18 May 2009

Verse-by-verse through Joel (2:11-2:19)

Joel 2:11-2:19--
11 The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it? 12 "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; 16 gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. 17 Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" 18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. 19 The LORD will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

The locusts have come, they have gone through and laid waste to the crops. The land is desolate. Truly, the Day of the Lord has come, and who has endured? There is no more grain, the olive trees are bare--what shall they use to offer the grain offering? The vineyards are ravished, there will be no wine. How, then, shall the people worship YHVH if they have no grain offering or wave offering or any of the other offerings to bring to the priests? Well, consider this question: what purpose do the grain offerings and the trespass offerings and the wave offerings and all the other offerings--what purpose do they serve? Are they not offered because of sin? Indeed, the question then becomes, "How can a people worship God if they come before Him if their sins have not been covered?"

Which is the point God is making here. He's saying "I don't want your grain. I don't want your new wine. I don't want your oil or your bullocks or your oxen or your fatted calves or your sheep or any of those other things you bring to My temple. You bring them because you are a sinful, rebellious people, and you would rather kill an ox then turn away from your sin. And thus, you cannot see My face because you do not seek My face. And why do you not seek My face? Because you cannot stand to be told of your sinful condition." This is the same word He would speak to these same people through the prophet Isaiah nearly 100 years later! Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom--rulers of Sodom! That great and abominable city that was destroyed with its surroundings because they were some of the most evil and wicked men who ever lived, and God tells the priests and the rulers of Judah they are not better than they! In fact, they are worse than the men of Sodom, for if the men of Sodom had seen the mighty works of God, they would have repented! Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?" says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:10-15).

So what is the remedy for the people of Judah? In verses 12-14, we see there needs to be an Honest Repentance. 12 "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?

Verses 12-13--"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God... When? NOW. Do not put it off another day. THEREFORE. And when you see that word 'therefore' you need to ask what is it......there for? We see a link to the previous text. The Day of YHVH is great and very terrible, who can endure it? "Now, therefore, turn to YHVH with all your heart..." In other words, now that the people have seen what God is capable of doing when His wrath is stirred to action, it would be in their best interest to put the worship of Almighty YHVH first, before their sinful desires. He's sick to death of their feasts and new moons and if He smells one more roasted ox He's gonna vomit. And how is it we are to turn to God? "with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning." With fear, yes, but let your repentance be an honest one--not just to avoid His wrath, but because He deserves all the praise, worship, and honor that we are capable of giving.

"With fasting..." We give up the one thing we need as much as water to survive. So that our focus is no longer on ourselves, but on the Lord. "...with weeping..." The word בּכי (bekei), meaning "long lamentation." We don't just say to ourselves, "Well, gee, shucks. I guess I messed up again. Sorry God, my bad!" We cry from the deepest depths of our heart, "Oh God be merciful to me, a sinner!!" And we look back at what we have done to arouse His holy anger and we put our face to the ground and we grovel and beg mercy and with מספּד (mispad)--wailing and weeping, we mourn over those things we have done to grieve the heart of God, for "Blessed is he who mourns, for he shall be comforted."

Verse 13. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God... Don't just make an outward show of grief. Anybody can do that. Don't just walk around looking at your toes all the time. The Pharisees made this an art form in their days. "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward...Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward" (Matthew 6:5, 18). The rending of garments was a symbolic act, whereby the person sought to express his grief over something. It had become a common practice among people who were seeking to be seen by others as being so much more spiritual than other people, and it became almost a competition to see who could out-rend the other. The word of YHVH through this prophet says, "Don't do that. Don't just tear your clothes. Tear open your heart." And by tearing open one's heart, one is able to see--with help from the Holy Spirit--what is really in that heart. For we may think our heart is just, and our motives pure. But we must allow God to show us where it is we fall short, lest we leave some blessing behind in our blindness.

...return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Here the prophet reminds the people of the words of God spoken to Moses (Exodus 34:6-7). How long had God put up with Judah's wickedness! Even if only a few years, is that not enough to warrant God revealing His wrath from Heaven? Considering that it was for but one transgression that all of humanity was found deserving of God's ETERNAL wrath? Wickedness under King Joash (who was ruling over the southern kingdom of Judah when Joel wrote) had grown quickly and violently after the death of the High Priest Jehoiada. It seems as though Jehoiada was a kind of check-valve against Joash's fleshly desires. And when that check-valve was gone, Joash fell into apostasy.

And what do we see in America today? The church is becoming ever more seeker-friendly, going out of their way to be non-offensive, all-inclusive, not wanting to hurt anybody's feelings, and bending over backwards to acommodate the many desires of men to bring their own type of worship into the church, watering down the gospel so that Jesus winds up being nothing more than a Divine Psychologist. And the check-valve against society as a whole going down the tubes is being slowly cut off, and one day, when the bride is taken up to meet her Groom, man will worship man even more than they do now. And after man has inflicted pain and suffering upon man--all the while blaspheming God and screaming for Him to intervene--He will intervene, but not in the way they will want Him to. After man has swum to the bottom of human depravity, God will pour even more misery and destruction upon them. Just like He did by sending these swarms of locusts to devour every living thing they could.

But imagine now, if you will, how patient God was with these people. Again, one sin cast man into enmity against God--and yet He has put up with our shenanigans for thousands of years without destroying us. He even went so far as to send His Son, that by believing we may not perish but have ever-lasting life. And how patient He is toward those who will be saved. 2nd Peter 3:9. If only I had a nickel for every time someone wrenched this verse and turned it into something it isn't. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, but is longsuffering toward--whom?--US (the saved, the brethren, the elect [see 1st Peter 1:1-2; 2nd Peter 1:1]), not wanting any to perish--any of whom? Any of the saved, any of the brethren, any of the elect--but that all--all whom? All of the saved, all of the brethren, all of the elect--should come to repentance. Oh, if my flesh had its way I would cry out to God to ask why He had the apostle record those words like He did! But, alas, I am but a man, and who am I to counsel God?

Consider how many years He had to put up with your rebellious attitude and abject hatred toward Him. You may answer, "Oh, but I got saved when I was a child, at the age of 8 years!" Oh, OK. That means God only had to wait 8 years until you finally admitted He is Lord. How patient is His love toward His chosen ones!

Then we see there has to be a Humble Reckoning. Verses 15-17. Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar... In verses 15 and 16, he repeats the commands given in chapter 1, verse 14. This is an all-inclusive call, and no one is left out. Keil & Delitzsch:
But in order that none may think themselves exempt, the people are more precisely defined as old men, children, and sucklings. Even the bride and bridegroom are to give up the delight of their hearts, and take part in the penitential and mournful worship. No age, no rank, is to stay away, because no one, not even the suckling, is free from sin; but all, without exception, are exposed to the judgment. “A stronger proof of the deep and universal guilt of the whole nation could not be found, than that on the great day of penitence and prayer, even new-born infants were to be carried in their arms” (Umbreit). The penitential supplication of the whole nation is to be brought before the Lord by the priests as the mediators of the nation.

Then in verse 17, he calls for the priests to who minister to the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar. Don't just stand there. Don't just cry and whine and moan. Weep! Let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?'" This is to be our cry. Not just for God to heal our moral woes. Not only to give us rulers we approve of. But what did Jesus teach us to pray? "Thy will be done." When we stop and consider that when we pray, we're not just giving God a laundry list of our human wants and desires. God knows what we need before we have need of them (Matthew 6:8). So, for what do we pray? "Thy will be done." And when we pray for God's will to be done, we should always be prepared for His will to perhaps be at odds with our own desires. And if that be the case, which side should yield?

A prayer for a nation is more than just to protect us from enemies without and within. It is more than to just lavish extravagant material wealth upon us (Oh, how we should pray the exact opposite, that God should give us only those things we need!). It is more than just praying for health and freedom from disease. Praying for a nation means praying for that nation to glorify God this side of Hell. Listen to young Daniel, as he besought the favor of YHVH for the nation Israel:
"O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!" (Daniel 9:8-15).

When Moses prayed YHVH to repent from wiping out Israel wholesale, did he do so in order for the people's well-being? Did God not know His own plans for Israel? How many times this prayer is misunderstood, for it is not an entreating of God to alter His unalterable will! It was truly a test of Moses' heart.
"LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?' Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'" So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do (Exodus 32:11-14).

Today, when we pray for our country, let us not pray simply for protection and health and prosperity. Let us pray that this nation would glorify God here on earth! For if we do, He may very well do for us as He did for the people who dwelt within the hearing of the word of YHVH to Joel.

Which is why we see a Holy Restoration in Verses 18-19. Then the LORD will be zealous for His land, and pity His people. The LORD will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied by them; I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

Lest any say that God can be swayed by emotions as His creatures are, be reminded of the words of the apostle Paul: God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If a nation is zealous for God,with a godly zeal, then God will reward that nation with favor. Is that not why He allowed this country to flourish so rapidly? A nation that was so far behind other nations in terms of industry, trade, agriculture--and yet it shot up like a stalk, being watered by the water of the Word.

And now look. It is in shambles, it has been trodden down by pagans and liberals, Emergents who call themselves "Christian"--all the while denying the Master whom they claim to have been purchased by. If they do, in fact, claim to be bought. How many still say things like, "My body--my choice!" Yet if you belong to Christ, it is not YOUR body! If you belong to Christ, yet you still claim complete ownership of your body, then please be so humble as to reconcile these words spoken by the Holy Spirit to the holy men of old:
1st Corinthians 6:19-20--Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit...and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price...
Romans 14:7-8--For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

Or have you indeed been bought? Has the blood of Christ washed away YOUR sins? "Why of course it has! I said a prayer when I was eight years old, and that took care of everything! Now I can live however I want to, because I'm saved!" Not so fast, friend! If you are saved, then can you go through the book of 1st John and answer the questions posed by the apostle whom Jesus loved and find yourself answering those in a way that shows you know the Lord? Or are you depending on the pastor who declared you saved to keep you in God's grace?

You see, we don't worship God because we do certain outward things. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for washing the outside of the cup, while the inside was filled with the ale of wormwood. Now, before you try and claim I am the Pharisee here, ask yourself one thing: are you depending on outward things for your salvation? Are you counting on your claim to spirituality as your ticket into the Kingdom? Are you seeking to worship God with your lips while your heart is far from Him? If so, then I must say, friend, that it is not I who is closer to being a Pharisee. Because if one is truly saved, then they will read the Word of God and compare it to their life, and find themselves sorely lacking.

They will see themselves as a sinner--and by sinner, I mean one who hates God and stands opposed to the restraints His word puts on our lives. And before you counter with, "How dare you say I hate God! I have never hated God!" I would say "Yes, I thought that too before I knew Christ. But when I saw my life in the light of Christ's perfection, and saw the Law of God as not being something to keep in order to be saved, but rather the yardstick my life did not measure up to--then and only then did I realize that yes, although I knew God was real, although I knew Christ was real and that He died and rose again and was to return, the life I lived was the outworking of a heart that was utterly and desperately opposed to God." It was for this reason the apostle wrote thus to the Roman saints For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:10).

But, to conclude, YHVH has told the people of Judah, that if they were to rend their hearts and weep and lament and cry out for God to be glorified among them, He would give them back the things they needed to give their offerings to Him. Likewise, when we humble ourselves before the Master Jesus Christ, we too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, whose role it is to "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" and "guide you into all truth" and "tell you things to come" and to "glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:8-14).

Let us rend our hearts today! Let us examine ourselves, to see if we are indeed in the faith (2nd Corinthians 13:5). Let us not neglect so great a salvation as we have in Christ (Hebrews 2:3), in whom we have been chosen before ever the world was (Ephesians 1:4), and has saved us from the curse of the Law, becoming a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)! However, let us never think our liberty gives us the right to live in whatever way we wish (Galatians 5:13), but let us be holy and sanctified unto the Lord our God (1st Thessalonians 4:3), that He may supply us with all we need to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)!

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