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Joel 4

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Joel 3.

Intro: [OHP1] - Day of the LORD - judgment on Israel, but then the nations are judged. Read - attack on world trade centre, Osama Ben Laden? What were his first words? USA got their just deserts, why? ? capitalism, ? Permissiveness, ? Iraqi sanctions, no, tanks in Ramalla, occupation of West Bank - the issue is Israel.

The Valley of Decision: v.1 - The LORD will act on behalf of Israel - "In those days" i.e. the day of the LORD - יהוה Himself declares that He will restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, He will return their captives - not they themselves in Zionist enterprise - it will be the LORD’s doing ( Jeremiah 23:5-8 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’ Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when they will no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they will live on their own soil.”)׃

v.2 - The nations will be judged! יהוה announces what He will do to Israel’s enemies when He restores His people (note "My people"; "My land"; "My inheritance"; My people"). The place of judgment is the "Valley of Jehoshaphat" i.e. יהוה judges - The Kidron valley, nations come up against Jerusalem (this is not the battle of Armageddon).

This is the "valley of decision" (cf. v.14) - do they choose יהוה or reject Him? Did they show honour and compassion for His people and land or not? God’s decision and man’s - God’s verdict but that based on man’s decision. The basis of the judgment will be "on account of MY people .... MY inheritance" i.e. the nations will be judged according to how they have decided to treat the Jews and the land of Israel, the people and the land. The sin of the nations has been their mistreatment of the Jew - antisemitism; laying claim to, and dividing up, the land of Israel. Antisemitism will be judged. This is why it is so universal, it is satan’s opposition to, and rebellion against, what God has decided to be His own - against His plan and purpose. So opposition to יהוה’s will, plan and purpose is crystallized in the opposition to His own people, the Jews, and His own land, Israel. The nations will be judged according to how they have treated the Jews and the land of Israel (cf. Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. Zechariah 1:14,15 So the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “Proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.”)׃֯ The nations have done a terrible thing, they have scattered God’s own people, the Jews - driving them out of His land and dispersing them among the nations leaving them homeless. Then the vacant land they have sought for themselves dividing it up amongst themselves. For this sin they will be held accountable. יהוה Himself will recompense them and exact vengeance for this abominable deed. יהוה will act on behalf of His people, will vindicate them and take vengeance on those that have persecuted them. The issue is Israel, how we have treated her. Our response to her shows our attitude to her God. Yahweh will give the verdict, not us, but let’s examine NZ’s record - How will the nation of New Zealand be judged according to these criteria? [OHP2] Our nuclear or GE free policy won’t impress God!

v.3 - They have divided up the land and scattered the people. Dealt with human beings as merchandise - objects to be bought and sold, traded, gambled for. There was no respect for the people themselves - their only value was as a commodity that could be exchanged for another - a boy for a night with a prostitute, a slave girl for a drink. Jews were treated as sub-human - indeed this has been the consistent record throughout the Christian era.

v.4 - They treated Israel as nothing - they are nothing to יהוה - "What are you to Me?"- Can we pay back God? - they paid back their hatred of יהוה by hurting that which was precious to Him: Israel. If this was their motive (and in the judgment motives are judged) then יהוה Himself would quickly repay in kind - exact vengeance. They sought to pay back יהוה, He would pay them back their own recompense back upon their own heads. What they intended for Israel, they themselves would suffer. The evil they intended for Israel, they themselves would suffer. This is יהוה’s justice at work

v.5 - In plundering Israel of her treasures they were taking from God Himself! - "My silver"; "My gold"; "My precious things". They had taken them for themselves, for their own fancy houses, palaces and temples.

v.6 - As the nations have done to Israel so will God do to them. Not only did they remove the treasure of the land they also removed its people. They did not want Jews on their border (sound familiar?) - so they sold them to the Greeks (and how the Jews have been sold to the Greeks and their philosophy!)

v.7 - now the Jews are displacing them from the land they have overrun. They consider that land their own - but it is land that they have stolen from יהוה - hence it is not unjust for them to be removed, rather it is unjust for them to remain. "I will return ...." - this vengeance is יהוה’s doing.

It is a valley of decision - are we for God or against Him?

The Gathering of the Nations: v.8 - They sold יהוה’s people, so He would sell them - ignominy upon ignominy. In Divine justice they will be sold to the Jews! - the very ones they had sold. Just as they had sought to remove Jews from their territory (v.6) so their own sons and daughters would be removed to a distant land (Deuteronomy 32:35,36 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ “For the Lord will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their strength is gone, And there is none remaining, bond or free.)׃֯

v.9 - יהוה has proclaimed the judgment of the nations. They had fought His people, been His instrument to punish them, now they would face judgment and punishment in a mighty battle - a war to end all wars, a battle against יהוה Himself! They had consistently been fighting against יהוה throughout history by their rebellion against Him - now this fight will be crystallized in an actual war, a battle against יהוה Himself - a day of terrible bloodshed and slaughter). The call to war goes out - the whole military force of earth is mobilized - "all men of war" - the call to battle! The nations battle the LORD (Zechariah 14:2,3 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. 12:1-4 Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.) "Prepare a war" actually "consecrate" (קַדְּשׁוּ) - this is holy war. A spiritual battle is behind the physical battle - the spirit that opposes יהוה has come out to the open in one final desperate battle. But the outcome is a foregone conclusion, for who can prevail against Him on the white horse whose Name is "King of kings and Lord of lords"?

v.10 - It is total war, total mobilization. The last and ultimate. All reserves are used, every resource - all effort and every means are put into the war - even agricultural production required to sustain life is sacrificed and its resources harnessed to the war effort. It is all out, desperate, war with every thing available directed to the one goal: to fight against יהוה. Even the weak will be mobilized, they will be forced to be mighty warriors - so committed is man in heart in his opposition to God (quoted way out of context in “Give Thanks” - are we to claim strength as Joel’s army? No, it’s talking about the rebellious nations mobilising for war against God!). This opposition is disguised and hidden at present - but at this time man’s true inner motivation is revealed - all out opposition to God.

v.11 - The call goes out for the nations to muster all their forces - as rapid mobilization as they can manage for the impending battle. When they are assembled then the call comes for יהוה to send down His army from heaven (Revelation 19:11-19 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army). The last battle! All the forces of man directed in the final battle of earth against heaven, darkness against light, flesh against spirit, evil against righteousness, man’s will against God’s will.The culmination of the war that has been going on continually between man and God. That inherent opposition to God is now no longer hidden, it is all out in the open - the climax to all man’s opposition against God in one ultimate, all out, battle.

v.12 - for once and for all He is going to have it out with the nations and sit in judgment over them in the valley of Jehoshaphat (cf. v.2). He says, "Let the nations be aroused"; "Let the nations come up." the time for judgment has come. יהוה Himself will execute justice. He will punish the nations and the mighty men of the earth will be destroyed. His wrath has been stored up for thousands of years, patiently He has withheld His anger giving opportunity for man to repent. Long He has allowed their opposition to continue, but now, NO LONGER! Their iniquity is full, and all the wrath stored up through the ages will be released against this united amassing of all that human opposition against God. They are all at action stations, but יהוה sits! Hallelujah! He is above it all! Unthreatened by their futile, puny efforts. He will sit in judgment - justice will be executed, vindication and vengeance will be exacted. The "surrounding nations" - the nations that surround Israel and have been in inveterate opposition and war against her i.e. against יהוה Himself! They are the ones in particular who have been guilty of dividing up יהוה’s land (cf. v.2).

The Harvest: v.13 - Harvest time is a time when things have come to maturity, a time of reaping. The nations will now reap the consequences of their deeds, their evil, the opposition to God which up until now He had graciously overlooked. But they never repented (cf. 2 Peter 3:9,10) so His patience is over and the full and terrible force of His wrath is released. The harvest is ripe! The harvest is the end of the age (cf. Matt 13:39), the time of reaping - reaping the consequences of what has been done, a time of judgment - punishment for evil and reward tor good - not large scale conversions as is popularly held (cf. Matthew 13:24-30“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father). Evil gathered first and consumed with fire then the righteous left are gathered into the barn - valley of decision: in harvest you are destined for the bin or the barn, the decision is yours. Harvest is not a time of great revival it is the maturing of what has been growing for a long time. (Revelation 14:14-20 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles. ). The harvest is a time of wrath. The grapes are ripe, man’s iniquity come to full expression, ripe for judgment, for being crushed in the winepress of God’s wrath - the grape juice is their blood which will flow abundantly in the day of יהוה’s anger. They will be punished for their great wickedness which has come to full maturity .

v.14 - The day is near! The day of יהוה! The day of decision i.e. יהוה’s verdict! The valley is filled with the bustling tumult of the crowd of nations all gathered together.

v.15 - (cf. 2:30,31, 10) the consistent witness is that at the end their will be signs in the heavens - the celestial order will be changed, will wear out, grow dim. All that our existence depends upon will fail! The sun and moon will grow dark and the stars will gather their brightness to themselves, giving it out no more. The heavenly bodies will no longer give out light - it is this light that sustains life on earth. If the LORD is not your light then the darkness is terrible! There is no hope! Nothing can be done! There is only impending, certain, doom!

v.16 - יהוה judges the nations in fear inspiring deeds - the heavenly bodies cease to shine! יהוה Himself utters His voice! There is no question where this calamity is coming from. When He utters His voice who can but tremble? יהוה roars! From Jerusalem His voice goes out - from Zion where He rules (Psalm 2:5,6). The very heavens and earth quake at the power and authority of His voice! It is the earthquake of Zech 14 which causes living water to flow (cf. V.18 Zechariah 14:4,8 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.) If the heavens shake, what then of mortal man?!! Fearful beyond comprehension!!

The Restoration of Israel: Yet the same One who terrifies is the same One who is safety, security, comfort, refuge, shelter, protection - for those who are His. Then people will know that He is יהוה because He makes a distinction between those who are His and those who are not - this is the essence of holiness - decision: fight Yahweh or seek Him as a refuge. Valley of decision: terror or refuge, the choice is yours - it is based on our response to God and His people (Malachi 3:3-16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. They will be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts.

v.17 - יהוה acts in the affairs of man to reveal Himself - his deeds proclaim that He is. He acts that we may know that He is יהוה ! That He is holy! That He is "your" God - our own personal God - committed to those who are His own. Hallelujah! Know that He dwells on mount Zion - ruling the earth! That He dwells among us, His people! Praise God! Holy is He! (note the emphasis on holiness). Where He dwells will be holy for He is holy. He only dwells in holiness. So if He is to dwell among us we too must be holy (cf. 1 Peter 1:15,16; Hebrews 12:14 Pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.). Holiness means separation - Strangers, aliens, those who are not יהוה’s own, not holy, will not be allowed in Jerusalem (cf. Psalm 101:7 He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity. Zechariah 14:21 Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of hosts; and all who sacrifice will come and take of them and boil in them. And there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day. Revelation 21:27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life֯)

v.18 - At last יהוה’s purposes in history have their intended effect. At last unbelieving Israel receives the Messiah, the true basis of their holiness and enters into the full Kingdom blessing - restoration and fruitfulness. Prosperity and plenty has come. Now the land brings forth its produce - it flows. No longer dryness but a flowing - wine, milk, water. The land is well watered - a sign of יהוה’s blessing being upon it. The water flows from יהוה Himself - from His temple where He dwells (cf. Ezek 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8,9 And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one Revelation 22:1,2 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Psalm 46:4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The n Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”).

v.19 - The land of Israel will prosper and be a watered garden but her enemies will become barren waste, wilderness, desolate. יהוה executes justice - He vindicates His own and exacts vengeance on those who have oppressed them and acted violently toward them - spilt innocent blood. Truly in the land of Israel and Judah they have shed innocent blood (cf. terrorist activity of Hamas and Fatah etc.) They will be rewarded for their deeds - their inveterate hatred. That they did not honour God’s people indicates that they did not honour יהוה Himself. They will receive just recompense (cf. v.21).

v.20 - The contrast is between God’s own chosen people Judah and those that oppose them. Those antagonistic to God’s people will become a desolation but Judah will be inhabited, full of life - it will be FOREVER. This is not the temporary blessing that Israel had occasionally known - the Davidic kingdom was a foretaste but it passed - this will be forever! Hallelujah! Eternal blessing that will not end.

v.21 - those who have taken the blood will be punished - an exacting of justice - "I will avenge" (2x). That which hasn’t been avenged will be avenged. The land is made unclean by the blood shed. The blood of God’s innocent people has been shed without cause. This defilement must be cleansed, the land purified by punishing those who have shed their blood. יהוה dwells in Zion, so it must be holy and pure - all uncleanness removed. Jesus reigns from Zion. There will be no injustice left unrighted - for every injustice perpetrated there will be recompensed and there will be vindication of those that were oppressed. The Judge of all the earth will do justly (Gen 18:25) - His reign will establish justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14; 97:2). Hallelujah! Reign King Jesus reign! Set up Your Kingdom on earth. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven! Amen!

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