). Joel continues the theme: “Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness” (2:13).

God’s promises are as true today as they were for the Israelites who continued to ignore or wander away from Him. For anyone who turns from doing what is wrong in God’s sight to accept His healing and forgiveness, there is abundant provision: “Do not fear…rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things…whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered (2:21, 32).

It’s a great day to celebrate the beginning of one of our nation’s most beloved and beautiful places…and a great day to make sure you’re calling on the Lord for deliverance for today and for eternity.

(This post was partly inspired by an email I received concerning Anne Graham Lotz’s call to prayer July 1-7).

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