The Message of Joel – Part 3

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Terrorists not only seek to overthrow governments; they also appear to focus efforts upon decimating vulnerable religious populations that are contrary to their own.

Scripture reminds believers, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). Therefore, the people of God are to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (v. 18). The indisputable fact that terrorists are enemies necessitates the holy obligation given by Jesus: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:44-45; cf. Luke 6:27; Acts 7:60; Rom 12:20).

Terrorists kill their enemies in the name of their god. God’s people are instructed to love their enemies and “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). The believer’s response to terrorism is not Facebook rants, ground troops, online petitions or tweets. Terrorism is a spiritual enemy, and thus the church loves rather than hates (cf. Rom 12:21). One manner in which a Christian can demonstrate such love is by praying for the enemies of the gospel message.

Of course, what has just been stated is not easy; it is impossible, and yet Jesus obligates His followers to love, not hate. The biblical worldview is that God created every human being in His image, and thus each person is potentially a brother or sister in Christ; even the most hardened terrorist.

The prophet Joel encountered a world in which terrorists were victorious. Although the land was devastated, God told the prophet not to be anxious. The day of the Lord would soon commence, and that period would be a time of decision. Just as current terrorists have a decision and can receive God’s salvation—by grace through faith in Jesus Christ—so also did the terrorist nations attacking Judah in the prophet’s era. The time of decision was the final judgment, wherein they would be accountable for the eternal consequences of their terrorism against God. The opportunity to make decisions affecting eternity would not arise again.

God has spoken to certain individuals throughout the centuries, who have proclaimed a message hundreds of years into the future. Some of the biblical prophecies from 2,500 years ago remain to be fulfilled from humanity’s perspective today (Mic 4:1-5; Mal 4; Isa 65:17; cf. 1 Cor 15:50-58; Rev 11:15). Critics tend to discount the prophecies as mere dreams, or to indicate that other nations asserted the role laid out by prophets, and thus the Bible is supposedly not unique.

Regardless of how the critic understands the biblical prophets, one must consider the context in which a prophet was received. The validity of a prophet was based upon prophecies occurring with 100 percent accuracy in a relatively brief period of time (Deut 18:22). The people were to test a prophet’s speech based upon proclamations that would be fulfilled in months, a year, or two years. If such accuracy was demonstrated, the people realized that a true prophet had spoken, and they were to receive the prophecies occurring in an extended period of time. Through the prophetic Word, one is able to perceive how the supernatural impacts the present world context (and by which people can test the miraculous of the prophecy).

The day of the Lord is certain to occur, and just as one of our days reaches a conclusion, so also will it. In view of that coming time, Scripture proclaims, “Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’” (2 Cor 6:2). Although the day of salvation has endured for thousands of years, it will certainly reach an end. The opportunity of grace will one day cease.

The thought process of Joel 3 is opposite that of passages such as Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3. The prophets Isaiah and Micah described the glorious kingdom of the Lord, when the entire world will experience peace as opposed to war. Joel’s proclamation was, “Prepare a war” (Joel 3:9).

(Joel 3:1-8) Joel 3 depicts four vivid representations of God’s future dealings with His people and the nations. God will not be pleased with the Gentiles’ treatment of Israel during the Great Tribulation. He will, therefore, bring all Gentile armies to the valley of Jehoshaphat. In the future day of the Lord, which is related to the coming of Messiah, all the nations will be summoned to God’s court and be judged for their rebellion. Specifically, the charges against the nations involve their scattering of God’s people (v. 2), in addition to dividing their land (v. 2), stealing their wealth (v. 5), and behaving as if they were slaves (vv. 3, 6-8). God declared innocence in contrast to the nations (v. 19). Judgment was delayed, yet it is certain to arrive (cf. 2 Pet 3:9-10).

(Joel 3:9-13) God calls the nations to assemble for battle and reap a final harvest (Isa 63:1-6; Rev 14:14-20). The opposite of hammering “swords into plowshares” is found in Joel 3:10. During the millennial kingdom, peace will be realized when military weapons are transformed into agricultural tools (Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3). When the Lord summons the nations to their final battle, there will be no time to waste (Joel 3:11). God has chosen the locale where He will “sit” enthroned “to judge all the surrounding nations” (v. 12). The battle represents God’s judgment upon all the nations for mistreating His people (v. 13). God’s people will be resolute because the Lord will uphold their cause.

(Joel 3:14-17) The nations will experience the wrath of God (vv. 14-16). Unlike those who abide under God’s wrath, because they make falsehood their refuge and conceal themselves with deception (Isa 28:15), those whose trust is in the Lord have “refuge in the day of disaster” (Jer 17:17). As “a refuge” and “a stronghold,” the Lord will provide for His people (Joel 3:16; cf. Ps 46; 91). The outcome will be to remove all doubt that the Lord is the God who dwells in Jerusalem (Joel 3:17), and “there is no other” (2:27). God is always a refuge for those who make Him their stronghold: by demonstration of personal faith (Ps 71:6-7) and by act of will (73:28).

The final day of the Lord will no longer allow people to experience a preview of the ultimate reality. The time of decision will culminate in abiding judgment upon the enemies of God’s people. God will then forever dwell among His people.

(Joel 3:18-21) Joel’s prophecy began with the announcement of drought and famine, yet concludes with a description of a land flowing with sweet wine and milk (v. 18). God will graciously dwell among His people (vv. 19-20). The day of the Lord will conclude with a new beginning for God’s people.

The book of Joel reveals that one’s future is dependent upon his or her relationship to the Lord. Whoever trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will never be called into God’s court (John 5:24; Rom 8:1-4; 1 John 2:1-2), and thus never must fear the wrath of God.

With consideration of the day of the Lord, how should God’s people respond? First, “be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt 24:42). Second, recognize that each of us must “give an account” to God for our faithfulness to “do business” until the Lord comes (Luke 19:13; Rom 14:12; cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15; 4:5; 2 Cor 5:10). Jesus used the word “do business” (Gk. pragmateusasthe) in the parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:11-27), to command His followers to work until He comes for them.

The parable of the ten minas concerns a nobleman who traveled to a distant country, giving ten minas (pounds) to his servants and instructing them to gain more by doing business (trading in the marketplace). The “minas” represent the spiritual gifts and responsibilities that the Lord grants to believers. When the nobleman returned, he called his servants to give an account of their stewardship. The application is obvious. The believer is to “do business” in the marketplace of life by using God-given gifts to bring glory to the Lord.

Knowing that the Lord will hold each believer accountable for his or her stewardship, God’s people should be “making the most” of every opportunity (Eph 5:16). The day of the Lord will come. Therefore, one glorifies and pleases God by using all his/her resources or strength in service of the Lord. “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Cor 4:2).

Midnight Call - 11/2018

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