21 July 2008

Verse by verse through Joel (2:1-2:2)

Joel 2:1-2

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: 2 A day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.

The Day of the LORD. An UNSTOPPABLE CALAMITY. The people have been commanded to gather together, to grovel, to beg for mercy. For the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand. It is here. It has been impending, it has been on the horizon. And because the people of Judah went after other gods—which are no gods—and because of this, God Almighty is preparing to punish His people, and lay waste to His land, His vine, His field to make it known who is really in control of all things.

We saw last week that sometimes there are immediate implications to the phrase Day of the LORD. And sometimes the implications are for the future. Let’s work backwards, from the final Day of the LORD to what our prophet is speaking of here. At the end of all things, God will pour out His wrath on an unbelieving world over a period of seven years which will be filled with unimaginable misery. The apostle John was instructed by the Holy Spirit to write down what he saw. But I dare say the picture painted by the apostle whom Jesus loved does not give us half of what it will look like. At the end of these things, Christ will reign for a thousand years while Satan is bound in a bottomless pit. After one final satanic rebellion is crushed by our Lord, then will come the final judgments.

They will come on the final Day of the LORD. The day when all sin and corruption is destroyed, and death and Hades are cast into the lake of fire along with all those who rebelled against our glorious God. Amen. Those who wrote the New Testament used the Greek word παρουσια (parousia). It is spoken of many times throughout the New Testament. It will be a day of joy. 2nd Timothy 4:8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. It is called the “Day of Christ,” or “of Jesus Christ,” or “of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:10, Philippians 1:6, 2nd Corinthians 1:14, respectively). It is called the “day of wrath.” Romans 2:5But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The “day of God” (2nd Peter 3:12). The “day of judgment” (Matthew 10:15; 2nd Peter 3:7). It is also called the “great day” (Jude 1:6; Revelation 6:17). All these descriptors of one day—one day—that will last who knows how long.

In that day those who never knew Christ will be judged worthy of damnation, and will be cast into outer darkness. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30. Matthew recorded this phrase of our Lord—the gnashing of teeth—more than any other gospel writer. The only other place we see it is in Luke 13:28. Now, for those who think that God is not a wrathful God. That He is not a vengeful God. That He is not a God who would send anyone to an eternally fiery torment and suffering—stop using a Sharpie® as a highlighter. Line after line, verse after verse, discourse after discourse. We find all throughout the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, Jude, James—we find all throughout these pages that there is coming a day—a lot closer than most people know—when God will judge the secret things of man by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16).

Well, by this point you may be asking the same question as the Philippian jailer. “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). I would tell you the same thing Paul and Silas told him: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). For the day of our Lord Jesus Christ is not only a day of wrath and sorrow and torment. It is also a day when the faithful are rewarded for their good deeds. For their faith which spurred on their good works. Those works which they did for the glory of God, and not for their own glory. 1st Corinthians 3:12-1312 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If our work survives, our reward will increase. If our works were done so the world could see us, and declare what a “good person” we were—then that work will be burned, and we will suffer loss—but he himself will be saved through that fire (1st Corinthians 3:15). The Day of the LORD—that final day when all things are judged by Christ Jesus—will be about the glory of God and His Christ.

Malachi mentioned a Day of the LORD. Malachi 4:1-61 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. 3 You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” says the LORD of hosts. 4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” Now, if we’re not careful, we could very easily read this to mean that Malachi is speaking of that final Day of Judgment. We would be wrong. He is not speaking of that final Day. This prophet is speaking of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ—Yehoshua Ha’Mashiach.

Consider the language Malachi uses. “And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch.” What warning—about a tree—did John the Baptist give the Pharisees who came out to see him? “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.” (Matthew 3:10). He also gave them a warning about fire. “Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:10, 12). And what is significant about John Baptist’s ministry? Was he not the second Elijah? 11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13). This Elijah—John Baptist—was sent before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But the advent of our Lord into this world was a joyous event, no? Why then does Malachi use such unattractive language in describing this day? Dreadful? That Day is “burning like an oven?” The wicked being “trampled” under our feet “like ashes?” This doesn’t sound like a happy occasion at all. This sounds awful. Or does it? Word association time. In one word, describe the attitudes of the Pharisees. Did you say “proud?” If you did, congratulations. Look at Malachi 4:1. [A]ll the proud…will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up… Their little kingdom. Their happy fiefdom they had established based on the doctrines of men was about to come to a screeching halt. It would be done away with, abolished, in that day. Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery, in John 8? When Jesus stoops down and writes in the and with His finger? Do you remember another famous incident where a finger wrote upon a wall? What did it write? MENE. MENE. TEKEL. UPHARSIN. “You have been weighed in the balance. Your kingdom is taken from you and has been given to Gentiles.” I’m not going to take a bullet for it, but I believe that’s what Jesus wrote in the sand that day. That the day had come of which Malachi wrote. Their kingdom was about to be taken away. For these, this day was dreadful.

But for those who fear the LORD, it would be a glorious day. They would shout “Hosanna!” in the streets. The sick and the lepers and the blind would come to Him, be brought to Him, seek Him out in the streets and from the top of sycamore trees. This was a great day! YHVH had come into their midst, as was prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6). He would bear their scars, their stripes, their sins upon His body on the tree (Galatians 3:13; 1st Peter 2:24). For He did not come to heal those who did not need healing. He came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). He came to save sinners, of whom I am chief (1st Timothy 1:15). He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13). But in order to save the lost, He had to be delivered into man’s hands, to suffer and die and rise again the third day (Mark 9:31). Thus, not only was the coming of our Lord a great day, it was indeed dreadful. For the Son of God must suffer for the sins of men.

Then there are various other times the prophets spoke of a Day of the LORD. For example, there are times when the Day of the LORD is a day when He destroys Israel’s enemies. Isaiah, writing some 100 years after Joel, warned that the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty…the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. (Isaiah 13:6, 9). In this instance, the words were addressed to the Babylonians. How close does something have to be for God to consider it being “at hand?” Jesus told us He would return “soon.” That was 2000 years ago. But God does not measure time the same way we do. That is to say, when He says something is “near”—everything is “near” to God, because time does not affect Him. He is not slack as men count slackness (2nd Peter 3:9). This destruction of the Babylonians was some 250 years in the future from the time Isaiah wrote this. Yet God considered it to be “at hand.” It was certain. It was going to happen. And it did. In 331 BC, Alexander the Great conquered King Darius III, and the Babylonian Empire was no more. Alexander was, no doubt, filled with a sense that he himself had conquered these people. What he was not aware of was that God used him to bring destruction upon the enemies of His people.

And in the writing of Joel, we see that God will sometimes visit destruction upon His own people. And when that happens, it is never a good thing. …the day of the LORD is coming, for it is at hand: a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. It is never a good thing when god has to discipline His children, especially in the public eye, in full view of the whole world. Do not be mistaken. God will punish His children as severely as is necessary, and if must needs be, very publicly. There are many who like to mock Calvinism, saying that it somehow promotes unbridled liberty. That it encourages people to say, “Hey, I’m saved! And I can't lose my salvation! I can do anything I want and never get punished for it!” That is NOT Calvinism. That is a system of belief called antinomianism. And it is a shameful display of arrogance and licentiousness. Because it is unbiblical. In Galatians 5:13 (ESV), the apostle Paul warns us, do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. In other words, just because you are saved, do not think you can use your freedom in Christ to live in an utterly ungodly manner. If you are, in fact, saved at all. I dare say, if this is how someone is thinking and acting, then their salvation can rightly be questioned. In fact, in another place, we are commanded to walk worthy of your calling with which you were called (Ephesians 4:1).

There comes a point when God will take His hand of protection off of His children, and allow the enemy to have his way with them. In fact, we as the church are to deliver that person to the enemy. 1st Corinthians 5:1-51 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you…4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Sometimes we have to put people out of the church, and let them go as far into their sins as they can go. One of two things will happen. Either they will find they enjoy their sins more than they do the Lord Jesus and the fellowship of believers. Or they will come to the point of utter disgust with themselves and repent and return to the Lord, once and for all forsaking their sins. This was what God was doing with Judah here.

This nation of Judah had enjoyed the fellowship of Almighty YHVH. They had worshipped Him in joy and gladness; they had been blessed with all kinds of blessings, both physical and spiritual. The early years of the reign of King Joash had been filled with economic and spiritual abundance. But then Jehoiada the high priest died. And Joash fell deeper and deeper into rebellion against God, and had embraced the Baals. The land still provided abundantly. But that was all about to change. See, God will give us time to repent of our sins and return to Him. But there will come a time when He will say, “Enough!” And He will remove our blessings from us. He will send chewing locusts, and swarming locusts, and crawling locusts and consuming locusts. He will command them to take away everything we think we can depend on until we have nothing to depend on but God.

And isn't that the point? Who do we have but God? No one! No one! Psalm 16:5O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. Heaven and earth belong to the LORD. He does with them what He will. He gives, He takes away. He commands the rain to fall; He commands the rain to cease. He commands the trees to bloom; He commands the trees to wither. And when His children go astray, He will put them into situations where they have no choice but to cry out to Him. Psalm 73:25-2825 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works. And of course there is that well-known passage in James. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:8).

The locusts have come. They have devoured. They have laid waste to the field and the tree and the vine. They had no one in Heaven but God. And it is as if even He has forsaken them. You are never truly alone as long as you have God within you. But when you leave Him, then you are truly alone. Amen? You may be surrounded by people. You may have all kinds of friends and family. But when disaster strikes, and you are far away from those people, and you have no one to turn to but God—friend, if you have turned your back on Him, and He has withdrawn His hand from you, you are…alone. The wolves are surrounding you, the lions are baring their teeth, and the Shepherd is nowhere to be found. Because you didn’t want anything to do with Him. And because you have forsaken Him, He has delivered you to the enemy to destroy your flesh, so your spirit may be saved—when? in the day of the Lord Jesus (1st Corinthians 5:5). The Day of the LORD.

What will you say to Him then? What will He say to you? When you stand before Him, sooner than you had anticipated, because He had to take you out of the world so you would not cause Him further embarrassment. So you would not store up for yourself more wrath for the day of judgment. As did these people of Judah. Who sank so far in their paganism and idolatry that God had to send a heathen nation—one of the most blatantly pagan, most evil nations to ever sweep across the land—He had to send this nation to ensnare His own people. What makes us think we are any different? We sit so comfortably in our little pews, going about our little lives, we look nothing at all to the world like we do to those who sit in the pews around us. Thinking that because we are sitting in a church that we are somehow protected from Satan. Friend, Satan can make himself at home just as comfortably in a “church” as he can in a local strip joint. These movies where someone is hiding from a demon and they seek refuge in a church, because that demon can't enter. Don’t believe it. Do not believe it. Satan is busy preaching every Sunday. He’s singing in your choir. He’s teaching you or your children in Sunday School. What did Paul tell us about the Antichrist? He will sit in the temple of God, as God! 2nd Thessalonians 2:4.

The Day of the LORD, when it comes upon the people of God, is a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, like the morning clouds spread over the mountains. It is the anger of God visited upon His people. It is a day like a funeral. Heaven weeps because His people have brought shame upon His name. And He must deal with it in the only way He can—He must send strong chastisement, as a father chastens a son he loves (Hebrews 12:5-6). It sits heavy upon the people. Their hearts are heavy, because they now understand that their own lusts and desires have brought this upon them. They wonder how this could have happened, how it could have gotten this far. Why they ever let someone talk them into rebelling against God. It covers the people, it saturates them, it clings to them, and they cannot get rid of it. They must endure it, it must be thus. The generation that sinned against God had to wander the desert for 40 years. If things have gotten to the point that one is in flat-out rebellion against God, and they will not be convinced by the brethren, then they will experience their own Day of the LORD—an UNSTOPPABLE CALAMITY.

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