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2. God's Judgement is Coming

the message of the prophet Joel - read Joel 2:1; Deuteronomy 28:15, 38, 42.

God Rules, O.K.?

Perhaps one of the most famous prophecies in the Old Testament comes from Joel. 2:28-32 quoted, paraphrased, on the day of Pentecost by Peter, Acts 2:16 “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.” About Joel himself we know nothing apart from his father’s name, 1:1.

Illustration: as common as Abdu Rahman or Mustapha are names here. Distinguishing him from 12 others in OT! Nobody knows exactly when the prophecy was written down. Commentators and study Bibles’ guess, but nobody knows for certain.

We will study it using four handles. They actually underpin almost all Hebrew prophecy. (Probably why Scribes put Joel early on in the largely chronological order of these minor prophets. Yet there is a timelessness to Joel’s message. It is always relevant.

We’ll examine 4 handles: 1. The Word of the Lord.

2. The day of the Lord.

3. The mercy of the Lord.

4. The promises of the Lord.

You’ll notice these are God-centred.

This is the message of the prophets. “God Rules,” OK?

1. “The word of the Lord that came to Joel.” 1:1. How did the word come? Was it his own thoughts inspired by the Holy Spirit? Was it an audible voice he could hear and remember? Was it an angelic messenger or meaningful dream or vision? We don’t know! But we know God did speak in some way to him. The ‘how’ is obviously less important that ‘what’ was said. As the ‘who’ spoke as prophet is less important than the God who initially revealed it.

Joel’s message did not originate with himself. He had a word from the Lord, supremely authoritative and important.

Joel lived at a time of devastating plague, drought and famine. As in Southern Africa today. Unlike everyone else, Joel used his spiritual resources as a man of faith to give a meaningful interpretation to the disaster. While everyone alive there was involved in the trauma of suffering, only God’s prophet saw the religious meaning and moral responsibility.

Illustration: Locust plagues have been scientifically recorded covering 100 square miles in flight, 2000 square miles on the ground. They eat their own weight in green vegetation every day – up to 50,000 tons in Somalia in my lifetime.

Joel knew that Moses’ law had warned “if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands … these curses will come upon you. You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it … Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.”

Notice, the ‘Word of the Lord’ came to the prophet, not to the elders. The prophet had to speak it to the elders and the people, vs2. God only speaks to those who are ready to receive it. He shares His thoughts, feelings, heart and mind, with those who are sharing their daily lives with Him – not those living as if He didn’t exist. True in church life today! Not monopoly of Pastor or other officially seen elders.

I found 16 responses invited by God to His word here, in Joel 1:1-14. (Highlighted in my Bible). Vs2 “hear”, “listen”, vs3 “tell”, vs5 “wake up”, “wail”, vs8 “mourn”, vs11 “despair”, vs11 “wail”, grieve”, vs13 “put on sackcloth (show repentance)”, “wail”, “come spend a while”, vs14 “declare a holy fast”, “call a sacred assembly”, “summon the elders”, “cry out to the Lord”.

God was doing what He had warned He would do, judging His careless and disobedient people with locust plagues. He still judges His people today – barren lives, more dead than alive spiritually. 1:17, 18 past, present and future were under God’s judgement. Notice the tenses: “Store houses and granaries … ruined and broken down” past crops. “The cattle … the herds … the flocks are suffering” present livestock and livelihood. “Seeds are shrivelled beneath the clods” future crops. The eternal God said to His disobedient people ‘You have had your chances. You are not getting away any longer. “I Rule”, OK?’ Handle 1 to understanding Joel.

2. “The day of the Lord”. 5 times this awe-full phrase is used by Joel. 1:15 “the day of the Lord is near”. 2:1, 2 “The day of the Lord is coming … dark, gloomy and black”. 2:11 “The great and dreadful day of the Lord”. 2:31 “The coming, great and dreadful day of the Lord”. 3:14 “The day of the Lord is near for multitudes in the valley of decision.”

Application: If you believe this word does not currently show the perfection of God’s rule, you are like the Old Testament Hebrews. If you think that the good and righteous people in this world do not fully reap their reward ask: Do you, like them, expect God to intervene and establish His perfect sovereignty over all things everywhere? Those Old Testament Hebrews looked for this in the expression “The day of the Lord”, many days of disaster which would foreshadow God’s ultimate judgement day, yet one of which would actually be it!

Illustration: You do realise don’t you, that the horrific suffering of the war here in Sudan is like nothing compared to the pain and anguish of being on the wrong side at God’s judgement day? For Joel the present locust invasion and drought – sent by God to shock and waken a dangerously complacent people, 2:1-11, were only ominous portents (signs of calamity) of the visitation of judgement by the Lord still to come!! It is fearful in the hands of the living God. Illustration: Spider with a fly in its mouth, seen in window web when I was washing up.

Illustration: While seeking peace in Sudan, talking folk, reading paper, hearing conference reports, I do not see enough ‘personal acceptance of “I am wrong”.’ I see far too much blaming others – ‘if we had a different government’, ‘if the colonials had done so and do’, ‘if they had not caused such atrocities’. The coming Peace will only last if everyone accepts personal responsibility to forgive ‘whoever’ for ‘whatever’ – and builds for the future, not blames for the past! On the ultimate judgement day, you and I will not be able to pass blame on to anybody else. We cannot undo history. Be ready tomorrow. It will be you on your own, me on my own, before Holy God – with Jesus as judge.

3. The mercy of the Lord. Joel tells hard-hearted people to soften their hearts before God, or be smashed to bits by His righteous judgement. God gives choice. 1:9, 12 speak of “mourning” as in bereavement and “loss of joy” because the living, life-giving presence of God was gone! Joy accompanies God’s presence in His people. His judgement removes joy. And in His mercy God will again be present in the hearts and lives of all who return to Him, 2:23.

How does this happen? Three steps: Read carefully through vs12-19. Vs12 “Even now (1) return to Me”. God pleads: “come back”. Illustration: Like a parent, heartbroken for a runaway child.

Vs13 (2) “Rend your heart and not your garment.” God is concerned for your inner spiritual life, not your outward appearances! Illustration: In Czech and German floods people lost their possessions and are in anguish. God pleads: “return to Me”.

Illustration: “You’ve lost Me (God) in church planting, you’ve lost Me (God) in medical caring, you’ve lost Me in peace arranging, you’ve lost Me in theological educating, you’ve lost Me in business developing, you’ve lost Me in parenting, ‘you’ve lost Me in problem solving, you’ve lost Me in ministering to others: You’ve lost Me!” God says ‘I really want you, more than your service of Me.’

4. Remember Who I am? Vs13 “a gracious (merciful), compassionate (loving), slow to anger (restrained in self-control), abounding in love (your “live with and do things together” lover).

5. Notice: you and I cannot demand mercy, but we can realistically hope for it! vs14 “who knows, (God) may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing” – the grain for offering and water for offering both currently unavailable of course because of the God-sent drought and famine, sent in God’s mercy to bring God’s people back to their spiritual senses.

Application: Will you return, rending your heart, remembering Whom you are coming to?

The promises of the Lord. Vs21-24 five repeated words “be not afraid … be glad.”

Application: You only need to be afraid in God’s presence if you plan on staying disobedient!

God promises – (6)

1. Vs25 repayment for wasted years in spiritual desert.

2. Vs27 revelation of Himself, as He is in truth.

3. Vs28 reception of Holy Spirit as His living presence within

4. Vs30 revelation of His greatness in the changing of nature’s constants.

5. 3:2, 4 reckoning for all on the unmissable day of judgement before God Himself. (This enables forgiveness of course. God will make past wrong right. I don’t have to!)

6. 3:16 And in that judgement “The Lord will be a refuge for His people.” Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

2 Peter 1:19-21. The prophets (Joel) spoke from God, carried along by the Holy Spirit. Are you listening? Will you live by God’s word this coming week?

God Rules, O.K.?

Khartoum International Church 18th August 2002.


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