Last week we saw that at some point the people of Judah had repented of their sin. They had, for some time, dealt wickedly, they had piled up for themselves sin upon sin upon sin. They had bowed their knee to the Baalim. And they thought that because of their many sacrifices that they were bringing to the high priest that God's anger would be put off perpetually. They were wrong. And it was precisely because of their many sacrifices that God sent the locusts to devour every green thing in order to wreak havoc on the land itself, to starve the animals that would be cut up and burned, and to bring the people to repentance. So now, God has dismissed the army, deferred His anger, and delivered abundance so that His people would not be put to shame.
Verse 25. "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. When we sin against God, and we ask His forgiveness, and He grants us forgiveness, does that mean that the sin we committed never happened? Granted, God will forget it happened. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so YHVH pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:11-14). But, All that time that we held onto that sin; all that time that God's anger burnt against us; all that time we spent like Jonah, trying to run from God instead of doing what He told us to do--all that time is gone. We cannot "undo" what we did. All that time that we spent being dead to God. It's gone, and we can't get it back. There is nothing we can do to "make up for it."
But that is the beauty of God's mercy toward us. Toward those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He will restore those years. He will take those years that we spent in sin, use them for His own purposes, and, in that way, "restore" them. Before the foundation of the world, did He know those who were going to be His? Yes. If you don't believe that, then you have a very low view of God. Did we go through some things, even do sinful things, before God called us to Himself--yea, and even after He saves us? Yes. If you don't believe we did (and if you don't believe we still do), then you have a very high view of man. And here's the kicker: God allowed it all! Whatever you were, whatever you did, before He saved you, He allowed it to happen! And here is what He does after He saves us (and, keep in mind, He had planned this even before He saved us): He will put us in situations where we can warn others about the things we did. As Spurgeon once said (so much better than I ever could):
“It will strike you at once that the locusts did not eat the years: the locusts ate the fruits of the years’ labor, the harvests of the fields; so that the meaning of the restoration of the years must be the restoration of those fruits and of those harvests which the locusts consumed. You cannot have back your time; but there is a strange and wonderful way in which God can give back to you the wasted blessings, the unripened fruits of years over which you mourned. The fruits of wasted years may yet be yours.”
He will work everything to the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. And in so doing, will restore the years the locust has eaten.
Verse 27. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: YHVH your God, and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. Now, let's stop and think about this last sentence. God's people will never be put to shame. Now, either God could not see that the nation of Israel would be scattered to the four winds in 70 AD, or there is an underlying meaning to this assertion. A little Hebrew grammar lesson (a VERY little Hebrew lesson). The phrase "put to shame" is NOT in the future tense. In fact, Hebrew does not use "tenses," it uses "aspects." "Put to shame" is in an aspect called the "imperfect." Ironically enough, it refers to an action that has not yet been completed, but is either to be done, or being done. For example, if the Big Bad Wolf was speaking in Hebrew when he warned the three pigs that "I will huff and I will puff" &c, he would be speaking in the imperfect aspect.
So, what does all this mean? It means that the people of God are not completed yet. That there are still many more to come who will be God's people. And while the world may look at God's people with scorn and ridicule, and may not want anything to do with us, we will not be ashamed before Almighty God. 1st Peter 2:6--Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. 2nd Timothy 1:8--do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God. Hebrews 2:11--For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Hebrews 11:16--But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. And, of course, Jesus said in Mark 8:38--"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." We are a spectacle to the world. They don't know, they don't understand--they have not seen, therefore they do not believe. But we have hope in what we have not seen! That is why we call it hope! For hope in what is seen is not hope (Romans 8:24). And because we believe, we shall never be ashamed.
Verses 27-28. I am YHVH your God, and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame. And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. These words, of course, echoed by the apostle Simon Peter on the Day of Pentecost. And oh, friend! How these words have been taken by many and used to try and support some of the most outlandish claims and practices! I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Does this mean that every single person who will ever be born will be saved? Absolutely NOT! So, again, we either have a contradiction or an underlying meaning. I'll go with door #2. Who did the Jews think were the only people God wanted anything to do with? The Jews! In fact, in their Midrash, they claimed that "God created the Gentiles to fuel the fires of hell." (And yet, if you ask some people, they would tell you that OT Jews didn't believe in a fiery Hell. Oops!)
Notice the imagery. The rain has not fallen in some time. Why? Because of disobedience. God would warn the people later (about 50 years later) that there would be no prophet in Israel. Amos 8:11-12--"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord YHVH, "That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of YHVH. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of YHVH, but shall not find it." Why? Because of disobedience. Because they had, once again, turned to serving other gods. So, when the 400 year silence was over, and when God did send forth another prophet, who did God send? Yeah, Him. And who was He sent to first? To the Jews! The Israelites! Everything that God does, He begins with the Jews. If God is going to bless, He blesses the Jews first. If the Jews are obedient, He will bless them first. But, on the other hand, if they are disobedient, He will punish all people, but the Jew first.
So, after the 400 years of silence were over, and God sent His Son in the form of man, who was He sent to first? Matthew 10:5-6--These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 15:22-24--And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Who was the gospel given to first? Romans 1:16--I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Who does glory come to first? Romans 2:10--glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. But, when tribulation comes, who does it come to first? Romans 2:9--tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.
So, the question then becomes, Who is a Jew? Is a person Jewish simply because they were born of a certain nationality? Before Christ came, the answer to that was simple. In order to be a Jew, one of two things were necessary: One, you could be born into the nation Israel. Or, Two, you could be circumcised and follow the Law. It was an outward thing. But something happened. And in that passage in Matthew 15, that Gentile woman showed a faith that Jesus had not seen in those who claimed to be God's people. Matthew 15:24-28--He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs." And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
How is it that a woman who hailed from an area as wicked and as heathen as Tyre and Sidon--two cities which had been cursed by God above nearly every other city--how is it that a woman from such a place would cry out to the Son of David! A Son of JEWS! How was it that a centurion--a man employed by Rome itself--could fall down and worship this Son of David, and revere Him so much that he would not even ask Him to disobey a JEWISH law--that Jewish Law that Pontius Pilate so casually dismissed (John 18:29-31)--and cause our Lord to exclaim that He had not found such faith in all Israel (Matthew 8:8-10)! How was it that Lydia, that seller of purple, from an abominable city such as Thyatira, would worship YHVH, and receive the gospel and salvation (Acts 16:14-15)! How was it that a Samaritan woman, married 5 times and living with a man not her husband, would consider as truth the words of a Jew (John 4:28-29)! How was it possible for all these to believe a Jew? Because God kept His promise, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.
In fact, God poured out His Spirit even as His Christ was but a child. Even as Christ was being delivered over for circumcision, Simeon, who believed the promise of God, proclaimed that this boy, YHVH's Christ, would bring light to all the world. Luke 2:28-32--And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel."
So, getting back to the question of "Who is a Jew?" It is no longer simply a nationalistic designation. It does not matter your nationality, it does not matter whether your flesh has been circumcised. You are a Jew if you are in Christ. Romans 2:25-29--For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
Once, way back when, only an Israelite could go into the presence of God within the veil. Matthew 27:51--Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. In fact, if you were a Gentile, you couldn't even go into certain parts of the temple itself. There was a wall keeping you out. Ephesians 2:14-16--For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And you were only a Jew if you descended, physically, from Abraham. Galatians 3:28-29--There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. How can this be? How can our bloodline be changed? Because we are born from above. We are born by the Spirit. John 3:5-6--"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We, who were Gentiles by birth, are Jews by the Spirit, because God has fulfilled His promise, whereby He said, "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh."
...your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. How these words have been taken by many and used to try and support some of the most outlandish claims and practices! Have I said that already? Well, I must say it again! For it has been taken, by many who just simply cannot stand to be bound by the Word of God, to mean that it is OK for women to preach in a church and to hold ecclesiastical authority over a man. Oh, but the trouble they run into! For to do that, they must necessarily create contradictions within the Word of God. I, for one, would much rather hold to the truth of Scripture. 1st Timothy 2:11--Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. Friend, if I were to give you one piece of advice at this point, it would be this: whenever you come across a passage of Scripture that begins with the word "Let"--go back to the Greek. Because, more often than not, you will find that the verb the word "Let" is referring to is in the imperative voice. In other words, it's not a suggestion--it is a command! And, yeah, it is here. Literally, the verse reads "Women, in quietness, be learning in all obedience!" Read 1st Corinthians 11:7-12 if you want an idea of whether or not women are to have authority in the church.
But, will women prophesy? Yes. Will they understand the deep things of God? Yes. Will God show women things from the Scriptures? Yes. Are they permitted to proclaim them to the assembling of saints? NO. 1st Corinthians 14:34-37--Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says...for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. Did you catch that last part? (And guess what? That whole "Let" meaning the verb is imperative? Yeah, here too. "Acknowledge"--it's a command!) The fact that women were to keep silent in the church is not just an idea Paul came up with because he was some kind of male chauvinist. This was A COMMANDMENT FROM THE LORD. If you don't like it, take it up with God. It's His word, not mine.
Verse 29. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. This is one hang-up with the NKJV. That should not read "MY menservants and MY maidservants." There should not be an article there at all. For this reason: what good were slaves and servants at the time Joel wrote? Not much, really. So imagine what the people would have thought when YHVH told the people that slaves and servants would give prophecy! Ahh, but such is the power and mercy of Almighty God! That He would use an old man like Simeon, an 80-some-odd-year-old woman like Anna, and even the daughter of Philip, to spread forth the news that Messiah had come, and to spread to the nations His glorious gospel! And for no other reason than the good pleasure of His perfect will!
God has poured out His Spirit upon the earth. Men and women, boys and girls, freemen and slaves, Jews and Greeks and even Muslims are being awakened to the glorious light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Spirit of God is showing them that they have been worshipping a false idea about God. He is showing them the truth, He is opening their eyes, He is bringing their dead spirit back to life, and He is delivering them from the kingdom of darkness and bringing them into the kingdom of the Son of His love. And, as we will see next, as long as they continue to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, He will save them!