This work of poet and Christian theologian Jerome Blanco holds the tension of devastation in the world with the promise of God’s restoration from Joel 3:
“In those days and at that time,
when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem,
I will gather all nations
and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.
There I will put them on trial
for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel,
because they scattered my people among the nations
and divided up my land.
They cast lots for my people
and traded boys for prostitutes;
they sold girls for wine to drink.
Shall I leave their innocent blood unavenged?
No, I will not.”
The Lord dwells in Zion! (Joel 3:1-3, 21)
From the Artist:
Prophetic passages on God’s eventual judgment and restoration of the world can feel very distant for me. As I wrestled with the third chapter of Joel, I couldn’t help but think these coming mysteries were lifetimes away, especially considering all the weight of what is happening in the world today. Despite God’s dual promises of vengeance and restoration, I wonder about what good those promises have for those suffering now. Are the promises of abundant milk and wine (3:18) satisfying enough? What about the promises of God’s vengeance on the wicked (3:21)? The prophecies of Joel certainly deliver a sense of hope, but that hope that comes from a promised future sits in tension with the painful realities of the present.
In this poem, I recall the refugees that I met during a brief time I spent in Europe. Many expressed a hope in God despite terrible circumstances, but who were of course also weighed down with unimaginable despair. God was often what kept them going, but they weren’t without fear. In the text, I specifically refer to a man I met from Homs, Syria, who spoke to me about both these things.
The poem’s form is modeled on this not-yet-ness of God’s restoration. Excluding the final line, the poem is written in six stanzas of six lines each. Six, here, exemplifies that longing for completion—seven being the satisfying number of wholeness in God’s creation. The final line acts as a promised seventh line to the final stanza, and as a promised seventh stanza to the poem as a whole. The prophecies in Joel are already in our hands. We can hold to the truth that God’s promises will be fulfilled. And yet we are forced to wait restlessly for them in the meantime, as we wait for the day of the Lord—the day of judgment and restoration that is yet to come.
Jerome Blanco is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and is an MFA candidate at New York University’s Writers Workshop in Paris, where he is studying fiction writing. He was born in Manila but currently calls Southern California home.
This work was curated by Rebecca Testrake.
All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.