16 June 2008

Verse by verse through Joel (1:1-1:4, part 2)

Joel 1:1-4

1 The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. 2 Hear this, you elders, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land! Has anything like this happened in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell your children about it, let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. 4 What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten.

The prophet has called the elders to attention. He has summoned them by the word of the LORD, by this question—“Has anything like this ever happened? Even in the history of your nation?” If you were to ask someone, back in 1999, “Has anything like this ever happened? Two jet planes, filled with thousands of gallons of fuel, will slam into the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon. And another, brought down by heroic men and women, will be stopped short of hitting the White House.” Of course, their mind would go back to 1993, when a couple of vans filled with explosives were detonated, killing a handful of people and injuring about 1000. But to think that one highly-coordinated attack, in the blink of an eye, would kill over 3000 people? “Has anything like this ever happened?

May we never forget the lessons we learned that day. But have we already? Instead of being weary of a religion that encourages madmen to kill 3000 people in order to gain their 72 virgins, we are now cowering under the threat of “offending” them and worrying more about “tolerating” the very people who would more than gladly seek our death. Does this mean every Muslim is a terrorist? That depends. Are you talking about a Muslim who holds fast to the Qur'an and the Hadith? Then yes, every Muslim who holds to the Islam of Muhammed has one and only one goal—to subjugate the world under the banner of Islam.

But many in this country do not want to hear that. They want to spread “tolerance” and “acceptance.” Many churches in this country don’t want to offend people of “other faiths,” so they bond with them in some kind of ecumenical mish-mash, thinking that this is pleasing to God. Or do they care if God is offended? Are they less concerned about offending God than they are of offending man? Absolutely. These “churches” are “loving” these people right into Hell.

Because the people of Judah, in the days of the prophet Joel, had committed two transgressions, God brought upon them this UNPRECEDENTED CATASTROPHE. First, they had become so prosperous that they forgot where that abundance came from. They thought they had prospered by their own hand. It was the very same self-sufficiency and human pride that caused God to dwindle the numbers in Gideon’s army. Judges 7:22 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” Yet the people of Judah had said to themselves, “My own hand has caused me to prosper.”

Last time we discussed how the invasion of locusts in verse 4 was a succession of waves, one after the other. It was not carried out over a period of succeeding years, but rather, as soon as one wave relented, the next came in. The gazam (palmerworm) had stripped the leaves from the branches. And what they didn’t eat, the arbeh (common locust) came in and had their fill of. Words fail to give an adequate picture of the devastation, although Cunningham Geike does a yoeman’s job in his “Hours With the Bible”:

“Their numbers exceed computation: the Hebrews called them 'the countless,' and the Arabs knew them as 'the darkeners of the sun.' Unable to guide their own flight, though capable of crossing large spaces, they are at the mercy of the wind, which bears them as blind instruments of Providence to the doomed region given over to them for the time. Innumerable as the drops of water or the sands of the seashore, their flight obscures the sun and casts a thick shadow on the earth (Exo 10:15; Jdg 6:5; Jdg 7:12; Jer 46:23; Joe 2:10). It seems indeed as if a great aerial mountain, many miles in breadth, were advancing with a slow, unresting progress. Woe to the countries beneath them if the wind fall and let them alight! They descend unnumbered as flakes of snow and hide the ground…No walls can stop them; no ditches arrest them; fires kindled in their path are forthwith extinguished by the myriads of their dead, and the countless armies march on (Joe 2:8-9). If a door or a window be open, they enter and destroy everything of wood in the house. Every terrace, court, and inner chamber is filled with them in a moment.

Do you notice how they move? “[T]hey are at the mercy of the wind, which bears them as blind instruments of Providence to the doomed region given over to them for the time.” Who is it that holds the wind in His hands? God has commanded the wind to carry these “swarming locusts” into the land of Judah, to bring His judgment upon them, to destroy that which the “chewing locust” had left behind. Then, what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten. The first wave cut off the tender stems and leaves, then the second wave have stripped the bare branches of their fruit. So not only is there nothing worth eating on the trees and vines, but there is nothing that can grow up to replace them.

So what are the people to do? Are they to go out and pick up the scraps and pieces that are left rotting on the ground in the sun? They could try, but when they get there they will find every piece of fruit covered with more bugs. The “crawling locust” (“cankerworm”—KJV), or ילק (yeleq), is also described by some as the “licking locust.” They crawl on their belly, searching for anything they can get. Have you ever gone out into an orchard, picked up a piece of fruit you saw on the ground, picked it up and found hundreds of little creepy-crawlies on the underside? So not only are the people left with barren trees and vines, they are forced to glean what they can from the ground. Could this be another reminder of their Egyptian captivity? Exodus 5:6-126 So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it… 10 And the taskmasters of the people and their officers went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it; yet none of your work will be reduced.’” 12 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. Now, they were reduced to gathering up the rotten fruit that lay wasting in the Middle Eastern sun. And they had no one to blame but themselves.

The second transgression they were guilty of was their Baal worship, encouraged by King Joash upon the death of the high priest Jehoiada. Is this not what we are seeing today? The weak and beggarly elements of the world being brought into the house of God? Churches preaching from the songbooks of people like The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. Searching for some sliver of gospel truth from the pagan works and words of those who linger in chains of darkness? We could go on for days about this. 2nd Corinthians 6:14-1614 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? Because of this disobedience, and because Joash—who had forsaken serving YHVH to follow after the Baalim—had the prophet Zechariah murdered (not the prophet of the Book of Zechariah, or the one mentioned by Christ in Matthew 23:35), God allowed the smaller Syrian army to defeat Joash’s men and plunder the city of Jerusalem and the temple, and sent all the spoil to Damascus (2nd Chronicles 24:23).

Why would the nation whose God is YHVH think they would be safe from incursions after they rejected Him? Had they become like their ancestors, who had forgotten the miraculous ways God had delivered them from the Egyptians? Another lesson from the life (and death) of Gideon—So it was, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel again played the harlot with the Baals, and made Baal-Berith their god. Thus the children of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side; nor did they show kindness to the house of Jerubbaal (Gideon) in accordance with the good he had done for Israel (Judges 8:33-35).

And what does the church in America think it will gain by sticking out its hand in “friendship” and “unity” with the temples of idols? Why is it, that when the liberal “Christians” in this country want those of us who hold to the truth to “compromise,” we are the ones who are supposed to change, while the liberal stands firm in his heresy? And why is it so many are willing to compromise the Word of God for some lame, half-baked idea of “unity?” What communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Do these word mean nothing anymore? Are the words of the Warrenites and the Schullerites more trustworthy than the words of God Himself, spoken through the apostle Paul? But, alas, the chewing locust of comfort has crawled into the church, peeling members away from the truth. And the swarming locust of compromise has taken away that which comfort left.

…what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten… So now, what is left in the American church is a body of believers that is fighting, struggling to hold on to the truth while fighting against the enemies known as comfort and compromise, and now along comes the crawling locust of contention. See, when those who hold to the truth begin to disassociate from their local body because comfort and compromise have crawled in through the cracks and keyholes, those who are left begin to struggle for power in that assembly. They argue over which book should be used in their worship service—the Bible, or The Purpose-Driven Life. Those who hold fast to God’s word will be labeled as “backwards,” they will be called “Pharisees,” or some will call them “Sanballat.” If we had time I could tell you the long and convoluted story of how Dr. Steven Lawson was subverted at his former church (Dauphin Way Baptist in Mobile). Long story short it was a story of comfort plus compromise equals contention, and a good man (and wonderful teacher of the Word) was stabbed in the back by those whom he should have been able to trust.

Then, once the chewing locust has stripped the shoots and leaves; once the swarming locust has had its fill of fruit, once the crawling locust has involved itself fully in eating away the gleanings—just to make matters even worse and add insult to injury, what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten. If the cankerworm has left any scrap of edible fruit or foliage, if there is any microscopic shred of nutrient left on the ground, the “consuming locust” (caterpillar—KJV) or חסיל (chasil) will finish off. It was as if God was telling the people of Judah, “So, just how strong and proud are you now?” They had been getting along just fine, not having to worry about God, they were strong in themselves, they could depend on the land bearing fruit to them—but they had forgotten that they were to bear fruit to God. They had forgotten the LORD, Joash had caused them to forsake Him, and to go whoring after the Baals. After all, Baal would cause the ground to continually put forth fruit, wouldn’t he?

Again, they had forgotten the time in Egypt—that nation that had so many gods, and how God had shown His supremacy over all of them by sending plagues to show that He was THE God. And now, the people of Judah had slipped back into apostasy, they had gone after Baals, and now they were paying the price. Don’t think for one second that this type of judgment is not imminent here in this country. It is. The chewing locust of comfort has given way to the swarming locust of compromise. What the swarming locust of compromise hasn’t devoured, the crawling locust of contention will. And whatever is left over—whatever shred of truth may be left—will be snatched up by the consuming locust of callousness.

We’ve got our coffee and donuts for our little group. We don’t have to hear any hard truths. We don’t need to be bothered with all that talk about “Hell” and “Repentance.” We get to hear smooth words, we get to listen to a message we want to hear, about things we’re familiar with. We don’t have to be convicted of sin and righteousness and judgment. We get to bask in the glow of the things of this world while having our guilt assuaged by a man who can communicate easy things to us. If anyone comes in trying to tip our happy little apple cart, we’ll drive him out with all speed. And we become numb to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we come in to this building some call a church and we are more than happy to bring our own little Baal with us.

1st Timothy 4:1-21 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron. Take a hot iron, press it to your flesh. After the pain goes away, what will happen? Well, if you did it right, you will have killed all the living skin cells in that area. And instead of new skin cells, scar tissue--with no nerve tissue--will take its place. This is called a “callous.” This callousness has covered much of what calls itself the church in America today. They walk in with a Bible—or a Purpose-Driven Life—and they sit down, and they hear smooth speech and flattering words, and they feel good about themselves. But their spirit is so calloused, so unresponsive to the Holy Spirit that they are of no use to our Lord whatsoever. They have stopped their ears, closed their eyes, and refuse to hear the truth. They would rather be won over with all kinds of lying signs and satanic wonders than hear the truth being preached.

In fact, they don’t even realize they have lost the truth. They are totally unaware that they have exchanged the truth of God for the lie (Romans 1:25). And one day—much sooner than they would even expect, if they expect it at all—the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, those pastors who lead their people according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), and who steer them away from the truth, lest they feel uncomfortable, lest they offend someone with all that talk about God’s judgment and—gasp!!—we certainly don’t want to be told about all that holiness and righteousness stuff!! “Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isaiah 30:10-11).

One day, even that which they think they have will be taken from them. Just as what we thought was safety and security was taken from us one sunny Tuesday in the Fall of 2001. What was left in 1993 was eaten in 2001. Will what was left in 2001 be eaten sometime soon? Don’t think it won’t be. We have far too many enemies who would enjoy nothing more than to see this nation ripped apart. And even more than that, will the “church” in America finally wake up to the fact that while they are becoming so prosperous by appealing to people’s wants, lusts, and desires, they are bringing shame to the name of Christ. “The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of My people; they set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry, but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the LORD” (Hosea 4:7-10). The oldest texts read verse 7 as They will change My glory to shame.” I believe this to be the better rendering. For this is what people do. I believe this is what Paul was calling the Roman believers to recall in the opening chapter of said epistle. Verses 7-9 above are talking about the actions of the people; 10-11 is God’s response.

That’s what we do. We don’t want to know the truth of God, so we shape it, bend it, and mold it to our own liking so we can go one about our happy little lives not worrying about His impending judgment. Until that day when His judgment comes, and there is no escape. We have allowed the chewing locust, the swarming locust, the crawling locust, and the consuming locust to steal away every shred of truth. And what is the result? We will find out next week.

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